MINDFUL MONDAY: The Need for Speed, and the Angst of Effort - Chi Living

MINDFUL MONDAY: The Need for Speed, and the Angst of Effort

Posted by Danny Dreyer on Mon Dec 1st, 2014, 3 comments

Back in the days before Chi Running, whenever I thought about running faster, my mind would immediately slip into fear mode. OMG, it's so much work… I'm going to be breathing really hard… I don't have enough strength… it's going to be so much EFFORT!

Sound familiar?

When the word "speed" is mentioned in a conversation between runners, the words "effort" and "strength" are usually not far behind. These words take on another level of meaning as you increase the race distance to running a half marathon or marathon.

Most coaches and trainers who prescribe to Power Running train you to increase your capacity for effort (your conditioning level) by increasing your level of physical effort. The conventional wisdom for getting faster is still built on the premise that it takes more leg strength, more cardiovascular conditioning and greater aerobic capacity for speed to happen. I don't disagree that doing these things will get you faster, but I think that few coaches today are really thinking outside of this strength-based box.

Trying to run faster can sometimes create tension or contraction in your body, which actually works against you, and that tension can make it even harder to gain speed. So, instead of equating going faster with increased effort, let's switch our thinking, instead, to increased effortlessness. As some of you know, my favorite tagline describing T'ai Chi is: "Creating the conditions for energy to flow."

If you were told to run faster on a given run, what would you do to increase your speed? You might push harder with your legs; you might increase your toe-off or maybe swing your arms more. But, if you're a ChiRunner you might do something very different and approach faster running with the mindset of, "Creating the conditions for speed to happen."

Then, instead of pushing your body harder, you might challenge yourself with the internal question, "How can I increase my speed without significantly increasing my effort level?"

Here are some options:

•  Relax more, especially in your hips and legs. Just imagine you have no body below your waist.
•  Keep your postural alignment intact with your core muscles by lifting at the crown of your head, upward and forward.
•  Allow your dantien to fall ahead of your feet.
•  Instead of swinging your feet into the oncoming road, feel your feet sweeping rearward as they touch the ground beneath your hips.
•  Let your body fall forward in an aligned but relaxed way, with no tension in your shoulders, hips or ankles.
•  Belly breathe, but through your mouth and nose at the same time.
•  Use your visual focus (Yi-chi) to draw you forward (Chi Running Book pg. 44-46)

As you can see in all of these bullet points, it comes down to alignment and relaxation, not strength and effort. The underlying reason why the Kenyans and East Africans outrun the the competition, is because they are not only well-trained, but they are perennially the most relaxed and the most aligned runners out there.



  • effortless running,
  • chirunning,
  • fast running,
  • speed training,
  • relaxation

3 CommentsLeave a comment below

Brian Ziermann Dec 1st, 2014 06:20pm

I like the use of a metronome for increasing speed.  I began using one when Danny suggested it when I ran across it in my research.  It helped me train for the 3rd half marathon I just completed and coming away 15 minutes faster than last year.  It helps increase the natural pace I run at.  I set the metronome and just go.  Sometimes the beeping fades into the background, but when I come back to it my strides are right there with it.  When I get comfortable or start over running it I just up it a couple steps.  I believe in the tool and the concept because I run my races without any tools, but I depend on them for progressing in training.

Eric Tobias Dec 2nd, 2014 03:45pm

I immediately noticed that the elites above are not keeping their knees down, which is paramount in Chirunning.  But I have also heard that speed is directly proportional to the distance between your two thighs.

Right. Other things I notice is that 1) their front knees are bent and not straight (pendular); and even more importantly that 2)their hips are not rotated but dead straight. In chirunning, they talk about rotating the hips from T12-L1 so that the hip on the side of the rear leg is also rearward. Personally, I don’t think it is biomechanically correct and expends a lot of energy. In my case, it has caused me back strain bigtime. And the best runners never seem to rotate their hips like that. Their hips are always dead straight—even walkers mostly…

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