Non-Stop Day! 1:30:26
Monday, November 6, 2007
I had a whacky day today trying to fit in a lot of things with not enough time. The day started with an early-morning run at Cedar Hell with Juice and Syl. We ran for 60 minutes followed by 6 x strides. The grass was covered with frost and fog hovered over the lower sections of the trails so it looked pretty cool.
I sang this morning for a big 15 minutes since I ran out of time arg! After work, I had my first massage with Kim Ward. She was just brilliant. I plan on seeing her regularly. I’ve wanted to fit regular massages in for so long now but never seem to have the time or money to go but I’m going to make it work and Kim is trying to work around my schedule which is so great! The massage ended at 6:30 which gave me 30 minutes to walk from Cook St. Village to the Conservatory on the corner of Johnson and Quadra in time to go to Selena’s master class. I also had to get cash at an ATM and eat dinner along the way…well, I did it and got there with one minute to spare. I grabbed a slice of pizza and ate while I walked like a madwoman to make it. Not exactly the best thing to be doing after a relaxing massage! The master class was really interesting. Selena is just incredible. She had the audience laughing and made each singer feel as comfortable as possible explaining to everyone that standing and singing in front of a crowd while being picked apart is not easy. No kidding! I left at the break, picked up the car (Juice parked it near The Royal before his concert), went home and jumped on the trainer for 30 minutes and did 3 sets of my strength circuit. I finished everything close to 10pm. That was nuts. It was worth seeing Selena’s master class though.
A good friend of mine, Malcolm Balk is a master teacher of the Alexander Technique, a certified Pose Method coach as well as a level 4 athletics coach not to mention an extremely talented runner. He is giving running workshops in the UK right now and below is an excellent article that was published in today’s Guardian Unlimited It explains Malcolm’s approach to teaching good running form using the Pose and Alexander Methods. Enjoy!
More speed, less pain
A new approach to running, using the principles of the Alexander technique, is claimed to hugely reduce the risk of injury. Sam Murphy tries it out
Tuesday November 6, 2007
I am trotting around Bedford Square in central London like a pony in the ring, steered by a hand on the back of my neck and another on my lower back. The potential for feeling foolish is high, but what I actually feel is a great sense of joy. I've been running for 18 years but it has never felt this easy and, well, bouncy.
"Think of running over the ground, rather than into it," says the owner of the guiding hands. He is Malcolm Balk, an Alexander technique teacher and running coach who has created a new approach to running.
Twenty-five years ago, Balk was a promising marathon runner, but he was plagued by injury. He stumbled across the Alexander technique when learning to play the cello and eventually trained to teach it. He soon noticed that he was running not only injury-free but faster, too. This prompted him to develop "the art of running" which combined the two.
In the same way that the Alexander technique isn't a precisely defined group of exercises, Balk's take on running isn't rigid. He aims to increase our awareness of what we're doing when we're pounding the pavements so that running becomes an ongoing process of exploration rather than simply a means of getting fit or reaching the finish line. "It's important to pay attention to your 'kinaesthetic conscience' - to what's going on within your body," he says. This attention is what allows us to become aware of faulty movement patterns, bad posture, muscular tension and tightness. In Alexandrian terms, identifying these habits of misuse is the first step to eliminating them.
Like most runners, I have completed the odd training session or race on painkillers and through gritted teeth only to pay the price later. In the Alexander technique, ignoring the journey to focus on the destination is called end-gaining, an approach Balk believes is behind the high level of injury and drop-out among runners. "Statistics show that two-thirds of runners get an injury every year," he says. "When you are injured, you can't train and when you can't train, you can't improve."
Injured runners are often told they need to improve their core stability, correct muscle imbalances, alter their running style or wear orthotics in their shoes (or all of these) to avoid future problems. But Balk is more interested in getting people to "let go" than in using more muscle, more force, more control.
For example, he observes that I brace my core muscles and tuck my pelvis under before I even take a step. This, Balk explains, causes me to anchor my ribs against my spine, restricting my breathing. This, in turn, makes me lift my sternum to open my chest and get more oxygen in, which increases the arch, and stress, in my lower back.
To illustrate the point, Balk performs an experiment on me. First, he gets me to stand as I normally do, with my tummy sucked in, pelvis tilted under and bottom squeezed. He pushes down on my shoulders. "Where do you feel that?" He asks. My tailbone, I reply. "Now just let it all go, let your ribs relax, unclench your butt and untilt your pelvis," he says. He pushes down again. "Where do you feel it now?" My feet, I say.
That is one of the funny things about the Alexander technique. It's often less about doing than not doing, which can be a tricky concept for runners - who tend to be natural end-gainers - to grasp. Frederick Matthias Alexander, who developed the technique, said: "Stop what you are doing wrong, and the right will take care of itself."
That said, mastering the art of running does entail a few practical shifts in technique. "We're aiming for less 'muscling' to create movement," Balk explains. "So if we let the feet land underneath the body, rather than way out in front - we reduce the 'braking effect' and negate the need to push so hard with the front of the thighs."
While the muscles along the front of the thighs are often overused in running - and therefore grow tight and short - the hamstrings, along the back of the thighs, often contribute less than their fair share. Balk tethers my ankles to a bungee cord to create some resistance and help me get the sensation of engaging my hamstrings to pick up my feet. This drill also helps reduce ground contact time - creating a shorter, snappier stride and the feeling of "running over your feet".
It is with this in mind that we begin our trot around the square - and what enables me to feel that I am running lightly and with bounce, rather than excavating great holes in the grass.
Balk's approach to running has much value. The prospect of fewer injuries, greater comfort and improved performance would have any runner's heart beating a little faster. But its greatest strength for me is in viewing running as a work in progress. Every step is a potential learning experience - a chance to explore how it feels if you land a bit more like this or breathe differently, or use your arms a little more ... With so much to think about, running can never be boring.
Be a happier, healthier runner
· Lie down for a few minutes before you run to prepare mentally and to allow the spine to decompress. Keep your knees bent and put a few books under your head.
· Think "up" before you move forward. Most of us have a tendency to shorten and contract before we move - think about lengthening and expanding instead.
· Release your knees and ankles before you move. This may feel counterintuitive because we tend to clench them before action.
· Allow your knees - not your feet - to lead your stride. Trying to increase your stride length by extending the foot out further results in a braking action, while the body has to catch up with the legs.
· Don't try to "fix" your posture by sucking in the stomach, pulling the shoulders down, tilting the pelvis or pushing the chest forward and up. This creates unnecessary tension.
· Run with your whole body, not just your legs.
· Don't bend at the waist, but to take your weight slightly forward, to let gravity tilt you from the ground up.
· Look ahead, not down, and keep your eyes "soft".
· Don't expect to get it right all the time. "Even Roger Federer loses sometimes," says Balk.
· Practise running very slowly. You'll notice more about your style. Do you have a light or heavy footfall? Is there any unnecessary tension? How fast do your feet lift off the ground?
· Set goals. Having a realistic target or goal helps maintain motivation long after the initial thrill of becoming a runner is gone.
· Master the Art of Running by Malcolm Balk and Andrew Shields is published by Collins & Brown, priced £12.99. For details of Art of Running workshops see theartofrunning.com.>
It’s small old world ‘aint it, that same article was posted on one of our Aus running forums, I have often wondered about the benefits of AT and would be keen to try it, now if only there were an extra couple of hours in the day!
Em (email) (link) - 07 11 07 - 01:48