Go the Distance, ChiRunning's Danny Dreyer Shows Us How
BOYT: Please share with our readers how the Chi Running technique came about.
Danny Dreyer: I was an ultra marathon runner for 25 years which means I consistently competed in races longer than the standard 26.2 marathon. Because of my intense running background, I was constantly training and striving to become a more efficient runner. Eleven years ago, I went to my first Tai Chi class. The Tai Chi instructor devoted the class time to teach how one strengthens the core, posture, and how to effectively rotate one’s body weight around the central alignment of the body. During the class I wondered if I could successfully apply these techniques to running. When I applied the Tai Chi philosophy to my run the next day, it totally blew my socks off! From that point forward I began learning Tai Chi and applying it to running and the ChiRunning technique was born. I was fortunate to collaborate with a Tai Chi master who was instrumental in helping me develop the philosophy behind Chi Running.
BOYT: Your book and ChiRunning DVD offers its readers very helpful tools to enjoy running and avoid injury with proper form. Would you say your book and DVDs are suitable for beginning to advanced levels of runners?
Danny Dreyer: The book and DVD is appropriate for all types of runners. In fact, the people in my classes range from people who have never worn running shoes to elite runners. I have had eleven year olds to eighty-five year olds. In ChiRunning, everyone begins at the same level because it is a completely new way to run so it works for runners at all levels. The DVD is great because it breaks down the running technique into easy to follow steps, and it is a great place for people to start in their journey with ChiRunning.
BOYT: You hear so many mixed messages in the media regarding whether or not training, specifically running, is safe to do daily. If one practices the ChiRunning techniques is it safe for someone to run every day?
Danny Dreyer: I recommend that no one runs more than six days a week. The body needs some time to rest and recover. However, the caveat with Chi running is that it teaches how to run efficiently and injury free. Consequently, if someone is incorporating Chi Running techniques, recovery time is unnecessary because they have not done anything to strain their body. The more efficiently one runs, the less the muscles are used, and the less the muscles are used, the less time needed to recover. The key is for people to listen to their body and run in a way that allows them to run as much as they desire without doing harm to their body.
BOYT: What are the biggest mistakes that new runners make? What can be done to correct the problem?
Danny Dreyer: There are two main mistakes new runners make that lead to injuries. New runners often have too long of a stride. When the stride is too long, the runner is reaching forward with his legs and hitting heel first, which is very harmful. The impact of hitting the road with the heel first will cause strain to the back, quads, or knees as they absorb the jolting force. Chi running teaches runners to run with shorter strides and to practice more of a mid-foot stride where the whole foot lands underneath the body. Chi running teaches runners to fall forward while swinging their legs to the rear rather than pushing themselves forward with their legs. This is the second common mistake runners make: by pushing oneself forward with one leg while catching yourself with the other is essentially running with one foot on the gas and one foot on the brake. Beginner runners automatically assume running is a hard sport because they are running inefficiently. One of the fundamentals of ChiRunning that stems from Tai Chi is that a successful runner or walker must cooperate with the forces that surround them. The primary force runners and walkers face is the road. If the runner is swinging their leg into the road and hitting heel first, the impact of the road is so much greater than when they land with their foot solidly underneath them while falling forward. ChiRunning teacher people how to minimize the impact of the road, thus decreasing strain and injury.
BOYT: Do you find that a treadmill offers as effective a work out as running on land?
Danny Dreyer: I much prefer street and trail running. There are a slew of reasons of why running outdoors is better for your body than running indoors on a treadmill. Running on a treadmill it is not really running; Treadmill running is more about keeping your balance on top of a moving object than running. The treadmill does most of the work, and the runner is more prone to injuries on a treadmill due to the strain put on the body during this balancing act. Running across a solid surface teaches one’s body how to balance and support itself while interacting and connecting with the earth. By increasing awareness of the body and the earth, a person is able to learn an incredible amount about themselves and the world they live in. Your connection to the earth is broken through using a treadmill. ChiRunning emphasizes the connection between the earth and your body that is only achieved through being mindful, and this empowering connection will ultimately improve your quality of life.
BOYT: We know that you suggest using a metronome to set your cadence. Do you suggest that a person listen to music while running?
Danny Dreyer: I recommend running intentionally and consciously because that is the only way to improve. Chi running is based on being mindful, and listening to music serves as a distraction and is detrimental to one’s running practice. I tell people who listen to music to split the days they listen to music and the days they run without it so they can focus and improve on their technique.
BOYT: Lastly, please share with our audience the most inspirational piece of advice or thought.
Danny Dreyer: I hope to transform running from a sport into a practice. When people practice yoga or meditation they intentionally pay attention to their activity, direct it with their mind, and responding accordingly with their body. The body is one’s direct connection to this world. If one wants to have a higher quality of life and an improved well-being, they must improve their connection with the world through communicating with the body. Ultimately by mastering a practice like running, a person is elevated to another level. I have been on spiritual paths forever and I believe it is so important to become familiar with the invisible world. Ultimately running can become a catalyst that leads into a deeper and more sensitive existence. Therefore, by treating running as a practice, a person is able to gain rewards that go far beyond receiving a medal for completing a race.
About Danny Dreyer
Danny Dreyer is the creator of ChiRunning® and ChiWalking®. He has successfully completed 40 ultra-marathons since 1995, finishing in the top 3 in his age group in all but one. Danny has lived a lifestyle steeped in holistic living, meditation, and personal wellness for over 30 years. He teaches techniques that tap into one's inner strength and power. For more information on ChiRunning, to purchase Danny Dreyer's book, and to contact Danny please visit his website.
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