Freedom To Run - Ease, Efficiency, Speed

Jon Burdon, Chi Running and Chi Walking instructor based in England and Wales

Freedom To Run - Blog

This blog is all about my journey with Chi Running. I try to discuss all aspects of the practice. I also write a book review for every book I read about running. Please DO post comments below - you don't event need to have an account - just leave your name :)

The Mindful Athlete, Secrets to Pure Performance, by George Mumford

The Mindful Athlete, Secrets to Pure Performance, by George Mumford

Chi Running is purely and simply, in my view, a way of moving mindfully - being fully mentally present in the body and using mental focus as one of the primary ways to improve our running. How do we maximise the positive effect of mindfulness to improve not just our well being, but our level of performance in running? 'The Mindful Athlete,' by George Mumford tackles the subject brilliantly and is sure to become a classic. It's an absolute must read for anyone who is an ambitious runner, and is interested in exploring the mental aspects of the sport. I think we all know that so much of our performance in running is 'all in the mind,' but actually unpicking how to hone our mental landscape can be very slippery. In my experience there are several interrelated pathways here. For example many people, including myself, have benefitted greatly by using sports psychology approaches such as Neuro Linguistic Programming, or other techniques from modern positive psychology. Some people seem to just be born with a huge level of grit and determination - a 'race winning' kind of mindset. My personal feeling is that developing mindfulness based habits has the potential to revolutionise a persons athletic potential. It is my preferred method of 'sorting out my head' as a runner in the long term.

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Run for your life

Run for your life
A friend mentioned Dynamic Running Therapy on facebook a short while ago and when the book title 'Run for your Life' grabbed my attention I was immediately hooked. This book, subtitled 'mindful running for a happy life' brings running and therapy together. We seem to be scared of the therapy room (for some reason) in this country. If this is you then you will love Dynamic Running Therapy because it gets you outside! You can also learn the techniques on your own, with a carefully chosen running (therapy?) partner, or through the app. The environment itself has healing qualities, and so does moving through it, so us runners are off to a great start when it comes to mental health. The book explains how to harness and maximise the potential of the healing qualities of running.

As a Chi Runner, I'm always looking for ways to develop mindfulness approaches when I'm out running so it wasn't long before I got in touch with @pullentherapy on Twitter for a tweet based interview. Here are the results.


(Sorry for the typo - I meant two words that really strike a chord.)

I hope you enjoyed reading the conversation as much as did talking to William. I also hope this has encouraged you to look again at the mindfulness element of your running. Mindfulness is right at the heart of Chi Running. Chi Runners believe running can enrich your whole life - not just whilst you are running. As Justin Whittaker puts it here:

" It's a lot about mindfulness of the body and really feeling what's going on, learning appropriate posture and then relaxing into it. "

I personally think that's just the tip of the iceberg in what Chi Running has to offer. I use regular and specific mindfulness based exercises whilst I running. It's great to be able to add a bit to my collection of techniques. I think it's safe to say I will be blogging more on this subject. If you have any interest at all in mindful running, or in using running to improve mental health then give this book a read.

If you would like to explore this area more, get in touch, or book on to one of my Mindful Fitness Weekends. If you are interested in finding out more from William Pullen about his book and his therapeutic approach, his website is here. I also recommend reading Running with the Mind of Meditation which I have also blogged about.

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The Chi Marathon Principle

The Chi Marathon Principle

I thought I'd put a few thoughts together to summarise some of the key messages from the Chi Marathon book by Danny and Katherine Dreyer.

"I had won three major marathons, Berlin (1997), London and Amsterdam (both 1998). I had very fruitful years with four world cross country silver medals, one European cross-country gold medal, countless national titles, two Olympic games, the Irish records in the 10k, half marathon and marathon, and a smattering of European and world championships achieved.

