There are lots of things in life that we do without thinking and running is certainly one of them. Most of us grab our trainers, plug-in and pound the pavement until we feel we’ve “done our bit” for the day and can slope home feeling satisfied. A natural consequence of our busy lifestyles, if we’re not paying attention to how are bodies are behaving then this approach could be doing more harm than good. London based Chi running instructor, ultra-marathon runner and all round lovely man Gray Caws tells us how, and why, it’s time to go back to the drawing board to re-think our modern running style.

Humans are designed to be naturally efficient runners for survival and yet, many runners – myself included, complain of aches and pains in the feet, ankles, knee joints and lower back. Clearly something isn’t right. Chi running incorporates the movement principles of T’ai Chi for a more efficient and mindful performance. The idea is that we should alter our posture in order to engage the core muscles which in turn relaxes the arms and legs. To kick start my 1-2-1 session, Gray took me to the park to film me running. Everything was captured on camera: posture, cadence, shoulder alignment, arm movement – there was no hiding. Then it was back to the classroom to unpick the footage. It was clear that I had a tendency to swing my arms across my body which, I confess, was news to me. Gray explained that the unnecessary twisting of the spine was probably the cause of soreness at the base of my spine and that the arms should be pointing forward in alignment with the legs and core. Sounds simple- sure, but I have since observed countless runners making the same mistake.

So, what will you gain from this new approach? Well, you’ll limit any unnecessary expenditure of energy or overworking of the legs meaning, quite simply, that you can go for longer – great if you enjoy distance running or want to up your mileage to increase the challenge. Most importantly, making small adjustments to address any bad habits will avoid unnecessary stress on the body which could lead to injury. That said, perhaps the most poignant pieces of wisdom imparted on me by Gray was the importance of enjoying exercise rather than doing it as a temporary measure to drop a dress size or simply because I’d feel guilty otherwise. Whilst modern schools of thought will always have their sceptics, no one can deny that, in a society where we’re faced with an inescapable pressure to look good, we can all benefit from taking the time to rediscover the simple, rejuvenating joy of movement.

Gray offers both group, 1-2-1 sessions and workshops. Head to www.n8pt.com for more information.

words by Alexandra Salisbury

image: Tully Lou from the Hip & Healthy Activewear Store! Shop the look here!