When we were young children we all used to run naturally with a forefoot strike as opposed to a heel strike. We also used to run with freedom and ease using the minimum of effort and strain. Consequently, our breathing was freer and we loved the joyful experience of running. For many, this is no longer the case and running has become something we do to ourselves. We try hard to run often with superfluous effort resulting in impact injuries. Consequently, we spend lots of money on getting the right equipment and fixing ourselves in order to continue running. So what has happened?
Essentially we have been conditioned out of our natural running use or method as a result of being told to slow down, be careful you are going too fast, try harder, use more effort and don’t run barefoot but wear cushioned shoes to protect your feet. As a result, we no longer land on our forefoot but our heel because trainers cushion our heel impact and we over stride by trying to gain more ground with increased effort.
More importantly, we become unaware of how to use our innate natural mechanism, the human body, to walk and run as we become less aware of what our feet, legs and head are doing in the act of running. We have lost the essential instant kinaesthetic feedback from our feet. Virtually all elite distance runners, especially the Africans, run with a forefoot strike. They also make it look effortless and easy which is what running should be all about.
The Alexander Technique teaches people how to use their mind and body together to achieve a more natural, effortless and balanced co-ordination in activity by increasing their all-round awareness. Essentially the body and mind is re-educated to change tension induced habits which cause the body to suffer unnecessary strain and pain and re-establish the natural neural pathways between the brain and the muscles. This unique and powerful technique can be used for any activity or sport. Since qualifying as an Alexander Technique teacher I have been applying the Alexander Technique to my own running and completely changed my technique and efficiency while running. Most importantly for me is that I really enjoy running for running sake now and I am passionate about helping others do the same.
Over past 6 years, we have developed a ‘Natural Running’ workshop which incorporates some key principles of the Alexander Technique to teach people how to release their innate natural running technique from within. The focus is on doing less and allowing the body to release its movement potential by teaching the brain and body to work together more harmoniously.
How we use our eyes also affects the tone of the muscles throughout the body and can help release the head and neck. Vision plays a key role in governing tension during running and walking. If the head, neck and spine are properly aligned then the rest of the body’s natural reflexes should work more effectively. With the use of video analysis, simple drills and exercises tried and tested on multitudes of runners, students will become more aware of how they are using their body. Their cadence will change, the impact with the ground will reduce by up to two thirds and they will run more freely with less strain and effort. Whether a beginner or a seasoned runner everyone can learn to improve their use and consequently their performance will improve. Hopefully, this means running becomes more fun, less harmful to the joints and connective tissue and helps people to experience longer running careers.