Danny Dreyer Reveals the Simplicity and Fun of Chi Running
Plagued by injuries? Danny Dreyer believes the child in you already knows how to run injury-free. Dreyer developed his Chi Running practice 11 years ago to bring back natural, relaxed, and efficient running form through mental discipline and proper physical alignment. His book, Chi Running: A Revolutionary Approach to Effortless, Injury-Free Running, has sold 250,000 copies, and Dreyer now has over 100 instructors who help him teach Chi Running around the world. He lives and runs in Asheville, N.C.
How did you initially develop Chi Running?
As an ultrarunner, I was always looking for ways to be more efficient—longer distance with less pain. In 1998 I met a Tai Chi instructor, who explained how the art of Tai Chi taught moving the body from the core center and letting everything else follow. I started applying those principles to my running, and it took me to a new level. Since then I’ve been trying to perfect the teaching of what I discovered.
What’s the biggest general problem with people’s running form?
Relying too much on their legs. The less you use your legs, the less you get hurt and the more efficient you become. People tend to run by pushing off their toes, using their calves, or heel striking—heavily using these lower extremity muscles more than they were ever designed to be used. That’s why 65 percent of runners experience some kind of injury.
When kids run they have this beautiful, natural forward fall. I’m trying to re-train people to let go and give in to gravity. It’s not running that hurts your body; it’s the way you run. I’m on a mission to get people to run in a more economical way.
Is Chi Running a long-term practice or something that can be permanently implemented with training?
Running shouldn’t be about setting a goal and doing whatever it takes to get there, even if you hurt yourself. It should be an ongoing practice of using your mind to feel what’s going on with your body with every run. If you listen to your body well, you won’t overtrain and hurt yourself.
What are the biggest misconceptions?
You don’t have to know anything about Tai Chi to do this. I call it Chi Running because it incorporates some of the principles that make it such an enduring martial art. That informs the ground rules, but really what I’m teaching comes from physics. Running efficiently means cooperating with the force of the road and the pull of gravity. We teach how to balance the body and get to that effortless cooperation.
Is the new popularity in barefoot running and natural gait footwear helping?
It’s not only helping, but I think we were very influential in getting it to come around. We’ve been teaching natural barefoot-like running form since the beginning, so I’ve felt like a voice in the dark since I started over a decade ago. Now science is backing us up and proving that you don’t need to run in big shoes.