Irish Women in Business: Catherina McKiernan of ChiRunning
For the latest in our series of features focusing on Irish Women in Business, we’re talking to world renowned cross-country runner Catherina McKiernan.
Catherina, widely recognized as one of the world’s best ever cross-country runners, is a ChiRunning instructor based out of Castleknock in Co. Dublin.
The 44-year-old talented athlete, originally from Cornafean in Cavan, explains to Her.ie all about starting up and how she got involved in the area.
How did you get interested in this area?
“ChiRunning was founded by American Danny Dreyer and since 1999, it has helped thousands of runners transform their technique.
“I became interested in the area when I trained with Danny Dreyer myself back in 2004/2005.
“The mechanics of running was something I was always interested in.”
How did you turn this interest into a career?
“I got some injuries during my running career and when I retired from professional running I decided to go back and study the ChiRunning technique so that I could run more efficiently and prevent running related injuries.”
Why did you decide to go into business with it?
“There are so many positive elements in ChiRunning that I can pass on to other runners. Now, I conduct workshops all around the country and I really enjoy showing people the correct mechanics for running.
“I've get tremendous satisfaction when people come back to me saying they can now run injury-free.
“Running itself doesn't give you injuries, but the way you run does. If you move your body incorrectly, over time you're going to injure yourself."
Did you ever expect the business to be so successful?
"A lot of my business is word of mouth, and it’s amazing to see how it’s grown. Someone attends my one-day workshop and they tell their friends, and then they come along. It's kind of been like a snowball effect.
“A lot of my business also comes through the website too and it’s pretty busy as I conduct these one day workshops all day on Saturdays from my base at the Castleknock Hotel and then further workshops with groups at various venues around the country.”
What is a normal day like for you?
“Well, the workshop consists of analyzing people's running form and going through a series of drills and exercises to improve posture, core strength and use gravity to make running easier – it can be tough going, but I love it.
“ChiRunning teaches you how to use your large core muscles to move you forward instead of overworking your leg muscles, greatly reducing fatigue and risk of injury.”
How did you get to this point?
“As we all know, running is very popular now among all age groups and people recognize the health benefits and feeling of well being that we get from running.
“I never doubt how lucky I am to carve out a career doing what I love best. It is always great to help people and I know how important running is and I am thankful that I am able to help people enjoy their running without pain – that’s probably one of the best parts of it all.”
What else do you really enjoy about your work?
"I find it easy and really love it. I think it’s my passion for the sport that helps me. Once you realize that you can help people there is a great sense of achievement in that. I hold workshops which can have anything from eight to ten people taking part in it and they are really interesting. Most of the group are usually of the same mind-set and are really engaged in what is being done.
"Some people come to me saying they never thought they’d run again, be it that life got in the way or an injury got in the way. Then they get back in touch with me after they’ve run a marathon and they tell me it didn’t even feel like 26 miles to them, thanks to the help and tips I had given them – that’s so rewarding. It’s that type of feedback that keeps me going and keeps me doing what I love.
"People can be afraid of change. I aim to help them get over that fear. There’s nothing to be afraid of."
Hopes for the future?
"After I retired I wrote a book Running for My Life. I felt I had a good story, and certainly at some stage I would like to write another book.
"I have learned a lot in the past ten years from doing my ChiRunning workshops and I have also learned a lot about life since my last book. I would like to help and share my experiences with other people.
"And hopefully, the business will continue to grow and succeed."