But I began losing my battle with niggling injury. Irish newspaper headlines regularly led with stories of me pulling out of big events due to injury. Running is meant to be enjoyed, not endured, I thought... I got my hands on a copy of Danny and Katherine Dreyer's book Chi Running, and I couldn't put it down. After enduring years of pain and injury and wondering what was the cause of it all, I found that Danny's book was providing me with all the answers."

- Catherina McKiernan, the forward to Chi Marathon

There is a reason why my business name is suffixed with 'Ease - Efficiency - Speed.' it's because I believe we need to get form right before we build up distance. Running beyond our form is not good for us. You've all seen that marathon runner who has lost all form and is struggling to keep going even at a walk. Chi Running is about listening to your body and enjoying your running more!

I think of the essence of the Chi Marathon principle as:

Form - Distance - Speed


Form then Distance then Speed

Perhaps you prefer to imagine it in the form of a pyramid, where we build up the basics first:



F     O     R    M

The Chi Marathon book actually has a 24 week training programme, with no fewer than 7 separate phases. These are all focussed on training the whole person, and keeping you enjoying your whole experience. The principle of gradual progress is an essential for Chi Running, and this also underpins the Chi Marathon approach.

The seven phases are as follows:

1 Vision, Goals and Planning

2 The Technique Phase

3 The Conditioning Phase

4 The Mastery Phase

5 Taper Time

6 Race Weekend

7 Rest and Renewal

It's the development of technique first and foremost that makes the Chi Marathon principle so powerful. Building up the distance over which you can maintain good technique comes next. The speed at which you can run, maintaining that form, is the 'icing on the cake.' 

How many runners do it the other way around? They launch themselves into speed intervals or massive mileage. It is only when they are injured that they think 'why.' I'm not wanting to sound judgemental here - I must assure you I've been there too and I feel the draw to get pulled in to that way of thinking. The truth is that it is only when I put technique first that I find I can run pain free.

What can you do to help prepare for your marathon?

  • Remember Form - Distance - Speed ... in that order. Trust the principle through your training
  • Work on your technique early on - Use Chi Running focusses such as posture, relaxation, alignment, cadence, lean
  • Be very strict with yourself about gradual progress
  • Remember speed work is fine, in facts it's GREAT, but it's not more important that anything else. The same applies to distance and mileage.


Chi Running isn't magic and it isn't a guarantee, but it has helped a lot of people and it's worked for me. I can't see how you can argue with the principles. Comments anyone?

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Stuck for which running book to read next? Let me help ...

I've read all these and they are great reads. They all all highly relevant to the Chi Runner (or in fact any runner.) Why not pick your next read now?


Chi Running Books

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Finding Ultra by Rich Roll - a book review from a Chi Running perspective?

I got a few comments on my last blog about diet and exercise - thanks folks. It's interesting that diet, and the question of whether to change what we eat, is a topic very close to our hearts. I did make an assumption our diet isn't perfect in my last blog on this subject. I should perhaps have clarified that it all goes by comparison. (And, of course, I'm not a nutritional expert but the ideal diet is different for different people.)

Personally I notice that most people don't tend to place much importance on the benefits of diet to enhance their performance in their exercise, and to help live a whole and fulfilled life. The reason I would suggest a high standard for our diet as runners is after reading a few books recently which tell the story of how diet has transformed peoples running. The first was Finding Ultra, by Rich Roll. The book is very challenging and throws up a lot of questions about what makes an effective diet for an athlete.

The subtitle of the book is 'Rejecting middle age, becoming one of the world's fittest men, and discovering myself.' Rich talks through the total transformation in his lifestyle after a 'eureka' moment when he realised he was shortening his life and he needed to make some huge changes. What follows is amazing, at times hard to believe and incredibly inspiring. He participates in some of the most gruelling endurance events imaginable. Within this journey he stops eating meat, but changes his diet far far more than that. The result is what he calls the Plant Power diet. The advice and tips he gives along the way show how it is possible to drop those energy gels and sports drinks and go natural. I for one would really love to start fuelling myself with something a lot more like the Rich Roll way. The book, including the appendices, are packed with advice on how to change your diet.

