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Running and Aging

Older couple running on path in the woods

Have you been wondering if running as you age is possible?

If you were on the webinar last week or listened to the replay, you know that aging gracefully is possible. We learned from 5 Master ChiWalking/ChiRunning Instructors about how using the Core Principles and Form Focuses of ChiRunning and ChiWalking help them redefine their practice as they age.  If you were not on the webinar and would like a copy of it, click here.

At one point, Master Instructor Ed Malley mentioned the need to “Fight Ageism.” While he was speaking in reference to a comment that was made to him while finishing a run, we want to share 5 tips that allow these Instructors (and many other individuals) to continue a robust fitness practice into their later years.

The best advice for aging gracefully is to engage in activities that promote physical and mental independence and maintain fitness levels. The Instructors on the panel used ChiRunning and ChiWalking as a way to age with grace. Creating a Mindful Movement routine can be one of the most important tools for preserving vitality.

Consider the following as you age:

1) Know Yourself: Set Reasonable Expectations.

Each of the presenters experienced a flow from higher mileage at faster paces to shorter distances at more moderate paces. It was inspiring to hear how they transitioned from ChiRunning/ChiWalking to include more cross training into their lives. They created a sustainable practice by setting expectations that were reasonable for their current conditions. They empowered themselves by doing things that felt good and brought them the results they were looking for: Sound fitness that was repeatable and enjoyable.

What they did not do was to force themselves to continue to meet their former goals and aspirations. They learned to accept their current conditions with positivity and possibility, rather than with judgment. They found ways to embrace their strengths. They found ways to keep a “can do” attitude!

Which leads us to the next tip…

2) Body Sense: Listen to Your Body and Let it Inform You on How Much, and How Far You Should Go.

The presenters each adopted a personalized practice based on mindful movement. Body Sensing is a core principle for ChiRunning and ChiWalking. They each used to help inform their practice and keep it personalized. Here are a few tips for body sensing:

  • Open a dialogue between your mind and body by listening to sensations, both comfortable and uncomfortable.
  • Keep a curious mind to interpret the sensations. Repeat the comfortable and joyful sensations and problem solve for the uncomfortable sensations.
  • The faster you interpret discomfort, the more quickly you can problem solve, respond, and avoid an injury.
  • Let your body be your teacher.

3) Vary Your Practice: Diversity is the Spice of Life.

In addition to accommodating their ChiRunning/ChiWalking practices in terms of speed and distance, the presenters referred to modifying their programs to meet their current needs. Running is a very repetitive motion. Including other activities will keep your body limber and your mind engaged. Some of the modifications to create a balanced, healthy, personalized program include:

  • Include Rest/Recovery days. The biggest lesson learned from the presentation is that recovery time increases as we age. Build rest and recovery days into your program so that your hard work compounds rather than breaks down your body. Recovery is the key.
  • Include strength training. All of the speakers engage in 2-3 light strength training sessions to maintain muscle mass and bone density.
  • Include cross training. Biking, hiking, swimming are all complimentary activities to ChiRunning. Yoga or pilates also compliment ChiRunning and ChiWalking and do a wonderful joy maintaining strength, balance and coordination.
  • Adopt a ChiRun/ChiWalk practice. Rather than strictly ChiRunning every day, you can mix it up with ChiWalking. You can also do ChiWalk/ChiRun intervals to keep your heart healthy.
  • Use poles if necessary.

4) Stay Inspired: Surround Yourself With Like-Minded People.

The presenters didn’t mention it per se, but they are a part of an ever growing ChiRunning/ChiWalking community where inspiration is all around. They inspire others, and are inspired by those around them. By surrounding themselves with like-minded individuals, they can stay motivated at all times. You can look for both online and in person options.

5) Seek Out Help: You Are Never Alone

When engaging in a new program to increase vitality a few things are necessary. First, check with your medical professional to make sure you are cleared to start. Once you’ve received the OK to get started, you can begin by reading about the ChiRunning/ChiWalking techniques or you can find a local instructor. Many Certified Instructors now teach online as well and can support you virtually.


Aging is natural and a privilege, as there is no guarantee we will live into our Golden Years. The best we can do is set up the conditions to thrive as we age, as shown by the panel of ChiRunning/ChiWalking Instructors. The more we model strength and resilience as we age, together, we will redefine societal norms for the elderly. 

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