Monday, July 1, 2013

Tips for Runners, Based on the Alexander Technique

I've just returned from a wonderful week at the Annual Conference and General Meeting of AmSAT (American Society for the Alexander Technique) in Chicago.  It was intense and exhilarating, and also beautiful, so close to the shore of Lake Michigan.  I learned a great deal, came home with many new insights, and lovely new connections.  Very glad I went (as always)!

I thought I'd jot down and share with you some of the main points I received from Malcolm Balk during a private lesson focused on running.  Malcolm is an AT teacher who specializes in running and exercise.  I'm pretty new to running, myself (I'm just about to begin Week 10 of a 13-week beginner's program - hurray!), so the pointers were very timely and welcome.  Here they are:

Malcolm Balk, center
  • Cadence, cadence, cadence! Run a bit faster, to a count of 3, with the beat falling on the up-kick of the heel, not when the foot lands down on the ground.
  • There is a bouncing up off of the ground as the reflex brings the foot up, not a pushing off of the ground.  Thinking differently about this can make a huge difference, and everything lightens up.
  • Think of lifting the feet up off of the ground quickly, as if you were running on very hot sand.
  • Make "circles" with your feet.  (This makes me think of PigPen from Charlie Brown...)
  • Of course, the legs don't ever straighten as they do in walking; they always remain with the knees and ankles and hip joints free.
  • Knees aim forward, leading.
  • The foot touches the ground pretty much flat - neither heel nor ball of the foot lands first.
  • Blink and look out in front of you as you run.  See where you're going!
  • Arms are not held tightly (no fists), at a slight angle to the body, with the elbows bent slightly out away from the body; hands slightly in towards the midline.  More ease in the arms and upper chest.  Less work!
  • Coordinate the breathing with your steps, to a count of IN-2-3; OUT-2; IN-2-3; OUT-2.
Of course, these tips will be most helpful when combined with the general, basic foundation provided by the  Alexander Technique, which helps to coordinate the whole body-mind into a forward and up direction, for fluid, easy movement.

Malcolm has a great book in print, called Master the Art of Running, which teaches running from an Alexander Technique perspective. 

If you're a runner, I'd love to hear whether you find these tips helpful.  Happy running!

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