What is Chi Hiking?

This Memorial Day Weekend Monhegan Wellness studio is offering a fantastic retreat for active people who want to stay active into the future. I hear stories all of the time of injuries due to exercise, most of which are preventable with a few techniques that anyone can learn.

The retreat scheduled for May 28-30, 2016 is geared to all athletic abilities and teaches participants how to stay active with less wear and tear on their joints.

Kristin Baker, Boston University Nutrition Professor with a certification in teaching Chi Running/Walking and Tara Hire are collaborating on this retreat combining the complimentary practice of Chi Running/Walking and Yoga.

Most people are aware of what yoga is and the benefits of yoga, but you may not be aware of Chi Running/Walking. Kristin was kind enough to sit down with me to answer a few questions about the techniques and their benefits.

You can also learn more at the Chi Running Official Website.

Here is our interview:

Tell me about your history with running and how you came to the Chi Running/Walking method.

I have been running in various capacities since middle school.  In the beginning I ran largely to train for sports, triathlons, and the occasional road race.    Although I did not consciously know until much later in my life, running is a way for me to calm and focus my mind.  As the years have passed I almost exclusively trail run, finding peace and solace moving through nature.  I find more happiness and am more playful running on the trails.

I was drawn to Chi Running and Walking by the following descriptions. “Learn to run using your mind-body connection, drawing from traditional Chinese medicine.”  “Effortless running is about relaxing muscles, opening tight joints, and using gravity to do the work.”  “ChiRunning is about having a constant conversation between your mind and your body, getting your mind to train your body to relax, and listen to what your body is trying to tell you.”  “By practicing mental focus and relaxation — principles from the ancient practice of T’ai Chi – you can train your body to stay centered, relaxed, and move efficiently.” I am a very physical person and I believe that good health depends on a balance of mind, body, and environment.  Chi running and walking provided a way to practice mindfulness with a physical pursuit.  I was sold.

What do you research at Boston University?

My work has focused on the therapeutic role of exercise and nutrition in the treatment of arthritis.  In recent years I have incorporated behavioral medicine into my research in order to improve initiation and adherence to exercise and nutritional therapies. Currently I am an investigator with ENACT at Boston University, Center for Enhancing Activity and Participation among persons with Arthritis, that enhances the lives of people with arthritis and other rheumatic conditions through research, training, and community-based activities.

How has your research influenced your perspective on joints and how to protect them?

I believe the body is made to move and a sedentary lifestyle is pathological and abnormal. My research and work with people with arthritis has confirmed my belief that the body needs to be in proper alignment, with engagement of the stabilizing muscles and relaxation elsewhere to reap the benefits of physical activity and avoid pain and injury.

Insufficient physical activity is one of the leading causes of much illness, suffering, and early death related to chronic diseases and conditions.   Our society’s sedentary behaviors (desk jobs, driving, technology) lend themselves to poor posture and deconditioning which puts undo stress on joints and soft tissues.


Do you recommend the Chi Running/Walking method to people with joint pain? Why?

Yes. The Chi Running and Walking method teaches body awareness and alignment and emphasizes incorporating these principles into everyday movement and posture.  Chi Walking is a technique that places much less stress than conventional walking on the joints and supporting structures in the legs and back. I have recommended and taught the technique to many patients who suffer from arthritis in the knees. Many have reported they can walk farther, more frequently, and with less discomfort, than they were able to previously.


Can Chi Running/Walking prevent the development of joint pain?

Yes I believe it can, energy efficiency and injury prevention are the core principles of the Chi Running and Walking method.  The body was designed for movement and the Chi Walking technique emphasizes the proper biomechanics of walking including: good posture, loose joints, engaging one’s core muscles, and relaxing the peripheral muscles of the arms and legs. This approach makes walking easier on the body and helps improve and eliminate the aches, pains and discomfort of walking incorrectly.

Who else can benefit from this method?

Everyone can benefit from improved posture, energy efficiency, and injury prevention.

How will you take the Chi Running/Walking method and translate it to hiking?

The principles of Chi Running and Walking, good posture, engagement of the core, loose joints, and relaxation of peripheral muscles of arms and legs, are the way we should stand and move all the time, not just on our exercise walk or run, hiking is no different.  Hiking usually includes ascents and descents; there are specific techniques in Chi Running and Walking for hills that will be emphasized along with maintaining these core principles while carrying a pack.

How long have you been practicing Chi Running/Walking?

4 going on 5 years since I was introduced to it.  I have been a certified instructor for a year.

What are the results for you?

Running has become more than just exercise.   It is also a journey of self-exploration and discovery.  By practicing the principles of Chi Walking and Running, I have become more focused and present in my running and in my posture and movement in everyday activities.

How long have you been coming to Monhegan?

7 years

Why is Monhegan special to you?

My family and I were intrigued by a description of Monhegan and took an impulsive trip 7 years ago and have come back almost every summer.    It is the simplicity and beauty of the island that make it a magical place.  Sometimes the best places strip all the distractions and entertainment away and leave you with yourself and nature.

Why is Monhegan the perfect place for this retreat?
Simplicity and beauty with 17 miles of hiking trails.

Why is yoga part of the program?

For starters both yoga and Chi Walking are process oriented vs. goal oriented practices.  Both address the needs of the whole person; joints and muscles, body and soul. They allow for introspection and have components of alignment, relaxation and breathing.  The practices can really complement each other.


As you can see from our interview, Chi Running/Walking offers not only relief to your body but also your mind and soul, making it a holistic activity that everyone can benefit from.

Monhegan Island is a beautiful, serene environment to get away from it all. Take this break for yourself and learn invaluable techniques to stay active well into the future. Register today