Finding Ultra

If you don't like people telling you what to do, don't read this book. If I have any criticism it would be that the author is quite pushy with his beliefs in diet. He is evangelical about what he believes is the right way forward for everyone - but then you would be if your life has been transformed in the way his has.

What I find fascinating is the incredible transformation in Rich's athletic performance which was brought about by changes in his diet. You could say this was because he was on such a bad diet in the first place, but I don't think it is just that.

The stories of endurance in the book are absolutely inspiring and worth reading for anyone who is considering endurance running of any kind. I love the way they make the 'normal' efforts runners go to look so small. I don't look at running for 4 hours in the same way at all any more.

So what has all this got to do with Chi Running? Well (these are my personal opinions of course.) Chi Running advocates a mindful and holistic approach to our whole life. The Chi Running Book has a section on diet. Chi Running is, I would say, mindful running - it's a holistic practice. And you can't separate that from the other aspects - diet, mental, emotional, spiritual etc. So Rich's whole approach to life is a journey in to discovery about this holistic, mindful approach. I'd say if you were in to Chi-Living, then you'd really get on well with the Rich Roll way of living.

Something else that really attracted me to the book is the spiritual journey which Rich follows. More about that in a later blog.

Read this book if you are interested in nutrition, and if you enjoy stories of human endurance and transformation.
Don't read it if you prefer not to be preached at.

If you want to read more:

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Running with the Mind of Meditation

I've never seen anyone out running who enjoys themselves. Someone actually said that to me. I said I felt the opposite, all the runners I know enjoy their running. (Well most of the time.)

That got me thinking. In 'Running With The Mind of Meditation' by Sakyong Miphram he discusses how much runners complain about pain when they are running. He think points out the best way to deal with this by accepting the pain, but not making more of if than you need to. It's very illuminating to hear a blend of eastern and western perspectives and this is just one chapter of the book that is packed with wisdom and understanding.

The book is full of gems that nourish the runner's mind, and there is even a free download from the website.

Danny Dreyer talks about how Chi Running should become a holistic practice that percolates in to every aspect of out life. There are various sides to Chi Running - the running form, the focus on posture, relaxation, high cadence, running at different speeds etc. For me personally the mind body link is one of the main things which sets Chi Running apart from other approaches to running. Running with the Mind of Meditation is an absolutely essential read if you enjoy the Chi Running philosophy and want to look deeper in to the mindfulness and meditation side of it.

I'm going to blog a lot more about this book as I feel it's an absolutely essential read for the Chi Runner if you have any interest at all in mindfulness. You might not all be ready to 'get in to' that side of it right now, but when you are, give this one a read.

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The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd - Book Review from a Chi Running perspective

I've been to the Cairngorms on expedition once. I've walked past quite a few of the landscape features mentioned in this beautiful and enticing book. And that's what I did. I walked past them. There's a huge difference, in my opinion, in walking up mountains and walking through them. Nan Shepherd did teh latter. She embraced, took note, internalised, and breathed the Cairngorms in. Her writing portrays the beauty and character of the mountain range in such detail and with such awe that I challenge anyone who loves the outdoors to read this book from cover to cover without planning a trip. This book had me reaching for a map from the word go.

The book moves through different aspects of nature, and of the Caingorms - the plateau, the recesses, snow, water, air etc. The way Loch Coire an Lochan is described is so moving I can just feel myself walking out in to the cool depths of it's waters. A trip to sleep beneath Shelter Stone is also beckoning, although I imagine the way a few modern hillwalkers care for their environment may mean, sadly, it's not such a welcoming spot to spend the night.

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Chi walk run

Book and DVD Review: Chi Walk to Run - Fitness for Life!

There are lots different ways to 'get in to' Chi walking and running. I've studied this book and DVD set tonight, as I have a friend who wants to transition from walking her dog in to going for a run.

