Thursday, May 18, 2006

Don't Run Before You Can Walk! By Roy Palmer

Most of us assume we know how to run, after all it’s just putting one foot in front of the other, just like walking only a bit faster – right? Well, not quite. Although walking and running are quite different activities, you can learn a lot from the act of walking that will help your running.
Whether an experience runner or beginner, we all have bad ‘movement’ habits that will show up in our running technique. But because they are habits (subconscious conditioned reflexes) they are not easy to see for yourself. Walking, rather than running, provides you with a good opportunity to assess your concept of movement. What you learn from observing your walking technique can be taken into running.
Try the following experiment.
1. Go for a gentle stroll in the park and leave your competitive runner’s attitude at home.
2. As you walk be aware of the movement in your hip, knee and ankle joints. Please note your hip joints are at the front of your pelvis and not the sides. Allow your legs to swing from the hip and let your lower leg swing from the knee without effort – like a pendulum.
3. See how much effort you can take out of the act of walking and just allow your limbs to swing.
4. Think about releasing muscles and joints rather than the effort involved.
5. Be aware of the ground beneath your feet and think of ‘walking tall’ by using the upward thrust from the ground in response to your body weight coming down.
6. Start slowly and start to build up speed but not by trying harder. To increase your speed let your arms swing a little faster but without lifting your shoulders. If you can leave your legs alone they will increase speed to match your arms so you will be moving faster without the effort you probably think is necessary.
The purpose of this experiment is to appreciate gravity’s role in movement. You are pulled down towards the planet but then there is 8000 miles of solid rock beneath you that pushes back up (Newton’s 3rd law – for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction). So let the ground push you up and let your legs stroke the ground away from underneath you like a giant treadmill.
If you can learn to walk with minimal effort and lessen the strain on you joints and muscles, you can learn to apply the same principles to your running, Lighten up and let your limbs flow to propel you forward and up without the tension many use in a misguided effort to run faster. Running becomes a whole lot easier, and more enjoyable, if you can let your body move as nature intended.
Roy Palmer is a teacher of The Alexander Technique and has studied performance enhancement in sport for the last 10 years. In 2001 he published a book called 'The Performance Paradox: Challenging the conventional methods of sports training and exercise' and is currently working on a new project about The Zone. More information about his unique approach to training can be found at
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Note: Like most things in life, without the basics, you will never reach your full potential!


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