Friday, November 16, 2018

Book Review: Chi Running: A Revolutionary Approach to Effortless, Injury-free Running

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.

I'm probably the only runner who hadn't read ChiRunning by Danny Dreyer. When Amazon had a Kindle Daily Deal for the updated edition of the classic book, I jumped on it. I was curious to learn more about this method purported to reduce running injuries and improve running form.

Based on the principles of T'ai Chi, ChiRunning builds on the premise of having a strong core and fluid movements. The goal is to take the work off the legs and feet, thus preventing injuries and increasing efficiency.

It all sounds so good!



So good, in fact, that if you visit the ChiRunning website, there are many ways to get on board with the ChiRunning method. I was surprised at the amount of information available. There are training plans, articles, testimonials, instructors, and merchandise. There's a ChiRunning school where you can learn the techniques or become an instructor. There's also a quiz so you can find out what kind of runner you are. Of course, I tried to take the quiz. I love learning things about myself. Unfortunately, the quiz wouldn't load. I guess I'll never find out what kind of runner I am.

Anyways, about the book. This is a book review.

Danny Dreyer loves to talk. I had trouble reading this book because Dreyer repeats himself. A lot. The first couple of chapters felt like a motivational speech and a sales pitch. In fact, I believe he should peddle his method on an infomercial. He claims that if you follow his method, your "chi" will allow you to run with very low muscle usage, leading to "effortless, injury-free running". In fact, he claims that he "experiences truly effortlessness running about 60% of the time". The other 40% of the time he is working towards those "moments of bliss".

Effortless running? Is that an oxymoron? When is running ever effortless? Seriously? I have had runs that feel good--but effortless? Maybe I should try ChiRunning. Don't knock it until you've tried it, right?

If I got nothing else out of this book, it's that Dreyer really believes in his method. I do believe in good biomechanics, and ChiRunning definitely emphasizes that. The key components to running as outlined in the book include good form, staying relaxed and loose, maintaining focus, and using proper breathing techniques. ChiRunning also stresses the power of the mind in mastering the run. As a runner who has struggled with the mental part of running, I can appreciate that. A lot of what Dreyer presents here reminds of me of the concepts behind Mindful Running, a book I reviewed last year.

Dreyer tells readers how to read the book. He tells you how to run, but you have to weed through so much hyperbole that it is difficult to figure out what is important. Fortunately, he uses bullet points to emphasize key concepts. Dreyer also shares his personal story. He says that he "never considered himself a great runner", yet shares his many accomplishments including a humblebrag about winning his age group at his first marathon, Big Sur with a finish time of 3:04. Throughout the book, Dreyer shares many examples of runners that he has helped through ChiRunning as well as testimonials from his fans.

My biggest issue with ChiRunning is that none of what Dreyer preaches is evidenced based. You know I'm a science gal and while a lot of what he suggests is common sense, there are also recommendations that have no basis in fact. I really took issue with his push to change from heel striking to a midfoot strike. This is a big component of the ChiRunning program and as Dreyer says, important for good running form. At last year's World Track and Field Championships in London, researchers analyzed elite runners' stride and foot strike. Contrary to what most of us believe about elite runners, fully 67% of men and 70% of women were heel strikers.  I'm all about good form but as far as changing my foot strike, if it isn't a problem for me, why do it?

Actually, that sums up my thoughts about the ChiRunning program after reading this book. If it's not broke, don't try to fix it. No running program should be one size fits all. If you read ChiRunning, use the information to make adjustments that will benefit your running. Learn to relax more. Stay focused. If you can't stay focused on the book, visit the website to learn more.

But don't go changing to try to please Dreyer.

Let me know your thoughts! Have you read ChiRunning or watched any of the videos? Share your experience. Have you tried to change your foot strike? If so, did you improve your running times?




Next month we're shifting gears and reading a heartfelt book about a long time runner who learns she has a life-threatening heart condition. Racing Heart: A Runner's Journey of Love, Loss, and Perseverance by Katie Mihevic Edwards sounds like the perfect motivational read for the holidays. The review will be posted on December 21.



I'm linking up with Fridays with Fairytales and Fitness.


30 comments :

  1. It's been a while, but I have run Chi Running & a lot of it speaks to me. But I'm not at all a science gal, as you know. Although I agree that changing foot strike can be dangerous - but can also helps I think like anything, like he actually does espouse, listen to your body!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm all about "chi" but the way the book is written, it was a big turn-off for me. Maybe if someone else had written it and it had been an easier read, I'd feel differently.

