Take the Work Out of Your Workouts - Chi Living

Take the Work Out of Your Workouts

Posted by Danny Dreyer on Wed May 14th, 2014, 9 comments

It seems like many people are under the impression that the only way to become a better runner is to become a stronger runner. You know… no pain, no gain? Chi Running is unique to most other training programs in that we use a mind-body approach, not just the purely physical approach. So, on those days when you don’t feel like pushing your body, you can still get a great workout by using your mind in a productive way. Here are four workouts that engage your mind and improve your running without challenging your body’s limits or requiring extra physical exertion. You can do these workouts at any pace that feels comfortable and still come away feeling like you just had a great workout.

1.  Nose breathing Workout: This workout improves your aerobic capacity, teaches you to become more efficient and relaxes your mind all at the same time. It’s easy… just shut your mouth and run. Belly breathe while you’re nose-breathing and it will help eliminate lactic acid, hyper-oxygenate your blood, and even increase your VO2 max (without killing yourself to do it). Breathe only through your nose until your body just has to take a deep breath through your mouth. Then, take three deep breaths through your mouth and start nose-breathing again. Do this for your entire run, no matter what. Eventually, you want to be able to breath deeply and evenly through your nose for your entire run.

2.  Cadence workout: Run with your metronome set at whatever cadence your body naturally moves at. As you begin your run make an agreement with yourself that you will match every single step to the metronome for the entirety of the run. This workout does a number of things. It teaches you to change your stride length as you go up or down hills (keeping you from overworking); it quiets your mind while building your ability to focus; and it undeniably strengthens your mind-body connection. Learn what a difference running with a metronome can make. 

3.  Focus Workout: Pick the top two focuses you feel you need to work on. Set your countdown timer for 2-minute intervals and alternate these focuses every two minutes for the whole run. Don’t worry about anything else you’re doing while running; just focus on what you’re doing for each 2-minute spell. Then, when you’ve got ten minutes left in your workout, do both focuses at the same time instead of alternating them.

4.     Y-chi Workout: This one is my favorite. From the first step of your workout, to the last, pick an object ahead of you and hold your eyes on it (without breaking your focus) until you reach the object. Then, pick another focus ahead of you and do the same. When you’re turning a corner you’ll have to change your “targets” at more frequent intervals. Allow your eyes to rest on the object of focus and allow your body to be pulled by your Y-chi toward your target, like you’re hooked to a big bungee cord. This workout is the most challenging to maintain, but leaves my mind clear, my heart centered, and my body incredibly relaxed.

These four workouts will make you a better runner than most strength-training workouts. And, you know what? You’ll probably also gain speed without any internal pressure to get faster.



   Effortless Running for Everyone

   Get the ChiRunning book, DVD & metronome>




9 CommentsLeave a comment below

Sharyn Reiff May 14th, 2014 06:00pm

Thank you for your wonderful creation of Chi walking and running.  I am a long-time Chi walker.  I’m planing a long bike trip this summer. (6 days).  How can I apply the principles of Chi walking or running to bike riding?

Bob Glassford May 15th, 2014 10:43am

Have you thought of coming out with a combination metronome/pedometer?  I would use one.

Thanks Bob,
Many things translate to the bike, including keep the length of the spine rather than collapsing into the saddle, using the gears on the bike to maintain a consistent cadence, the wheel you are creating with your legs by pulling up at the end of your pedal stroke, keeping the elbows down and the upper body (shoulders) relaxed with a light grip on the handle bars…

I just started trying nasal breathing, its been 3 days and was wondering if it ever gets any easier, and by doing nasal breathing will i be strengthening my diaphragm?

thank you

Yeaaaay!!! Thanks so much. 
And, for running in sand, try running without putting weight on the big toes.  This balances the foot more evenly.
I learned this from T-Tapp with Teresa Tapp.

Thanks, Danny. I’m chasing serenity when I run, so I am going to try these meditative techniques. Sure enjoyed meeting you at the March 1st Phoenix workshop!

Nose breathing does get easier as your body adjusts to it.  I found that it forces you to actually take deeper breaths that you would normally take (most people are chest breathers).  One thing I found that really helps is a saline nasal spray that is basically the same as using one of those Neti pots to pour salt water in your nose to clear the nasal passages out when you are sick and stuffed up.  The spray is made by a company called “Ocean.”  They have a compressed air version, a squeeze bottle version, and my favorite, a nasal moisturizing gel.  My nose gets really dry sometimes, so before a run, I sometimes use the nasal moisturizer.  This mostly happens in the winter though, when the heat is on.  In springtime, when the pollen count is high, sometimes the nose can’t stop running, which makes it a bit hard to nasal breath.  Otherwise, what it mainly did for me was to slow my pace down…I was running too fast and burning myself out (excited to be running again after the winter).  Once you get used to it, and your body adapts, you can get to a point of running fairly fast…although it will take more than a couple of days to get to this point (I never got to that point, but I felt a lot better using it to hold back my pace).

Richard D'Souza Jun 1st, 2014 07:45am

Finding different ways to keep you can help keep you running longterm. Thanks for the tips.

Laura Isela Sanchez Sep 24th, 2014 09:49am

I am very interested in your chirunning, will this be helpful to me if I have tight achilles and hamstrings? Also, plantar fasciaitis was a problem a few years back.  Now I am planning my first 13.1 half marathon on Dec 7 but I barely saw your program. Is there a chance for me?

What are your thoughts?

Please enter the word you see in the image below:

Top 100 Runnning Blogs award
A Chi Running Love Letter image

A Chi Running Love Letter

I wanted to take a minute to thank Danny and everyone involved at Chi Running. On January 1st 2010 I limped off the Buckeye Trail in NE Ohio with another pulled calf muscle, I have to admit I was done running. 

Read this story >

Over a million happy runners can't be wrong.

Watch our FREE video series and run easier and better than you ever imagined. Feel the difference in your next run!