The opposite of The Pull is The Drop (my terms not Danny’s), when you drop your leg into place underneath you. I already described quite about how to do that in the “The Pull” but there are a few things that need to be clarified. You knee should not swing out much in front of you if you are running on a flat surface although it will if you are running up a hill a little bit. One drill to get a sense for what this feels like is to stand facing a wall with your nose almost touching it. Lift your right heel behind you (and this will take hamstring/calf work since you are not moving) and then let it drop in place while you lift your left ankle. Jog in place with your ankles flying up behind you. If you pull your knee forward you will bang it into the wall (ouch!).
Chi Running: The Pull
Ok, but how do you get your leg up behind you so it can fall into place beneath you? Sadly, this is even harder to describe. Let me tell you what you don’t use: Your hamstrings, glutes, quads or calves. Let that soak in for a bit. You don’t use leg muscles to lift your leg and you don’t use leg muscles to place your leg beneath you when you land. Its all about body mechanics and posture and physics. Let’s say you are running down the road. Your front torso is falling forward and your legs are moving backwards. If you let your pelvis rotate slightly around your spine (parallel to the ground) then you have one leg beneath you and one leg behind you. Visualize “lifting your ankles”, leaving your foot limp (no toe off) and use your core to rotate your pelvis back and the leg behind you will be pulled up using a combination of core and ligaments. I had been using my hamstrings before, but that is wrong. Trust me you can do this without using your leg muscles at all. Leg muscles are only really used to minimally absorb the impact of each step, and that is all.
Chi Running: The Lean
I think this is the part most people have heard about Chi running. You lean forward and let gravity pull you down. You put your foot down underneath you and if you are in a proper one legged posture stance you will have perfect support without bone jarring impact. This is the part that is so hard to explain or to read about and it turns out I was not doing it right. This is very hard to explain, but here goes. If you look at babies when they first learn to walk they will totter forward, sort of a controlled fall, with their legs sort of falling into place underneath them to stop them from falling on their face. Similar idea here. If your right leg is up behind you and you just let it swing down and fall into place then once again you let gravity do the work, not muscle.
Chi Running: One leg posture stance
Chi Running: Full foot support
Your weight should be equally distributed throughout the foot. When running this is often called the “midfoot strike”, mostly to differentiate between forefoot and heel strikers. Picture 3 points on the bottom of your foot, one under your pinky toe, one under your big toe and one in the middle of the heel and think of this as a “tripod” of stability. It is a highly stable configuration, where your weight is distributed evenly across your foot.
Chi Running: Your Column
This refers to your entire posture and is also referred to as “Run Tall”. You lengthen your neck, but keep your chin level. Don’t let it drift upward. Your knees are “softened” out of a locked position and your core is engaged. You should be able to look down and see the laces of your shoes (assuming a flat tummy).
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Chi Running: Leveling your pelvis
The idea here is that you pivot your pelvis so that it is parallel to the floor rather than sloping back to front. This lets it rotate properly when you run and engages your core muscles. This is where I learned I had been doing it wrong this whole time. I was clenching my stomach muscles to pull my pelvis and my glutes to push it. Both are completely wrong and explains why my butt always hurts after long runs. Your butt should be very loose and you hold your core lightly, as if you were sitting up in the chair and not letting your back touch.
When you are standing properly with your pelvis leveled you should be able to reach behind you and use your knuckles to lightly punch your gluts. They should jiggle like jelly, not be as hard as rocks.
You can read more about Chi posture here, on Danny Dreyer’s site.
My Disclaimer: I am not a Chi Running instructor or an expert runner or a coaching professional of any kind. These represent my notes, primarily for my own edification. If they are helpful to you then that is great and I am glad for that, but I don’t guarantee that everything here is absolutely accurate as they are a reflection of my own experience and memory.
I highly recommend visiting the Chi Running Website as well as Danny Dreyer’s book and DVD