      Delete
  2. I've been interested in chi running ever since I heard of it, but I would need to take a "class" to figure out what it means. I'm not the type of person who can read about a running technique and implement it -- I need to see it and be shown -- and corrected!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would totally take a class in chi running. I think there are great concepts here that could be incorporated into my running. Just don't try to correct my foot strike! :p

      Delete
  3. I am a natural midfoot striker but back when I started running I "thought" heel striking was the way to go so I changed my gait. When I read the first Chi Running book a billion years ago I changed back to a midfoot strike. I don't remember the book being poorly written but I do remember just skipping around and gleaning out the pertinent info.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Maybe it's my ADHD but I had trouble focusing on the book. I liked that he had bullet points--you could certainly skip through all his blabber to find those. That is definitely the way to approach this book!

      Delete
  4. I read Chi Running years ago, and it completely changed my running. Just the few tips he gave - the forward lean, picturing your feet on a hamster wheel - really impacted me. As I began following his advice, I got faster and spent less energy covering the same amount of miles. I do remember thinking that the book probably could have been half as long as it actually was, but the advice was really good. I never thought to check out his website. I will now. I could use a refresher. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Same--the book was extremely helpful to me. I overhauled my running form after reading his book (including my foot strike) and that ended the niggles I'd been feeling in one of my knees.

      Delete
  5. Okay, now I guess I'm THE ONLY RUNNER, who has not read it yet. Thanks for linking up!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think you've got this running thing figured out and could probably skip it!

      Delete
  6. I have never felt that running was effortless either-I sure wish it could be.I have seen the classes and thought about taking them. I would need to have someone show me in person as I don't think I could get it from the book. Thanks for the review.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've had runs that feel good but I would never been so arrogant to call a run effortless. Plus I'd probably jinx myself and ruin it all if I said that! LOl

      Delete
  7. Interesting! I've been hearing about Chi Running but didn't really know much about what it was. It would have bothered me too that the information didn't have any sort of grounding in science.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think some of the concepts are worth considering--breathing and relaxing, but there are other books that describe this as well.

      Delete
  8. Good to hear your take on this book - I picked it up years ago in a bookstore and couldn't get past the few pages I tried to read there. Some people might have a good idea but aren't always the best ones to write about it...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I tried, I really did! It just isn't the book for me.

      Delete
  9. There's a lot about the whole Chi Running process that appeals to me - but I have to be honest I have never been able to get through the book. To me this method only comes alive through one of the workshops.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm really anxious to hear about the workshop. I think this method would translate much better in action.

      Delete
  10. I read this awhile and totally agree with you. I know there are things about my form that could be improved but I feel like there is no one size fits all approach. It can be helpful to run more relaxed but I would worry about trying to make too many changes that could make things worse.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I really didn't like the idea of changing your foot strike. I think minor adjustments are never a bad thing.

      Delete
  11. I have heard of Chi Running, but in all honesty have never really "read up" on it. I always wonder about changing/altering one's form/style/foot strike, etc. Granted, there's probably things that can always be improved, but how much of a change is too much? I think you'd need a lot of one-on-one work with a specialist to avoid further injury.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The concepts of relaxing and using the core are excellent. But there's a lot of unproven advice here, some of which seems unnecessary.

      Delete
  12. I ran injury free for years. Then barefoot running and low heel drop became the in thing. I tried a low heel drop and regretted it. We all have areas that need improvement, but a major change (especially without a coach looking on) is probably a really bad idea.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I met with a running coach years ago who wanted to make all kinds of changes to my running. I guess we all need to ask ourselves what our goals are. We're not going to win races, so maybe we need to accept the runners that we are!

      Delete
  13. I have heard of Chi Running, but it sounded a bit to loosey goosey for me, and after reading your review, it appears my instinct was right! After hurting my knee in January, I went to a PT, and their solution was to do more strengthening exercises and change my running (and walking) form. After 3 months, $$$, and no improvement, I stopped going and went back to walking normally (for me).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hear stories like that all the time! But I do wish we could get you back to running.

      Delete
  14. Interesting, this was one of the first running books I read and I very much remember going out on my 5 mile route and I think he says lean forwards or something? Anyway I frightened myself by basically outrunning my breathing so I felt panicky and weird and I did go faster but I was very uncomfortable!

    I have changed from over-striding and heel-striking to a more all-foot landing over the years and interestingly, when I put my coach's form tips into play I run faster than I can breathe and don't like it! So the same stuff but I'd rather have Paul say it to me and demonstrate it, if you know what I mean.

    Thank you for your honesty in this review!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was so turned off by his salesy writing style and his insistence that we all change our heel strikes that I couldn't find a lot of good here. I've heard from people who loved this method and maybe going to a class would be better.

      Delete
  15. I first heard about Chi Running from Michelle. I did a little bit of research about it online but I feel like I would really need to attend a workshop to really get the full gist of it!

    ReplyDelete