Chi Running – How To Prevent Injury and Improve Performance While Running with Danny Dreyer

Content By: Ari Whitten & Danny Dreyer

In this episode, I am speaking with Danny Dreyer – Founder and author of Chi Running – an approach to running technique based on the movement principles of Tai Chi. We will talk about how incorporating Tai Chi principles into your daily exercise can improve performance and prevent injury.

Table of Contents

In this podcast, Danny and I discuss: 

  • What is Chi Running? 
  • The psychological benefits of Chi Running
  • The principles of Tai Chi (and how they can be implemented into your life)
  • Why should you get rid of what slows you down?
  • How Chi Running is different from regular running

Listen or download on iTunes

Listen outside iTunes


Ari: Hey, this is Ari. Welcome back to The Energy Blueprint Podcast. With me today is Danny Dreyer, who is the founder and author of ChiRunning, which is an approach to running technique based on the movement principles of Tai Chi. He and his wife, Katherine, have authored three seminal books on mindful movement: ChiRunning, ChiWalking, and ChiMarathon, all published with Simon & Schuster. ChiRunning is now printed in 15 different languages and taught by over 200 certified instructors in 23 countries around the world.

ChiRunning elevates running beyond a sport or a fitness regimen, turning it into a mindful practice akin to yoga, Pilates, or Tai Chi, allowing your whole body and mind to participate in the act of running. In fact, Danny says that the most difficult part of learning to run well is changing your mindset, learning to accomplish more speed or distance with less effort, less recovery, and fewer injuries. In fact, Danny says that the most difficult part of learning to run well is changing your mindset, learning to accomplish more speed or distance with less effort, less recovery, and fewer injuries by focusing your mind, relaxing your body, and doing less.

This is a very, very interesting conversation that, even if you’re not a runner and you’re not into running or interested in running, I still think you’re going to get a lot of value from. As you’ll hear as we discuss this, many of the principles that he speaks about with regards to ChiRunning are things that can be applied even to just the simple act of walking, which of course, we all do, and as well as having a translation into many other aspects of our life.

I think if you see beyond the surface-level discussion of ChiRunning as a specific practice that applies only in the context of running as a form of exercise, but you start to see these principles in action within all of the movement that you’re doing, and even the simple act of locomotion, of walking, I think you’ll get a lot of value from this. I think there’s a lot of insight to be gleaned from this methodology, even as a philosophy, as a way of being in the world, and as a way of seeing things certainly in the literal sense of our movement practices. Enjoy this very insightful conversation with Danny Dreyer.

Welcome to the show, Danny. Such a pleasure to have you.

Danny: Yes, great to be on here, Ari. Thanks.

What is Chi Running?

Ari: As we were just talking about before I clicked the record button. I remember around 20 years ago seeing this book ChiRunning and being very intrigued by it. I read it at the time. I wasn’t a runner. I was very enamored with Qigong and Tai Chi. I was very into martial arts. Sort of esoteric yoga and meditation Qigong and that whole world. I remember skim reading your book a long time ago even though I wasn’t very interested in running. Here we are roughly 20 years later and you’re still doing this. You’re still doing podcasts, talking about Chi Running. First of all, for people who are not familiar with it, what is Chi Running?

Danny: Well, Chi Running is really a hybrid version of running. I got to it for many years I was an ultra marathoner. I was really long distance running. About 20 years into that career, I started learning Tai Chi and realized what an incredible impact having mindful body movement could play on running. Then I realized obviously it could go into any activity, golf, any physical activity. Then I realized you could take it into any intellectual activity or any emotional activity. All the principles from Tai Chi apply on all those three levels.

The principles of Tai Chi

Ari: Okay. What are those principles?

Danny: The principles, the main one is alignment and relaxation. If you watch anybody that’s really good at Tai Chi, you’ll notice that their body alignment is really important. If you want to make a turn, you have to be economical about how you position yourself and how you support yourself, all right? If you’re throwing a kick or a punch or anything, you have to be aligned with what you’re doing. You also have to be very relaxed. If you’re tense you can’t move as quickly, as easily, you could get injured. You’re just not as effective if you holding tension or if your technique isn’t good. Both of those play. Our overriding theme, whether we broke it into Chi Running and Chi Walking.

