Chi Running, by Danny Dreyer, is one of the most popular books regarding minimalist running. Before reading, I was a bit skeptical, since the the concept of Chi typically refers to metaphysical ideas. I was pleasantly surprised to find that this book contains plenty of smart and practical advice for effortless and injury-free running.
Chi Running has a lot of great stuff. Early on (about page 15), the author explains that there are three tenets to Chi Running: maintaining good posture, keeping joints open and loose, and making sure muscles are relaxed while running. Later, Dreyer details the importance of Body Sensing, which basically means that the mind and body are working together to improve efficiency and avoid injuries. This is the essence of minimalist and barefoot running. In fact, the main reason to wear barefoot shoes is to be able to detect form errors and adjust accordingly.
The best part about Chi Running is the incredibly detailed sections on form and posture. From my own research on body alignment, I can say that Dreyer is dead-on with the posture techniques he teaches in this text. Concepts such as the pelvic bowl and total body column are extremely important for anyone engaged in athletics to study and understand. Many people pinpoint the heel strike as the cause of running injuries (which is true), but fail to realize that the heel strike is the product of poor body alignment, posture, and form. Of course, along with the form sections is an appropriate explanation of the midfoot strike and its advantages over the heel strike.
To be clear to those wondering, Chi Running is different than Pose Running. The main difference I found between the two is the idea of stride length. Pose Running advocates a short stride at all times, with the feet landing directly beneath the hips. Chi Running, on the other hand, says that stride length should be dictated by speed (faster pace=longer stride). Which way is right? I don’t have the answer to that. Still, I think that both methods are far superior to traditional heel-striking technique, and either method will increase efficiency and prevent injuries.
Chi Running does a major faceplant when Dreyer brings up cross-training. Here is an actual quote from the text: “I don’t believe in weight training for running. Building muscles that you don’t use while running will only increase your muscle mass, creating more weight you’ll have to carry around.“ Dreyer doesn’t use any science to validate his point, or even attempt to explain further. I won’t go into too much detail here, but it’s widely accepted that weight training can be an effective supplement to a running program. Building muscle isn’t such a black-and-white topic, and lifting weights will not hinder performance for the overwhelming majority of runners.
I think this is just an issue of the author’s qualifications on the subject of weight training. I tried to look him up, but I could not find any credentials. As far as I’m aware, Danny Dreyer isn’t a doctor or physical therapist. Unless he has experimental data showing that weight lifting decreases running efficiency, I advise readers to just ignore this part of the book.
Despite the aforementioned stumble, Chi Running is an excellent book. Danny Dreyer devotes a large portion of the text to explaining form and posture, which are the most important things a beginner should understand. In fact, I would even recommend Chi Running to those who run infrequently, if only for the sections on alignment than be applied to all athletic endeavors. The Chi Running tagline promises, “A revolutionary approach to effortless, injury-free running“, and Dreyer delivers.
Read more: Barefoot Running Books for Total Beginners