FEATURE: ChiRunning helps runners avoid injuries

This is The West Country: HANNAH shows Daniel a back posture exercise. HANNAH shows Daniel a back posture exercise.

SINCE ChiRunning was introduced to the UK in the mid-2000's, it has been gradually become more popular between runners hoping to beat off plaguing injuries.

Keen runner and County Gazette reporter Daniel Milligan donned the lycra to give it a go.

I’VE never been someone who would go to a Pilates class or lay on the floor during yoga.

But after hours of icing the front of my legs to avoid shin splints following a run, I decided to see what ChiRunning was all about.

ChiRunning is a mix between the principles of Chinese martial arts T’ai Chi and running to teach you to run in a low impact way that doesn’t put stress on your body.

It focuses on relaxation, good posture and using the core muscles – similar to Pilates.

In conventional upright running, the leg muscles have to do the work of pushing you forward.

But in ChiRunning, you use a slight forward lean, which gives a sense of being pulled forward by gravity, and takes a lot of the pressure and stress off the legs.

Hannah Kirkman, 47, of Taunton, is the first Certified ChiRunning and ChiWalking instructor in the South-West, after training in Berlin 18 months ago.

Hannah has been a marathon runner for more than 20 years but suffered from chronic injury problems affecting her achilles and knees which nearly stopped her from running altogether.

Since she started ChiRunning more than three years ago, she has been injury free and this year succeeded in running her first marathon for 12 years in Edinburgh in May.

She launched the ChiRunning workshops in Taunton in September and with her new-found confidence in running, she plans to take part in her first ultra marathon, a 50k run at Bideford, in October next year.

She said: “The technique uses the bigger muscles, like the core muscles, to do the work instead of the smaller muscles which are not designed to take big impacts.

“It gets the body working with the forces acting on it during running instead of against them “The benefits of ChiRunning are that it helps runners who are struggling with injury to run again, and enjoy their running.

“It also helps develop good posture and strong core muscles not just for running but for everyday life, and it teaches you to tune into your body and learn to relax.”

ChiRunning was first invented by American Danny Dreyer in 1999 who was also an ultra marathon runner and wanted to find a way to run that was more energy efficient and reduced the risk of injury.

During my hour-long crash course, I was taught to control my posture, lean slightly forward while running, control my stride length and minimise the impact when my feet hit the ground.

It felt strange at first, but once you grasp the technique you can build up your speed and run in a more efficient way while reducing the impact on your body when you run longer distances more often.

Hannah, who ran her first marathon in London in 1994, said: “I decided to train as an instructor because I’ve known so many running friends who’ve had to give up the sport they love due to injury, and when I wanted to learn ChiRunning, the nearest instructor was based in London.

“Running’s the only sport where people don’t practice technique. I want to show runners here that thinking about how they run can help stop them getting injured.”

Hannah is running a ChiRunning workshop on Sunday, December 8, from 10am to 3.30pm at Castle School sports centre.

It costs £85 and you can book your place by visiting www.blueskyrunning.co.uk or call 07976-904033.

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