Walking technique (ChiWalking)

  • Does walking often become painful and are you fed up with it? Do you want to move pain-free?
  • Do you have osteoarthritis or something similar?
  • Do you find walking boring?
  • Do you want to learn to walk faster but relaxed?
  • Do you find it interesting to learn to walk as a form of meditation?
  • Do you want to be able to keep moving for years to come?
  • Do you want to learn to move more easily and from relaxation?

ChiWalking makes it possible! Modern but stiff footwear, with or without insoles, but also barefoot and minimalist footwear have been created because walkers with the traditional technique suffer many injuries or discomfort or miss the natural feeling of walking.

Just going for a walk in minimalist shoes or barefoot, however, carries risks. ChiWalking is a walking technique plus learning method that gives you the basics to walk naturally, as far and for as long as you want. This protects your joints, muscles and tendons, so that the risk of overuse injuries is minimal.

Below we explain where ChiWalking comes from and what its main features are.

Power Walking vs ChiWalking

A popular saying is: 'no pain, no gain' . You have to work hard to get better. The usual way of walking ("chasing your legs") can be described as Power walking. The load on the body is greater and requires more strength. To cope with this load, and thus to prevent injuries, it is recommended to develop more muscle strength. However, the question is whether this is always so effective. Lifting the legs therefore takes much less energy than unwinding, gravity does the rest.

The basic principle of ChiWalking is that strength training and strength development of the leg muscles becomes unnecessary for most walkers, by improving the walking technique. Extra muscle strength is not necessary to walk faster, nor to prevent injuries.
ChiWalking: for whom?

Of course there are walkers who have to walk with strength, for example speed walkers who reach speeds of up to 15 km/h. You cannot achieve such speeds without the use of strength, although relaxation also plays an important role. But it can be said that the longer the distance, the less force is important as a factor. Those who walk long distances need to use their muscles much less than they often do, and the knees and ankles are especially happy with this. ChiWalking is ideally suited for:

– Long distance walkers (including competition walkers)

– Injury prone walkers and people with conditions such as rheumatism or arthrosis

You can also use ChiWalking perfectly for a cardio workout, depending on your stride frequency. The steps are smaller and faster than you are used to.
The 'Chi' in ChiRunning

If muscle strength and strong legs are not the starting point, then what do you use in ChiWalking? The answer is 'Chi'. Chi is the power that is also recognized in acupuncture, in the martial arts Aikido and Tai Chi and the movement art Chi Kung. The Chi resides in your 'core', your center. This power center is your starting point.

This also applies to Yoga and the popular Pilates. It's about using this force and making it work together with the force of nature, gravity.
Mind & Body

You can tap into these forces by focusing mentally and relaxing your body. In that sense, ChiWalking is a 'conscious' way of walking. Another mental point is motivation.

Some walkers are driven by external drives: wanting to be better than others or a specific person, wanting recognition from others, wanting to be faster than a certain time. Overexertion and injuries are then lurking. There is a tendency to want to go faster or further at any cost, even if the walking technique and/or condition does not (yet) allow this.

In ChiWalking the process is central: developing the walking technique. The process is the goal. Speed is a by-product.
Power Walking vs ChiWalking

Briefly, the differences between Power Walking and ChiWalking can be described as follows.

Power walking:
Muscle, Result-oriented, More is better, Effort, Long recovery time needed between workouts, 'no pain, no gain'.

Vitality / Chi, Process–oriented, Less is more, Relaxation, No/little recovery time needed between workouts, 'no pain, no pain'.
For many injury-plagued walkers, this is great stuff. More about the backgrounds and technology will follow shortly.
Main principles of Tai Chi
ChiWalking combines the ancient Chinese wisdom of Tai Chi with modern knowledge from exercise science. This creates the specific ChiWalking way of walking. Which T'ai Chi principles are so important?

Go with the forces

The principle comes from the Eastern martial arts that you do not counter a force with an opposing force. You go along with the forces you encounter and use them to your advantage. With ChiWalking, this means letting the force of the road coming at you pass under you and letting gravity pull you forward.

'Needle in cotton wool'

This is the image of a steel needle in a cotton ball: a strong core and a soft exterior. With ChiWalking you work on a powerful center on the one hand and relaxation in the limbs on the other. The more you can relax your legs, the easier it is to walk.

Gradual progress

You cannot complete any important learning process in one day. You work on the basics first. Only when you have the basics do you move on to the next building block, and so on. It takes time to unlearn old moves and learn new ones. This has to be reprogrammed in the brain by creating new neuroconnections. Furthermore, ChiWalking is process oriented and not result oriented. With the right technique you automatically improve the distance and speed: 'technique – distance – speed'.
The basic attitude
1. The basic attitude

Posture is the first and most important building block for ChiWalking. As with Yoga, Tai Chi, Chi Kung and Pilates, this posture is achieved from the core. The pelvis plays an important role in this. See the video below as an example. At this point it is important to feel relaxation in the limbs (relaxed shoulders, loose knees and ankles). Good posture is conditional to being able to perform the ChiRunning technique properly. The resulting balance ensures less muscle strain and thus fewer back, shoulder and neck complaints, as well as hip and knee injuries.

