Chi Running explained

Lowering your perception of running effort

Running should not be a chore to be endured with a grimace rather than a smile, but instead should be an almost effortless activity in which the body works with gravity rather than against it. This is where Chi Running comes in ...

Chi Running explained: What is ‘Chi Running’?

As well as being a specific running technique, ‘Chi Running’ is also an attitude — in which the focus is on the pleasure of movement rather than on struggling and battling to get further, faster.

Chi Running was created by Danny Dreyer, a running coach and Tai Chi practitioner based in San Francisco. The aim of Chi Running is to be relaxed while in motion. This is achieved by lowering your perception of effort (RPE), regardless of how fast you are running. Attaining this ‘effortlessness’ involves leaning forward from the heels (not the waist or hips) when running. This, according to Dreyer, allows the body to work with — rather than battling against — gravity.

‘One of the most common problems I see in runners is that they run with their bodies vertical or leaning back slightly, which makes them lead with their legs when they run, instead of leading with their upper body,’ says Dreyer. ‘This causes a heel strike, which increases one’s impact with the ground and which, over time, will damage the knees, hips, IT band or ankles.’ To avoid this, Dreyer advocates striking the ground with the mid-foot and allowing the lower legs to simply ‘dangle’ when in the air.

Another important aspect of the Chi Running technique is maintaining good core stability, as this helps to distribute the effort of running throughout the body — rather than forcing the legs to do all the work.

Who advocates Chi Running?

Converts to Dreyer’s technique include Catherina McKiernan, former London Marathon winner who has now trained to teach Chi Running; Beryl Bender Birch, the wellness director of the New York Road Runners; and Toby Tanser, a sub-2:20 marathoner and author of Train Hard, Win Easy. This support suggests that Chi Running has much more to offer than simply being a comfortable easy way of running.

Building a foundation for runners

‘Most runners want to run either longer or faster at some point in their running career — but without good running form, added distance will only lengthen the time you are running improperly and increase your odds of getting hurt,’ explains Danny Dreyer. ‘Also, if you try to add speed with improper running form, you are magnifying the poor movement habits that could cause injury’.

‘The best place to build a good foundation is in getting your running motions smooth, relaxed and efficient. Then you can add distance or speed without risking injury.’

For more information on Chi Running, visit

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