Dreyer, Danny. ChiRunning: A Revolutionary Approach to Effortless, Injury-Free Running (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2009)
Danny Dreyer's ChiRunning uses the concept of Chi (or Qi, if you prefer) as the foundation of an "effortless" running technique. As he writes, ChiRunning "is accomplished by (1) maintaining good posture, (2) keeping your joints open and loose, and (3) making sure that your muscles are relaxed and not holding any tension as you run:"
The ChiRunning technique will completely alter the way you approach running because it combines relaxation with biomechanically correct running form. This book is designed to train your mind to direct and monitor your movements so that your body doesn't have to work as hard. (p. 15)
ChiRunning's form-first emphasis has its roots in the idea of running as a controlled fall. The runner's "Column" (comprising shoulders, hips, and ankles) stays in a straight line that leans forward; a greater lean produces a higher speed, and the legs serve as momentary support for the Column as it moves. Dreyer recommends using a metronome to keep a constant cadence, which is an interesting feature of ChiRunning:
In ChiRunning there's one thing that never changes: your cadence. [...] One thing in ChiRunning that does constantly change is your stride length. (p. 62)
Amid all the "Body-Sensing" exercises and other methodology-driven aspects of ChiRunning, Dreyer doesn't neglect the joy of running. He observes that "if you want to see what's really going on with a runner, watch her face:"
If you watch children run, they're generally all smiles. But what I see more often than not in adults is an expression that ranges somewhere between discomfort and terror. Lots of folks leave me with the impression that they're not enjoying themselves. No wonder running has a bad rap. What happened to all those smiles? (p. 9)
Dreyer makes a number of relatively unobtrusive plugs for his other ChiRunning products, often mentioning his DVD and the seminars that are run (no pun intended!) by "Certified ChiRunning Instructors." I don't fault him for seizing the marketing opportunity, though; I'm fairly intrigued by his technique, and have been experimenting with it. New Balance has been working with Dreyer on ChiRunning shoes, but the previous 800 model was rather heavy at 11 ounces. Its replacement, the 801 (men's only so far) is only 9.5 ounces--like the lightweight 905 but with no width options.
Leaving aside all the fuzzy mysticism, I do have one concrete complaint about Dreyer's book. The words introducing Chapter 6
"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." (p. 140)
are not from Aristotle, as Dreyer (and many others) mistakenly claim. Those sentences lie between two quotations from Aristotle in Will Durant's The Story of Philosophy:
Excellence is an art won by training and habituation: we do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have these because we have acted rightly; 'these virtues are formed in man by his doing the actions'; we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit: 'the good of man is a working of the soul in the way of excellence in a complete life... for as it is not one swallow or one fine day that makes a spring, so it is not one day or a short time that makes a man blessed and happy.' (p. 61)
The sentiment is unimpeachable, though, making the erroneous citation a minor issue. Even if the ChiRunning technique doesn't work for you, learning to pay closer attention to your body can't help but be a positive influence on your running. Give it a try!