Thursday, October 12, 2006

A Few Thoughts on ChiRunning

Finally took the time to look over this ChiRunning stuff. A friend of mine is going to one of their workshops in Atlanta. I'm skeptical. From what I can tell from the website, this is a very slickly-run gig. Lots of product available for sale--they have even made it really easy for anyone (affiliates!) to make some money, by providing the html code for products to embed in your website so any click through from your site brings you an easy 20% commission.

I can't really find any good references on the actual techniques they teach, just general lay terminology: core strength, don't over-stride, don't focus on a heel-strike. In one sense, it seems like they are providing some good BASIC info to the adult runner. If you've ever watched a 5k or marathon, it is PAINFUL to watch many of the participants move. There is no wonder why there are running injuries in the masses. Most recreational runners are not blessed with naturally efficient running mechanics or an awareness of their movement--that's why they are not the Kenyans running like the wind. Compensations abound. So for many, ANY information and training with regard to improving mechanics could seem MAGICAL. And I believe we need to teach people how to move better.

But I'm not so sure it is CHI or revolutionary. At $195 for a one-day (6 hours of group instruction) workshop--bring your own lunch--it is CHI-CHING for the people running the show.

What I am sure of is that this is a slickly packaged, swiftly marketed idea. Calling it CHI makes it non-threatening to the recreational athlete. Promising to rid you of your pain and prevent injuries AND provide you with a "spiritual component to your fitness program" is clever. Who wouldn't want to meditate and run effortlessly? Effort during exercise can be distasteful for those who aren't used to working hard. Isn't that the idea of overload? It is one thing to teach improved mechanical efficiency, but to say you will run effortlessly pushes the envelope for me.

The following course topics cause me to raise an eyebrow:

• The Keys to Effortless, Injury-free Running
• The Physics of Running: Run without Using Your Legs
• ChiRunning® versus Power Running

When someone trademarks a term to describe what is possibly just sound running mechanics--and I'm not sure they are sound mechanics--it gives me pause. Like I said, pretty slick. But that's the way it is here. He who coins the magic phrase and gets intellectual property rights first, laughs all the way to the bank. Chi-ching.

We'll see. I'll try to keep a somewhat open mind and wait for my friend's report of his experience. He knows it won't bring back the hyaline cartilage on his femur, but if it eases his mind and gives him ANY inkling of how to run with less frequent and less intense discomfort, or truly improved running mechanics, maybe it is worth it.

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