The overriding thing is energy efficiency and injury prevention. It applies to walkers, runners, doesn’t matter what you do, skateboarders. If you have that theme going on all the time. Always looking to be the most efficient. Also always looking to prevent injury, that covers just about everything. It kind of informs then how you approach the activity you’re doing.

Ari: I was having a discussion with one of my friends, Ben Pakulski, who’s a former elite-level bodybuilder. Who was Mr. Canada then he went on to place number two or number three in Mr. Olympia, the biggest bodybuilding competition in the world. The biggest, freakiest, muscle bodybuilders in the world. These guys who are walking around at 300 pounds of muscle. He’s a very smart guy. He’s shifted out of that to much more of a focus on longevity now. He has his own brand around muscle intelligence and his own podcast. I’ve featured him here. He’s a personal friend of mine. I was working out with him last time he came down to Costa Rica to visit me.

We were talking about something that I feel is very related to this. Which is, being in the body building world for many years, obviously he was doing it at an elite level. I was just sort of dabbling in it as a natural, so to speak. Not chemically enhanced. What I always noticed from so many years of doing that kind of training in the gym is that whenever I went into natural movements, whenever I was riding a bike or hiking or surfing or whatever it was, I always felt like my muscles would start burning a lot faster. I would be exhausted much sooner than other people.

There was this sort of paradoxical thing going on because I was highly fit. I was a very muscular, lean guy.

Danny: Yes.

Ari: I still am, but I’ve trained very differently now, and yet I felt like I was getting exhausted and things were much more difficult for me relative to somebody who wasn’t even trained, didn’t even work out a 10th as much as I did, wasn’t nearly as strong as I was, and all this sort of thing, and he explained it really well. He said bodybuilders are essentially training in almost the exact opposite way from how an athlete would train. When you’re training as a bodybuilder you’re almost striving to be as inefficient as possible, to go as slow and isolate all the tension on this specific muscle and make the lightest loads possible as hard as possible for the muscles that you’re trying to grow.

When you’re training as an athlete, you’re striving for the opposite. You’re striving to take a given load and make it as energetically efficient, as least costly, energetically, as possible. I feel like that whole discussion I had with him ties in very much to the dynamics you’re talking about.

Danny: You said the magic word when he talked about the word longevity. If you really study Tai Chi or Qigong, the Chinese call it longevity practice, and what does that mean? It means that you don’t want to expend more energy using a muscle than it’s ready to provide, or more than you need. If you overuse a muscle, then it’s going to fatigue. For almost any athlete there’s two main reasons for injury, but I’ll cover running because that’s what I do is impact and overuse. That’s the two ways you can get hurt. Impact and overuse.

Impact involves your bones and joints, overuse involves your muscles, so one is a hard tissue, and one is soft tissue. If you overuse your muscles, you’re either going to overstretch your muscle, or you’re going to ask more of it than it’s ready to supply and then you’ll pull a muscle or it’ll fatigue too early. On the other hand, if you do whatever activity you’re doing, you do it with a thought in the back of your mind of, I want to do this with the least amount of energy used to create the most outcome, that’s a really different mindset to approach anything, using the least amount of energy.

When I have trained running athletes, they come to me and they’re used to the normal paradigm of building stronger muscles to run faster or farther. If you look at the Kenyans, their calves are as big as my forearm and their quads are about as big as my upper arm. They have really not large muscles, but what they do have is a lot of relaxation in their technique. If you can use your technique in a way where you really clean up, what I tell people to do, you want to get fast, get rid of what slows you down.

Don’t try to build more muscles to go faster, get rid of what slows you down. If you can do that, you’re three-quarters of the way to being a much faster person than you imagined you could be.

Get rid of what slows you down

Ari: What is that that people are getting rid of?

Danny: Getting rid of what slows you down? The things that slow you down are muscle tension, lack of fluidity in your stride, poor postural habits, tension in your mind like pressing. All the time a lot of athletes are always in fight or flight. That’s how they get the job done, and they think that that’s going to really get the job done, but that’s why you get exhausted. Rather than going into a more relaxed mode where you’re doing the same event but you’re dropping in to the parasympathetic nervous system which is much more relaxed, your breathing is easier, and you’re burning fat.

With the sympathetic nervous system, you just start cranking through calories and muscle glycogen and shooting in endorphins and adrenaline through your body. It’s like no wonder you get tired. If you take it in a wholly different way where you’re really practicing to clean up your movement, clean up how you do what you’re doing to where there’s just no wasted motion, and that can be any physical activity, any intellectual activity, any emotional activity. The same principles apply. If you’re going to start a business, you want be zeroed in and aligned with the direction you’re headed, that gets rid of half the stuff that’s going to slow you down.