2. Hanging

By hanging slightly forward from the hip in this basic position, but with a straight body, the walker brings the body center of gravity in front of the feet. Once that's the case, gravity takes over. This is the force that will eventually pull the walker forward. It is important that the ankles are completely relaxed during this hanging, so that the heel does not come off the ground too early. Hanging is crucial from an energy point of view, as it allows the use of gravity. It is also important for injury prevention. By hanging, the feet no longer land on the ground far in front of the walker, but as close to the body's center of gravity as possible. This prevents a heel landing. Landing is at the front of the heel. Landing on the heel puts a lot of strain on the knees and shins. A forefoot landing puts more stress on the calves.

3. Lifting Feet

The feet are simply lifted at the back. The heel comes off the ground first. The toes follow relaxed. Compare it to removing a stamp from a roll. So there is no push. This saves a lot of energy. It also puts less strain on calves and Achilles tendons. The elasticity of the hamstrings is used. After lifting, the foot makes a circular movement and then lands behind the body's center of gravity. The knees remain relatively low during this movement. Knee lifting is therefore not part of the exercises for ChiWalking, but knee bending is.

4. Using the arms

The arm movement is important for rhythm and balance. This is also a movement that takes place from relaxation. The arm works like a pendulum: the shorter the pendulum, the easier (and faster) it moves back and forth. That is why having an angle of approx. 90º is ideal. The arms should not make sideways movements. Everything must be geared towards achieving a forward movement. Good arm use supports the right way of running. When these four building blocks are combined, a flexible, energy-efficient and less injury-prone way of walking is created: ChiWalking. After learning these first steps, the technique is further expanded with walking at different paces and hill technique.

1. Personal coaching trajectory €190 for 3.5 hours

2. ChiWalking workshop one day 10:00-13:00 €80 PP

5. ChiWalking group workshop 3 hours €400 regardless of the number of participants (from 8 people the personal attention decreases)

With ChiWalking, the stride length always remains almost the same, regardless of the pace. This cadence is quite high compared to what is common for many people. There are two reasons for this:

1. Due to a high stride frequency, the standing foot only stays on the ground for a short time. It is important to have short ground contact, because long ground contact requires more effort from the leg muscles.

2. With a low stride rate, there is a tendency to take long strides forward. This causes a heel landing in front of the center of gravity, which gives a higher shock load and therefore an increased risk of knee problems, shin splints, et cetera. The desired stride length is close to a relaxed step back. The cadence is variable depending on your speed. It can go up to 220 steps per minute if you want to hit a solid speed! As a rule of thumb, smaller runners will have a slightly higher cadence than taller runners. Top runners often sit a little higher with their cadence.
The basic principle with ChiWalking is now that this stride length is also maintained at a slower pace. Your stride length remains a benchmark.
If the stride length is always the same, then it is the stride frequency that changes as the tempo changes. The faster you run, the faster the steps. This doesn't happen by bringing the legs further forward or pulling your toes up harder. The feet also land as close as possible below the body's center of gravity at a higher pace. The pass opens at the rear. The heels rise higher, the circle the feet make gets bigger. This is promoted by a rotation of the pelvis about the longitudinal axis. All this is easier if the hips, back and legs are sufficiently relaxed.

Note: increasing the tempo is done by "hanging forward from your hip" a little more. We also call the latter "moving from your Core or Dantien". The core position remains the same. The latter is mainly done by the abdominal muscles. The legs should be more relaxed. This is where the aforementioned principle of the strong core and relaxed exterior returns, the image of the 'needle in the cotton ball'.
By playing with the degree of hanging, you can run in different 'paces'. Four global paces can be distinguished.

1. Slow pace

2. Casual pace (talking pace, aerobic)

3. Race Pace (Around Anaerobic Threshold)

4. Race Pace (Anaerobic)

Each pace requires a little more hanging. The degree of hanging and the speed you walk must be in agreement. If you hang too much for the speed you're walking, the lower leg muscles have to work hard to keep you upright. If you hang too little for the speed you are walking, you have to push off with the feet and you run the risk that the feet will land in front of the body's center of gravity.
With ChiWalking, hills can be taken in a relaxed way. With gradual hills, this only requires minor adjustments in the technique. Specific techniques have been developed for steep hills.

Speed is not the primary focus. ChiWalking mainly focuses on as little stress as possible for muscles, tendons and joints. But speed enthusiasts need not fear: the advanced ChiWalker allows you to descend hills at a particularly fast pace!
ChiWalking exercises
ChiWalking does not involve the usual walking technique. Much attention is paid to loosening exercises. The more flexible the ankles, knees, hips, back and shoulders, the easier it is to walk in a relaxed manner.

The abs do require a little extra attention. Not by doing a lot of sit-ups, for example (a six pack is not necessary). The abs develop naturally by consistently applying the correct posture. This process can be supported with specific posture exercises.

The exercises associated with ChiWalking are mainly intended to feel the correct posture and movements in the body, so that you can check whether you are doing it right while walking. This 'body sensing' is a skill that is of great importance to ChiWalking.
Learn ChiRunning
ChiRunning can be learned from Danny Dreyer's book and DVD. However, many people prefer to be taught by an instructor with direct directions and feedback. This can speed up the learning process considerably. There are now various options for this in the Netherlands.

ChiRunning is feasible for everyone. You do not need to have any prior knowledge of Tai Chi. Patience and dedication are the most important necessities. The reward is carefree enjoyment of your sport.
Book an appointment for a first introductory meeting https://willemmucher.com/afspraak1st/

Example before and 3 months after the ChiRunning Workshop