Chi is energy, a ‘life-force’. Chi Running is based on centuries-old movement principles from T’ai Chi which nurture and utilise energies and forces efficiently. It highlights the importance of alignment, relaxation and balance of mind and body.
Chi Running teaches proper biomechanics, focusing on the body’s centre of gravity and whole-body integration. Combine with a mindful practice, you can open up a whole new, exciting and enjoyable approach to your health and fitness regime.
A key element of energy-efficient running form that is often overlooked is breathing. Breath is integral to energy flow. Modern-day stresses often leads to chronic over breathing. A great focus to work on is relaxed, rhythmical, total nasal breathing in everyday life – breathing in and out through the nose. Then take this into your running. It’s important not to push or force the breath, so take things easy. If it becomes a struggle simply slow down the pace or walk. It will take time but it will pay dividends in the long-run.
Total nasal breathing has been shown to encourage diaphragmatic breathing, improve oxygen uptake and help improve aerobic fitness. Rhythmical breathing also has an effect on heart rate variably (HRV). HRV measures physiological stress and is used as an indicator to flag up overtraining.
Research has also highlighted the positive effects of grounding in terms of HRV. Recent studies suggest that a person who is grounded is less stressed and more relaxed – essential for proper functioning of immune systems, circulation, synchronisation of biorhythms and other physiological processes.
Grounding is simply being connected to the earth. Earth stabilises life force. A major component of my running practice, and indeed work with clients, is being in the great outdoors and ‘grounded’. When you are physically connected to the ground, such as walking barefoot, your body has access to the earth’s natural source of electrons and subtle electrical fields. This provides a whole host of health benefits, not only physically but also emotional and, for some, spiritually too.
As well as source of vitamin D, running outdoors also provides a visual stimulus that you don’t get on a treadmill. And consider the sense of space you experience. A friend and colleague of mine who teaches mindfulness says that we are simply ‘energy moving through space’. This is a great visualisation that encourages ease of movement and fluidity of stride.
So the message is quite simple – get moving outside. Breath light and easy and, where safe, get your shoes off and gather energy from the ground. Think how relaxing that walk barefoot along the seashore can feel. The science is out there to support the benefits of this, so perhaps its not too silly to also hug a tree or two along the way!
Gray Caws is a Master Chi Running Coach, Director of Chi Running UK & Ireland, Certified Oxygen Advantage Instructor and Specialist Personal Trainer. He coaches people of all ages and abilities, improving perfjoamcne by first building the foundations of efficient breath and movement. He runs regularly and has completed a number of 1/2 marathons, marathons and ultra. He can be found on his website and Twitter.