Find your chi … in running shoes

Most of have been walking and running since before we can remember, so few of us think about how to do it It’s second nature.

Most of have been walking and running since before we can remember, so few of us think about how to do it

It’s second nature.

Still, many of us have met longtime runners who claim to have ruined their knees, ankles and/or backs by exposing them to the battery of impacts that running, or even walking, often demands. And few of us questioning whether it’s inevitable.

So, before you trade in the treadmill for a stationary bike in an effort to save your joints, maybe you should take steps towards improving how you, well… step.

Next weekend, runners and walkers of all ages and skill levels are invited to participate chirunning and chiwalking workshops, which splices the ancient principles of tai chi with physics-based biomechanics.

“It takes the flow and technique of tai chi and marries it with the grace and fluidity of walking, or the positive power and constant movement of running,” said visiting instructor Dick Felton, who has conducted workshops all over Canada.

“Tai chi is an ancient martial art that has grounding and energy as its base. So what we try to do is walking and running very much safer and more holistic.

“So we’re trying to turn running and walking into holistic practices instead of just going out and doing it and becoming injured.”

Such tai chi ideas of using an inner core to direct the rest of the body and utilizing natural forces are key elements to chirunning and chiwalking.

“There’s always two forces involved when you run or walk,” explained Felton. “The force of gravity and the force of the road coming towards you … We co-operate with those two forces to minimize their affect on the walker or runner’s forward movement.”

With a focus on posture and the removal of heel-to-toe movement, the technique lessens impact while conversely conserving energy.

“We are hitting in the centre of the foot,” said Felton. “It’s a mid-foot strike.”

Chirunning was founded by tai chi master Danny Dreyer, who later developed chiwalking with his wife, Catherine.

“There was a study done just recently at the University of Tennessee where they measured (Dreyer’s) hip extension,” said Felton, speaking of the angle in which a leg reach backwards at the end of a step.

“An accomplished runner’s hip extension would be at 10 or maybe 11 degrees … His was double that — 20 degrees. The tester couldn’t believe how much his hip extension was.”

Many books and video has been produced on chirunning and chiwalking, some of which can be bought at Fireweed Books in Whitehorse or online, but Felton recommends that they are not used on their own.

“We suggest that after they read the book or see the DVD that they come out and take a class, because it brings everything together,” said Felton.

“The class is a lot about body sensing and awareness of the position of your body,” continued Felton. “And that’s going with the flow of gravity and going with the road as it comes towards you, so you’re not opposing it, you’re going with it.”

Although the chirunning class goes from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., participants should not be concerned with being overworked. The emphasis of the workshop will be put on the drills, the body sensing and the techniques.

“There are some breathing techniques involved, but they’re are not the biggest component of the technique,” said Felton. “The biggest components are posture and body awareness.”

The chirunning workshop will take place next Saturday at the Canada Games Centre, followed by two chiwalking classes the following day.

So far only half of the spaces have been filled.

For more information, contact Felton at dickfelton@sympatico.ca or by phone at 519-464-6134