Improve Your Running 10 Ways with One Simple Focus - Chi Living

Improve Your Running 10 Ways with One Simple Focus

Posted by Danny Dreyer on Wed May 13th, 2015, 12 comments

Improve Your Running 10 Ways with One Simple Focus

I admit it. I'm an efficiency nut. I'm always trying to come up with simple activities I can do that will create the biggest results. Here's one that came to me last week while teaching a group of ChiRunning Instructor candidates. It's so simple it's crazy. But, the number of things it accomplishes is remarkable.

"Lift at the crown of your head"
There is probably no ChiRunning focus I mention more than this. And, it's one of the first focuses every ChiRunner learns.

Here's what Lifting at the Crown of Your Head does:

1) It's one of the basic ChiRunning posture focuses, used to "lengthen your spine" and, for some people, straighten it out a bit. This allows your body to rotate more easily around your central axis.

2) As you lift at the crown of your head you can feel how it engages your core muscles to support your torso while walking and running. This is felt as a slight tension in your lower abs… one of the only sets of muscles you should feel actively engaged while ChiRunning and ChiWalking.

3) Every runner should always be aware of how hard they hit the ground during the support phase of their stride. Gravity wants to pull you down into the Earth, and one of the ways to counteract that downward pull, and run light on your feet, is to lift the crown of your head with every stride.

4) It straightens your cervical vertebrae and allows your neck to decompress. This works wonders to relax and elongate  your neck muscles.

5) Your SCM (sternocoleidomastoid) muscle connects the base of your skull with the top of your clavicle. So, every time you lift the crown of your head, your chest lifts… giving your lungs much more room to breathe. This is great if you're ever slumped at your desk and need some brain power to kick in, or if you're running out of breath.

6) It's the best way in the world to refresh your posture and save your lower back whenever you're driving a car… especially on those long distance trips.

7) It's also one of the best ways to keep your chin and your shoulders down while running and walking. You'll never come back from another run with a sore neck or sore shoulders again.

8) For those of you who tend to bend at the waist when you run, this is a great way to straighten up your posture and save your legs some work. Having a slump in your posture is a total drain on your efficiency.

9) As a teacher I use it as a way to project my voice because it straightens my larynx, allowing my vocal chords to function better.

10) And, lastly, when lift at the crown of your head, you cannot help but feel how it tunes you into your entire body, from head to toe.

I can honestly say that this focus has changed the quality of my life in many ways. Make it a simple, mindful practice of your own and you'll quickly see what I mean. Spend some time noticing these various things: Lift… and then don't lift and then body sense the difference it makes in each of the areas of your body mentioned in the above list. My guess is you'll be hooked.

12 CommentsLeave a comment below

Gyl Gunstream May 13th, 2015 03:05pm

Wish I could see a video of this.

What a great reminder of this very important focus. Thank you for this simple explanation of why it is so helpful to lift your crown in order to improve your running as well as your everyday posture and gait. Having played with the Alexander Technique over the years it reinforces how this simple act can realign both body and mind!

Lifting at the Crown of Your Head!!

Please, could you show a photo showing clearly which part of the crown of the head?


Tom Jennings May 13th, 2015 05:13pm

Great advice - thanks for sharing Danny!
Tom J

Excellent advice.  Chi Running is so awesome but there is so much to learn sometimes I find it hard to decide which form to focus on.  This is a great one when I’m in that confused frame of mind - it is simple and will help everything.  Thanks Danny.

Charlie Whitehill May 15th, 2015 12:36pm

Cool! Yes this is the one focus that brings me back into form especially when I am feeling slow, sloppy,  and tired.

gail in tucson May 17th, 2015 01:56am

Yes, a demo would be helpful.  I can feel as though I am lifting the crown and it can cause me to lift my chin OR I can drop my chin and lift the crown.  WHICH is meant (or neither!)

My amazing yoga teacher has an exercise we do to get the feel of this: interlace your fingers and place your hands on top of your head “where a yarmulke would set.” Not too far back, not too far forward, so your fingers are centered between the skull sutures in the front and the whorl of hair in the back. DO NOT press down with your hands, instead gently press UP with your neck to press your head into your hands. Remember that feeling, do the exercise whenever your body needs a reminder!

Danny, you+‘CR’ Awesome. I’m a mountain runner;the lifting focus and oblique technique gets me Up n away while I Chi-lax…that’s relax.  Thank You a Lot.

wish I had had this tip when I did my first half marathon a week ago.  Towards mile 12 I was totally exhausted and had a hard time keeping focus.  Hopefully when I do my next half in the fall I will do better

I just finished my first marathon - 6 years after my first planned attempt (I injured my knee 5 weeks before that and couldn’t run).  A few months later I learned about Chi Running and have been working on improving every since (ok - so maybe I took the gradual progress a little too literally!).

Anyway - I was nervous a few weeks beforehand - but then the Chi School kicked off with lifting the crown of the head as the first lesson.  I was reminded of the importance of this.  Throughout the marathon the one focus I kept coming back to was lifting the crown of my head.  Every time I did it - I would become better aligned, relaxed and breathe more easily. 

Dana’s exercise in the comments is a good example.


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