Dreyer developed ChiRunning, a style of running that combines principles of T’ai Chi with running to focus on movement without pain. He emphasizes form and relaxation in his program, which is taught in 20 countries in 10 different languages. He is a running coach and marathon runner who recently published his third book, “Chi Marathon.” He’ll be speaking about the book Saturday at
11 a.m. at the John Hancock Sports & Fitness Expo at the Seaport World Trade Center . Admission to the expo is free. (200 Seaport Blvd.,
Q. You say one of the principles of ChiRunning is to be relaxed. But as a runner, I find the idea of running and relaxing to be at odds with one another.
A. If you can learn to run relaxed, that means you’re not holding any undue tension in your muscles that could restrict your range of motion or your ease of movement. When I talk about relaxing, it’s really training your body to feel where you’re tense so then you can intentionally work at relaxing these places. If you’re tense anywhere, other muscles in your body have to work harder to overcome the tension.
Q. You also suggest a mid-foot strike, and I’m trying to picture how I would do that. It seems as if that would require a lot of thought to get my foot to land in the correct position.
A. The big debate in running circles is how do you land? Because if you land with a heel strike, you’re almost guaranteed to eventually end up with runner’s knee. If you strike with your heel that means your foot is landing in front of your body, and that’s like putting the brakes on every step you take. With a mid-foot strike, your feet can land closer to your body. Mid-foot spreads the impact of striking evenly and is better for endurance running and long-distance running.
Q. Did you start this because you injured yourself running?
A. When I first started running, I would get injured a lot. My knees would give out. I was all over the place. So I worked on that, and subsequently I became an ultramarathoner. That’s when I really needed to start working on it. An ultramarathon is anything longer than a marathon. I ran 40 ultramarathons. I was always having to work on how efficiently I ran. I noticed a difference, then I started teaching other people what I was learning.
Q. When you’re watching an event like the Boston Marathon, do you notice a lot of people running incorrectly?
A. Definitely. I would guess that 80 percent of most runners are heel strikers. That’s huge. When you look at the annual injury rate for runners, it’s 65 percent. If you go into the marathon world, that figure goes up to 85 or 90 percent of all marathoners getting injured. Those are monster numbers. If the Centers for Disease control got ahold of running, they would ban it. It’s costing our medical system a huge amount.
Q. There have been studies about the benefits of running barefoot, and I noticed that you hint at the idea on your website. Do you think there is a benefit to running barefoot, or to wearing those creepy toe shoes?
A. Creepy toes shoes, those are my words exactly. I’m also not a huge proponent of barefoot running, but I am a proponent of running shoes that are not overbuilt, which is really what we’ve been living with for the past 40 years. Running shoe makers have created sneakers with thicker and thicker soles and cushioning. There’s no scientific basis that we need this. It is very important to have shoes that allow your foot to flex properly, and allow your feet a chance to feel the ground underneath you. Your shoe shouldn’t do that much. The more your shoe does, the more your body has to adapt to the shoe.
Q. This time of year, all we hear about in Boston is the marathon. If someone is contemplating running next year, what should they do now to prepare?
A. If someone’s never done a marathon, I would definitely suggest that they take six months to a year to train for their first one. If they’re thinking of running Boston, they have to figure out their qualifying time and train for a little more speed than they might be used to. That’s why Boston is famous because you have to qualify to get in.
Q. Do you have another marathon that you suggest people try first?
A. I don’t have specifics, but I would say that if you can find a marathon that’s not hilly, that would be best. The Chicago marathon is pretty flat. I would say to go for a flatter marathon for your first one because hills always add in a degree of difficulty. Don’t worry about how long it takes. Especially the first time around.
Christopher Muther can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.