Then you work at what blocks your energy. Then you’re not left with having to produce more energy to overcome how inefficient you move. You just move more efficiently. That means you burn less fuel, and on down the line, everything that that implies.

The difference between Chi Running and regular running

Ari: Is this something that someone would notice if they saw a runner doing Chi Running versus a normal runner? Maybe not the untrained eye of somebody who’s not used to watching runners, but if, let’s say somebody who is a runner, if they saw somebody running down the street who’s doing Chi Running, would they notice something? Oh, that’s interesting, that person seems to be doing something a bit different.

Danny: They would notice something different that, the person would still look like a runner, running down the street, but they would really look like they’re much more relaxed, much more fluid, at ease in their movement. It’s like you look at the difference between western civilization and how the Kenyans run, for instance, the Kenyans look like they’re up in the front pack whistling pop tunes and chatting it up with the guys running next to them.

They don’t work that hard. They look really different than all the second pack chasing them down. Those guys are like busting their buns trying to keep to keep up with this lead pack. They’re doing it all wrong.

Ari: The Westerners, the North Americans, the Europeans are trying to build strength in the gym and trying to do it more by force whereas the Kenyans are doing it more by relaxation.

Danny: By relaxation. The interesting thing that comes in with more relaxation is that instead of relying so much on muscle contraction to power your movement, you rely more on fascial resistance, elasticity, and recoil. You see the Kenyans have a huge stride coming out behind them. That huge stride loads their whole fascial system, like a big rubber band. Soon as their foot comes off to ground, that recoils and brings their leg forward so they don’t have to use their quads to swing their leg forward, it comes out of a recoil of the stretch in their tendons and ligaments and fascia.

You’re using a really different system of moving your body, and what that means is that if you can train yourself to use the fascial system of your body, and that’s what Chi Running does, it shows you how to move to create more stretch, more resilience, more relaxation, then your fascia doesn’t burn. [chuckles] It doesn’t burn, doesn’t have mitochondria, it doesn’t consume fuel. When we talk about being more efficient, I’d rather use a rubber band motor than a piston engine, so you just load the rubber band, and then when it recoils, there’s your movement and a lot of the forward motion from Chi Running, it’s designed in a way where you use the pull of gravity.

There’s an external force that can pull you all day long. You use the gravity to pull your body and the road moving underneath you to load that fascial string. It’s like, that’s where the stretch comes from, is the road moving your leg to the rear, but you’re not pushing your legs, you’re allowing all this movement, allowing gravity to pull you forward while you’re allowing the road to load your spring. Way different.

Posture in running and walking

Ari: Can you talk to me about the role of posture in running and walking? I’ll say as an interesting anecdote, at least interesting to me, I’ve always hated running. [chuckles] I always love sprinting, but I’ve always hated distance running, even since I was a kid in PE class, I remember dreading having to run laps.

I used to love sprinting and doing races and jumping high and anything fast and explosive and short duration. The idea of running a mile or two miles was like something that just felt totally masochistic. It felt like suffering to me, in my whole life. I was honestly annoyed with myself for having this attitude towards endurance activities, so I took it upon myself recently to actually start running really for the first time in my life.

Danny: Wow.

Ari: After not doing much running for many, many years, I started running at the beach. One of the things that I found is that I carried a lot of tension in my head, in my traps and just the bouncing motion of just holding my arms up and the activity here of this neck and traps and upper back muscles just to manage what the arms are doing with each stride for me created quite a bit of tension. I’m wondering maybe there was something posturally that I’m doing wrong or something I could optimize as far as posture is concerned.

Danny: Yes. There’s a lot that you can do. What I’ll say about posture is that when you’re standing upright, your posture is important because when you’re standing upright, the idea is that you want to have your bones supporting your body. Good alignment, posture alignment means you’re lining up your bones. Your head is centered over your torso and your torso’s centered over your pelvis and your pelvis lands right over your feet. You want to keep this alignment happening. Usually, it runs a straight line between your ear, your shoulder, your hip bone, greater trochanter, that hip bone, and your ankle. A straight line. There’s your support system. Every time you land, you want to have your foot underneath that support system.

