What is ChiWalking?
The ChiWalking program is an entirely new approach to creating health, fitness and well-being through the activity of walking. ChiWalking blends walking with the inner focuses of T’ai Chi, the ancient Chinese martial art, to create balance and strength; improved cognition and overall health; and to manage stress.
Whether you are a fitness walker already, want to manage weight, are rehabilitating after illness or injury, or want to stay active while aging, ChiWalking® can help you reach your personal goals. ChiWalking makes walking easier on the body and helps improve and eliminate the aches, pains and discomfort of walking incorrectly. The form emphasizes proper bio-mechanics of walking, and can help:
• Improve your posture
• Strengthen core muscles
• Relax tight and overused muscles of the arms and legs
• Gain cardio and aerobic conditioning
• Increase mobility & much more!
The ChiWalking Technique
The ChiWalking technique provides a revolutionary way to enjoy injury-free fitness walking. You’ll proactively strengthen your core muscles with every step. Most walkers tend to overwork the muscles of their lower legs by pushing off too hard with their toes. This can lead to shin splints, plantar fasciitis, sore toes or a burning sensation on the balls of your feet. To avoid these overuse injuries, the ChiWalking technique teaches you how to redirect the workload of propulsion to the strong core muscles around your pelvis and lower trunk area instead.
Here are three questions commonly asked about the ChiWalking technique that shed light on what your hips, legs and feet are doing.
1. How does the ChiWalking technique differ from the ChiRunning technique, and can I learn to walk faster with ChiWalking?
In the ChiRunning book, the training paradigm is Form, Distance, Speed … meaning that you learn and practice your running technique in that order. This guideline can be equally applied to ChiWalking. Don’t attempt walking at faster speeds until you have your walking technique down at slower speeds and you can hold your technique together for longer distances. Your propulsion comes from bending slightly from your hips when you’re ChiWalking and not from your ankles, as you do in ChiRunning. At slower paces your propulsion comes from a mixture of gravity pulling you forward as you bend and rotate your hips. It becomes increasingly more a function of hip rotation at the faster speeds. BUT, until you can walk with completely relaxed lower legs, you shouldn’t be powering your legs with the rotation of your pelvis or you’ll default back into pushing with your feet, which over-taxes your lower leg muscles.
2. Should I feel myself pushing with my feet as I walk?
You should always be working towards a stride where your ankles and lower legs are as relaxed as possible. This will mean that you eventually will not be pushing off with your feet and toes (the smallest muscle group in your legs), but using a mix of the pull of gravity (by leaning forward from your hips) and the rotation of your pelvis (to drive your legs). Whenever you’re walking uphill or at faster speeds, you will feel some push off with the rear foot and your leg (both of which should be as relaxed as possible). BUT, your foot is driven by your leg, which in turn is driven by the rotation of your pelvis. Propulsion should not be done with your foot muscles … ever. This shifts the work responsibility to your core muscles, not your legs. When walking uphill, it is also important to shorten your stride and lean your upper body into the hill.
3. How do my feet land when I’m ChiWalking?
In order to maintain less impact to your knees and hips while walking, it is important to always keep your leading leg bent at the knee. This will allow you to land on the area of your foot just in front of your heel (closer to a mid-foot strike). Most walkers straighten their leading leg and strike the ground with the back of their heel. This type of heel strike sends a shock to the knees, hips and lower back.
The width of tracking should be slightly narrower than hip width and should be maintained with each forward step. Find a crack in the sidewalk and stand with your feet together straddling the crack. This is the relative position each of your feet should have with each step … just to either side of your centerline. The only time you should step with one foot in front of the other is if you’re walking on a tightrope or a runway, which self-eliminates a lot of us.
Walk the Way You’re Meant to Walk
Walking is such a basic human movement, so you’re probably wondering how you could possibly be doing it wrong! The stresses of life, however, have a cumulative effect on the amount of muscular tension we hold in our bodies. Most of us have taken on movement patterns that are constricted, at times to the point of being detrimental to our health.
The good news? You have the power to change the way you move! Becoming a better walker is not dependent on how fast or how far you can walk, but on how well you can listen to your body and how well you can respond to its needs. With the ChiWalking technique, walking becomes easier on your body while helping to eliminate the aches, pains and discomfort of walking incorrectly–ultimately, improving your overall quality of life!
The ChiWalking program offers 12 different types of walks to create a balanced and exciting health program. The “menu” of walks includes: a Cardio Walk, an Aerobic Walk, a Flexibility Walk, a Loosening Walk, a Focusing Walk, an Energizing Walk, a Walking Meditation and more.
Harness the Power of T’ai Chi: Use centuries’ worth of knowledge to enhance your walking.
ChiWalking has within it the deep philosophical and psychological attributes of the centuries-old practice of T’ai Chi. ChiWalking takes the benefits of walking beyond cardiovascular, aerobic and mental health, by addressing the needs of your whole person; joints and muscles, body and soul.
ChiRunning and ChiWalking follow the basic principles of the ancient Chinese martial art of T’ai Chi, drawing heavily on the use of chi to create power and movement in your body. Proper body alignment, combined with relaxation in your joints and muscles, allows chi to flow freely through your body, making movement powerful, yet effortless at the same time. We use these principles to reduce the effort of moving forward, whether you’re running, walking, working, parenting or just living your life.
The good news is, you don’t need to know anything about T’ai Chi to take advantage of this incredible body-wisdom used for millennia to increase the flow of chi through the body.
Moving from Your Dantien
Your dantien is the home for your Chi and the best place to focus your mind, so that all your movement comes from a balanced, whole place in yourself. Your dantien is located just below your navel and a few inches in toward your spine. According to T’ai Chi Master George Xu, we should focus on our dantien and allow all movement to originate from that place.
Why? Because chi is stronger than muscles, and movement driven by chi is more deeply powerful. In ChiRunning, ChiWalking and ChiLiving we encourage all movement, all action, all choices to come from this center – that deep place in yourself that is home to your greatest potential and power.