The DVD is full if really helpful posture checks and visual demonstrations. It reiterates lots of key concepts from the Chi Walking and Chi running materials. Ideas to remind you about key concepts on posture such as 'Sit up in your chair' and the 'C shape' really do help reinforce the book. There is advise I would suggest probably all walkers and runners could do with, such as how to reduce injury risk from toe off. Examples and explanation of good arm swing are also very useful. If you are a visual person, I'd really suggest using a DVD such as this alongside the books if you are thinking about learning Chi Walking or Running.
Personally I could loose the pan pipes.

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Anatomy for Runners by Jay Dicharry - a review from a Chi Running perspective

This book is a must read for anyone interested in running without injury, or anyone interested in Chi Running.

As books on Chi Running clearly focus on what makes Chi Running unique and effective, they include a lot of information on the Chi Running technique itself. This book is a brilliant complement to that reading because it is deeply grounded in the science of running. If you have no idea about Chi Running but just want to be injury free - read this book!

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Book Review: 'Running High' by Hugh Symonds

This book is an autobiographical account of the first continuous traverse of all 303 Mountains of Britain and Ireland. And guess what? He did it all uninjured!

Everyone should read a few books like this one, whether you run, walk, or neither. 2000 miles in 97 days, half a million feet of mountains, 277 Munros, 4 English tops, 15 Welsh Peaks + 7 Irish Summits. How about that for expanding your horizons. I must say, along with Born to Run and a couple of other books, this one really helped me shift my own personal horizons and beliefs considerably. I kept catching myself thinking thinks like "If Hugh can run 2000 miles, surely 20.... or 30.... or 40 wouldn't be that far... especially if you take our the mountains." This achievement makes running the Bob Graham Round look small fry.

The book is written mainly in diary style and is accompanied by

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Chi Walking by Danny and Katherine Dreyer - thoughts on Chapter 1

I just love the way Danny is a total and complete evangelist for the health benefits of walking in this chapter. He shares some of his personal experiences  walking and it really strikes me that he is totally passionate about walking. In fact, it got me thinking about my own life. As a child, I used to go walking in the Shropshire hills with my brothers and sister. As I got older I explored Snowdonia, Scotland and the Lake District with my father. As soon as I could be trusted (!) I was leading groups of friends on wild camping trips along long distance footpaths such as The Ridgeway. Then I completed he West Highland Way and the Pennines Way in 1994. I can vividly remember waiting for a day in Kendal the days after finishing the Pennine Way. I really had nothing to do and my legs felty so 'wrong' doing nothing after walking hills every day for 19 days. The solution? I walked the whole length of the town to Kendal castle and back... I just

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Book Review: Born to Run (Christopher McDoughall)

Born to Run: The Hidden Tribe, the Ultra-Runners, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen

This book is absolutely fascinating. I love the stories Doughall unearths in this book as he rubs shoulders with some of the world's ultra running elite. The underlying theme in the book is 'Why do runners get injured and is that really inevitable?' Whilst this theme is explored, the reader is drawn in to a compelling story set in the Tarahumara tribe of Mexico. Along the way, descriptions of some of the toughest running events in the world are described such as the Leadville 100. The accounts of the mental attitudes of the Tarahumara tribe towards running are truly amazing and something which all runners should. They are guaranteed to change the way you think about distance and endurance.

The book also takes us right back to our ancestors to

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Where to find me


I live in the Holme Valley, near Huddersfield and on the very northern edge of the Peak District National Park. Workshops are in venues easily accessible from:

Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds, Bradford, Liverpool, Huddersfield, Halifax, Wakefield, Barnsley, Cumbria, West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, Derbyshire and North Wales.


Mountain Training
I am a qualified Mountain Leader, registered with the Mountain Training Association.

Photos of the Holme Valley Landscape are by Andy Leader of Made in Holmfirth

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As seen in Runners World

UKA Leadership in Running Fitness qualified.

I'm UKA Leadership in Running Fitness qualified.