If you bend or have or weigh arch back lordosis or bending at the waist or anything completely throws off where your center of mass is. If you bend at the waist, all of a sudden your center of mass is generally, same place as you’re Dantian, your center in Tai Chi. If your center of mass is right over your feet, you have to use your legs to push you forward. People that bend at the waist, center of masses still over their feet, so they have to push this center of mass forward.

On the other hand, if you have this straight posture in a center of mass in the middle, and you let your center of mass fall slightly in front of where your feet are contacting the ground, you become a falling object like a tree. It’s just been cut down. As long as your center of mass is ahead of your feet, gravity will tend to pull you over. Then all you do is cooperate with that pull of gravity. Picking up your feet to keep up with the pull.

Posture is important because as soon as you bend at the waist, it throws off that whole system of physics. Then you have to resort to muscles to let it happen. It’s important that just in Tai chi, in Tai Chi or any martial art, really, you get the most power if you move from your center, if you’re throwing a punch, you move your center first, and then your arm becomes an output of your center moving. Always move from your center so if you’re moving from that place, then all of the power comes from where the largest group of muscles is, your core.

That means that everything more distal, everything on down the line, down to your fingers, down to your toes. If you look at how the body is built, everything further away from your core is smaller and smaller and smaller. By the time you get down to your toes, that’s a little tiny muscle. In Tai Chi, they rely on every part of the body to cooperate together but only playing its relative part. Your toes are small, so they have very little to do with the whole motion of your body. They have some, but very little.

If you over-rely on all those distal muscles and parts, that’s an overuse injury. Because it’s overuse. People who run with their toes like sprinters, you’re using the smallest part of your leg to propel this whole body forward. That’s why people get injured. That’s why all the injuries in running come from below the knee.

Knee problems, calf pulls, Achilles tendon, all of that stuff comes from below the knee, most running injuries. My whole thing when I started this whole Chi Running thing was energy efficiency and injury prevention. It’s all about you want to prevent injury whether you’re walking or running or doing anything, don’t rely on the small parts, so if you can consolidate or centralize your power and your movement, everything happens way differently.

The science on Chi Running

Ari: Given that Chi Running has been around for roughly 20 years at this point, have you guys gathered any data or evidence of any kind on injury rates or other aspects of performance from the people who are engaging in Chi Running?

Danny: Yes. We had a study done by a guy from University of North Carolina who did a study for the military, but then he did a PhD on running efficiency and he compared the energy efficiency of Chi Running to what we call conventional running. He found a distinct difference, but also he then followed that up with a study on impact, how much impact you had with the ground, because he was studying for injuries. He found out that the amount of impact with Chi Running was significantly lower than people who were just regular runners.

We have studies that show that it is more efficient for sure. Totally a lot of anecdotal evidence. I’ll give you an example. I run every Sunday with a running group. We do trails. I live in Asheville, North Carolina, so we do lots of hills and trails. Everybody that I run with, it’s a group of about eight people or something like that, probably most of them are between 30 and 45, and I have no problem at all keeping up with them, and most of the time they can’t keep up with me when I’m doing downhills, because [crosstalk]

Ari: How old are you? Just for people listening and not watching the video.

Danny: I’m 73.

Ari: Damn, you look amazing for 73. Well done. Want to be like you when I’m 73.

Danny: I want to look like you when I’m 73.

Anecdotally, it really worked and they always marvel at what I’m doing. They always go, “Oh my God, he’s from another planet. ” Because they’re huffing and puffing. “How does this guy do that?”

Ari: Beautiful.

Danny: It has worked for me for sure. Last time I was injured was 1991.

Ari: Wow. I wish I could say something like that. I feel like [chuckles] I got a lot of stuff going on. I surf a ton. I do jiujitsu, I do rock climbing, I do Capoeira and I do tennis, and I feel like I’ve got some muscle tweak at least once a week. [laughs] Nothing serious, but constant, very minor injuries, because I’m just doing too much stuff. I think I would need to do an hour of massage every day to fully recover from all the exercise I do.

Danny: Yes. That’s for sure. I knew a guy that was doing some cross fit or something like that and he came to me and he said, “If I don’t hurt, I’m not doing it right.”

Ari: Yes. I mean, for me there’s nothing masochistic, I’m just still very much like a little kid. I just want to be out playing and having fun and I have so much energy and I have so much resilience to handle it all, but my soft tissues get beat up from it, that’s where I pay the price for it.

Danny: Yes. Well, if you’re just starting running you should have me show you running, I can do a separate little thing for you. I’d love it.

Ari: Oh, thank you so much. I appreciate that.

Danny: Because it’s really important if you’re going to do that to start off right.

The psychological benefits of Chi Running

Ari: Absolutely. What about the mental aspect of this? I feel like just based on how you’ve described it, you’re talking about the physical components to it, but it seems like very much infused in that is almost a mental attitude and I’m almost picturing people reminding themselves, like an affirmation to relax and remember to do certain things. How much of this is a mental attitude or mindset that people are taking into it versus the physical techniques?

Danny: Well, here’s how it works, the more you engage your mind, that’s why it becomes a mindfulness practice, and the more you engage your mind to pay attention, to be sensitive to your environment, to be able to respond to what the terrain is requiring, that takes mental work, and to also remember how to be efficient. Like because I’ve broken Chi Running down into a lot of different pieces. You can try to remember all of it or a little bit at a time, but the more you can remember the pieces, the easier it is on your body. The mind does the work, and the body reaps the benefits.

It’s not like an affirmation, it’s really specific parts integrated, like focuses, we call them focuses. For instance, if you have tension in your traps and up in your neck, I might have you do a focus of one thing, like, when you’re running, every five minutes, just keep running, but just drop your hands to your sides and let those traps just let go. Then while you’re running with your hands down, just slowly let your arm bend, and let your hand come back up to where your elbow bends. Then from there, allow your arms to swing, rather than hold them up and try to swing them, let your shoulders drop and then just bring your hands up easily. Then allow your arms to swing naturally. That’s just one thing.

I could do stuff with your legs, your pelvis, your knees, your posture. We have people do all the– There’s a bunch of basic focuses and then there’s advanced focuses, if you want to add speed or do hills or anything like that. The one thing I did was, I made an app that has all of these lined up, but you can pick and choose which one you want to practice today. The key to all of this stuff, and when you said it is a mental thing, it’s absolutely a mental thing, but you use your mind to create change in your body. That’s a universal principle anyway.

Repetition, in terms of movement, learning how to learn a new movement pattern. The key is changing your neural pathways. If you’re used to moving your body a certain way and it’s inefficient, guess what? You got to learn how to move it efficiently. You got to get rid of the old habit and ingrain a new habit. Repetition is king. Even if you’re doing one little tiny thing, you do it 50, 100 times, the whole thing, if you want to match or something, do it 10,000 times. It doesn’t take long to add up 10,000 arm swings. Once you got that, move to a different part, work on it.

Yes, it’s mental, but not so much through affirmations and stuff, it’s more– What I base all of this stuff on, it is what I call body sensing. You want to feel it in your body. That’s how you know your body’s the one that’s teaching you. Your body tells you when you have tension in your neck, can’t argue with that. Your body tells you if your knee hurts because you’re landing too hard. Your body tells you if you’re breathing too hard.

If you can listen, listen carefully to your body, and then have these focuses in the background that address each one of those things, and every time you feel one in your body, you just go, “Oh, I’ll bring that up in the file, my Rolodex. What do I do to fix that?” Then you have something and you can fix it right then. Start changing your movement right then, and guess what? The symptom goes away. It’s way different than western medicine. If you have knee pain, go get an Advil. This one, “Where is that knee coming from? How am I landing? Am I overusing it? Is there too much impact?

You’re being a detective all the time, but with the background of all of the little pieces that actually work for you, you just pull one out of your file and use it. Done.

The harmful effects of a wrong running technique

Ari: I’ve been studying exercise physiology and biomechanics, health science, more broadly since I was a little kid, since I was about 13 years old. I’ve been an athlete since I was much younger than that. My older brother who’s now a chiropractor and a world-class expert in pain and posture, was always my best friend and training partner growing up. We both had a very strong background in biomechanics and other aspects of health science. When you train in that for a long period of time, when you see people doing stuff, your brain naturally starts to just see what’s going on biomechanically and it instantly recognizes stuff that’s wrong, as I’m sure you know very well, especially in the case of running. Even though I don’t have an extensive background in running, I did many sports that involve running and I know what good running looks like. I know the biomechanics of it very well, and I would say the vast majority of people that I see who are runners are running quite poorly. It’s not infrequent, they’re many instances, if I’m hanging out with my brother, we see somebody running by where we go, “Oh, please stop, just stop running immediately.”

Danny: Do another sport. [laughter]

Ari: “You’re doing so much damage to your body, please just stop it, just walk until you can learn the proper biomechanics,” and it’s not an attitude of being judgemental, it’s more like, “Hey, please you’re messing up your joints. You’re creating so much impact and wear and tear on your joints by running in that way.” I’m curious how common you think it is that people who are runners have poor biomechanics and what would be maybe one or two of the most common errors that you see that people should become aware of and try to fix?

Danny: I would guess, if I look around, if I’m at a race, an event and I’m watching everybody, I would guess that there’s probably less than 10% of everybody I’m watching is doing it right. The best time to watch people doing it wrong, and the result of it doing it wrong is to watch a finish of a race, because then they’ve been doing it wrong for 10K or a half marathon or whatever. Boy, it shows up at the end and they are struggling, so I can see mostly what’s going wrong with people as they’re just overusing their legs.

Most people think that when you run, you have to really reach with your legs and pull back and doing this whole eating up the ground in front of you thing. What that does, as soon as you reach with your legs, you put your foot out in front of your body and when your foot hits the ground, you’re putting the brakes on.

Ari: The heel strike.

Danny: The heel strike, you’re decelerating, that’s what they call it in exercise science. It’s a deceleration when your foot lands in front of your center of mass, it’s going to slow you down. On the other hand, you’re pushing with your opposite leg and you’re putting the brakes on with your forward leg, so here you are pushing like crazy with one leg while you’re stopping yourself with the other leg. When I say get rid of what slows you down. Get rid of pushing too hard. Get rid of hitting too hard.

You push too hard, that’s an overuse injury. Hitting too hard is an impact injury, one or the other is going to show up, and so that’s where most people end up. If you just happen to be a really strong person, you could probably last longer without really getting hurt, but eventually, it’s going to show up. If you don’t clean up how you move, but that’s probably the worst thing I see people do, is land with their foot in front of their body or run upright.

Most people run upright. If you run upright, like I said, then you have to push the center of mass forward. If you fall forward, you’re falling, just keep up with your fall. Watch the Kenyans. I did a video or I didn’t, I watched a film at the start of the New York City marathon. There’s all these Kenyans right up front and there’s these scattered a couple of white guys in the middle of the crowd. The Kenyans come right past the camera, so I stop the video right when it’s horizontal to the camera, so I can see everybody’s body position. The Kenyans have this huge forward fall going and all the white guys chasing them down are bolt upright because that’s how they’re taught.

That alone is enough for me to see and go. “I can tell you who’s not going to keep with those guys the whole way.” I can predict, so I can watch, and it’s interesting because it’s not just all physical musculature and stuff like that. When I see somebody running at this point, I can watch somebody run and get a pretty good take on what’s going on in their life, what’s not working. Where are they holding tension? Where are they not letting go? That tells you a whole lot about a person.

It’s where they hold their tension. If you can read that, then that’s even another step closer to being able to help them move. A lot of runners, they can be much faster if they can also work through, or walkers, doesn’t matter if they can work through whatever tension they hold from their lives. Because that translates right into how free and easy they can actually move their body or how complicated their mind is while they’re trying to get a physical activity going.

One of the biggest things I see also working against people that makes them like, say an inefficient runner or a poor runner is how much is going on above the neck? People worried about how they’re finishing, where they are relative to somebody faster than them. How they didn’t train enough or didn’t eat the right meal before. There’s so many things. What I do is I try to approach all of this as holistically as I can. I don’t just train a runner physically, I talk to them about, how do you combine a good diet? How do you relax your mind? How do you work on all of those levels so that the most optimal movement can come out of your body, because it’s not just about muscles.

What is Chi?

Ari: I have two last questions for you. One is, what is chi? Why chi? How do you conceptualize what that is? Is it something mystical? Is it some mystical sort of energy we’re tapping into and we’re supposed to move through our body, or is it something different from that?

Danny: It’s definitely in your body, but it’s not mystical. It is different, because people ask that question, and I go, “Well, you can’t measure it because now you’re moving out of the realm of science.” Science is the measurable. [laughs] If you’re talking chi, you’re beyond the physical already, you’re out of the science realm. 4,000 years of Chinese using chi and developing it and accessing it tells you something about all of those people can’t be wrong. I’ll tell you here’s how I feel it, it’s not like I all of a sudden feel energy coursing through my body or anything like that. It comes to me as, how do I say? More a sense of fluidity, more a sense of not a limited amount of power available.

It comes to me as an ease of movement, and it’s not something I can say, “Okay, I’m going to turn on my chi right now. I’m going to be moving easy.” No, I have to get to that place by setting up the conditions for energy to flow. Chi is the life force in your body. If the chi leaves your body, you’re dead. That’s basically it. That’s what makes your heart beat. It’s what makes you breathe. It’s like it’s underneath it all that life force energy that makes a difference between you and a rock. There is something different in there. Can you measure it? No. Can you see it? No. [laughs] Can you pick it up in your hand and move it over here? No. But if it’s not there, there’s a pretty big difference in how you are. [laughs]

You’re no longer with us. It is there, very much there, but people think it’s mystical or something. Just because something’s invisible doesn’t mean it’s not there. That’s proven all the time. Gravity, [laughs] just because it’s invisible doesn’t mean it’s not there. Chi works into the same kind of principles, but the way to access chi is to create the conditions for energy to flow. When I say get rid of what slows you down and what blocks your energy, can be mental, could be physical, could be emotional, whatever blocks. The more you can get in to building the habit of no resistance to anything. This is really the path [crosstalk]

How Chi ties into life more broadly

Ari: I was going to ask you, how do you see these principles tying into life beyond running?

Danny: Oh my gosh. Running is like this much of my life, a tiny little percentage, and what I learned from my running ties into everything I do. I’ll give you a really simple example. If I’m cooking a meal, cooking dinner, I was a chef in my former life, it’s really important to be able to cook a good meal if you’re not tripping over things and trying to search for one ingredient over here and bring it over here, and then you got your knife and everything’s clumped over in front of your workspace.

I would be so exhausted by the end of cooking a meal. On the other hand, if I lay out my ingredients, if I know the process through which I’m going to go, alignment and relaxation, so then I can relax. I’m not searching for something that’s not there. That just makes it move much easier. That allows energy to flow into the food, [laughs] into the food preparation. When I’m done, the next step is to clean up after myself so that when I leave the kitchen, it looks like nobody was there.

That means that the next person that walks into the kitchen gets to start with a clean slate. They’re not putting dirty dishes out of the way and trying to manage the kitchen while they’re trying to get something done. It translates to life in very simple, pretty applicable ways in everything. How you do stuff depends on how much thought you put into it from beginning to end, and it all goes through a cycle, beginning to end. The end should look a lot like the beginning of the next cycle. That’s efficiency.

Ari: Danny, where’s the best place to learn Chi Running and where do you want to direct people to?

Danny: I’d like to direct people to the Chi Running website and it’s just C-H-I running, If you go there, they have a whole wide range of learning materials. Everything from videos, to audios to apps, you name it. We also have one-on-one classes. We have over 200 instructors all over the world. You can find an instructor near you wherever you live, pretty much. All kinds of learning materials. I just wanted to make it so available to everybody that you didn’t have an excuse to not [laughs] learn it and do it well.

If people want to come from this podcast, if you go to the Chi Running website, if you buy anything or go there, you can get 20% off of what I call the ChiRunning School which is a whole bunch of lessons you do online and you just watch them, and it’s a little subscription thing. There’s a discount code. Ari20. [crosstalk].

Ari: Wonderful. Thank you so much. I didn’t even know about this.

Danny: The ChiRunning School is probably one of the best things because it breaks Chi Running into 104 lessons.

Ari: Wonderful.

Danny: Talk about detail.

Ari: Danny, thank you so much for coming on the show and sharing your wisdom. We should all be so lucky as to look and perform like you at age 73. Well done for being not only a source of wisdom and amazing experience and knowledge, but also being a shining example of what to strive for personally. Thank you so much and I look forward to our next conversation.

Danny: Thank you, Ari. It was fun. I appreciate it.

Show Notes

00:00 – Intro
01:01 – Guest Intro
03:27 – What is Chi Running?
04:49 –The principles of Tai Chi
11:15 – Get rid of what slows you down
13:40 – The difference between Chi Running and regular running
17:10 – Posture in running and walking
23:20 – The science on Chi Running
27:18 – The psychological benefits of Chi Running
32:32 –The harmful effects of a wrong running technique
39.39 – What is Chi?
42:55 – How Chi ties into life more broadly


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