Alexander Technique and running

For many people, their new year’s resolution will be ‘to get fit’ and for many of those it will be ‘start running’. It’s easy to see why. It’s a great way of improving cardiovascular fitness relatively cheap and can boost general well-being.  So it’s a shame that many new and even experienced runners run the risk of injury, putting them out of action for what could be weeks. Not only painful but disheartening to the point where it might mean the end of your new year’s resolution!

One major contributor to injury is poor running form.  In other words the way in which you run.  Watch elite runners and they all have a similar fluid style.  Look at less experienced runners and you’ll notice a wide range of poor form, from landing heavily on the heels, shoulders hunched, chest dropped, head pulled back, stiff arms and legs producing a running style that is distinctly less fluid. While in the short term you might get away with it, in the long run, poor form is likely to lead to injury.

The application of the Alexander Technique is a great way to reduce these problems. By becoming aware of our postural habits it becomes easier to ‘let go’ of the excess muscular tension which affects our running form.
Here are some of the benefits:

  • Freeing up the muscles in your neck allows the head to be balanced on the spine and the shoulders to relax.
  • More movement allowed in the spine lets the ribcage move as you breath allowing more air into your lungs.
  • Increased articulation of the joints in the legs and arms leads to a more efficient gait and lets the feet meet the ground more naturally.

Running with the Alexander Technique means we can pay attention to the way in which we run making it an enjoyable activity rather than mindlessly grinding out the miles – not to mention your joints!

For more information, or to book a session then get in touch.

Walking with attitude

One of the great things about the Alexander Technique is that it can be applied to everday activities.

Walking is something most of us do at some point during the day, whether it’s a walk to the shops or from the desk to the kitchen to make a cup of tea. But how many of us stop to consider HOW we walk?

And does it matter anyway? Well, that depends.

I was out walking in the Lake District with a friend who complained that she was experiencing pain in her hips pain as she was walking up a steep path. I noticed that she tended to lean forwards at her hips, took long strides and often used her hands to push on her thighs in order to propel herself up the slope. From the expression on her face could see that she was finding it a strain.

Fortunately I was able to offer my friend an alternative.  By encouraging her to think of her head going upwards she prevented herself from leaning forwards. This gave her more space in her hip joints so her legs could move more easily.

I suggested that she shortened her stride. As a result there was less strain on the legs, removing the need to push with her hands.

But by far and away the biggest shift was in her mental attitude. There was a strong desire to ‘get to the top’ which was accompanied by her perception of the effort required.  By getting her to replace this with the idea of allowing the path in front to come to her the perceived effort was lessened. This made walking easier, not just because she was using less energy, but because she went from hating the experience to, while not exactly enjoying it, finding it an achievable task.

Now, walking up a hill in the Lake District is an extreme example, but it often takes extreme examples to highlight subtleties.

Next time you walk somewhere, take a moment to observe yourself.  What is your attitude to this walk? Are you happy and relaxed or are you rushing, wanting to be there already? How does this manifest itself? Do you have a free, easy walk or are you stiffening, gritting your teeth as you hurry towards your goal?

Stop walking and pause for a moment. Think of the top of your head going upwards. Pick a point in the distance. Allow yourself to move forwards towards this point. Let this point come towards you as your legs move underneath you. Observe yourself again. Is there any difference in your walk?

A shift in attitude towards our everyday activities can often bring about a fundamental change to our experience of that activity. One that involves less stress and strain giving us more energy to deal with the rest of the day.

2013 and stressed already? Probably time for a lie down.

Many pupils of the Alexander Technique (myself included) enjoy, and benefit greatly from having a lie down!  It sounds so simple yet is highly effective in releasing excessive tension and letting go of stress.
I’ve outlined the procedure below – most able-bodied people should be able to do this without too much trouble.

Find somewhere where you won’t be disturbed or distracted.  Lie down on your back on comfortable yet firm surface. A carpeted floor or folded blanket is ideal.  A bed is too soft and will not provide the support you need. Have a couple of paperback books handy to place under your head for support.  Have your knees bent so that they point towards the ceiling, not swinging outwards or held together. Your feet should be flat on the floor.  Rest your hands lightly on your abdomen.  Allow the weight of your head to be supported by the books and let your back spread out onto the floor.  Let gravity do the work rather than forcing anything.

As you lie there you can keep coming back to the ideas of allowing your neck to be free, your head to rest on the books, your back lengthening and widening, your elbows resting on the floor, your knees pointing towards the ceiling and your feet spreading onto the floor.  Your eyes should be open and allow your gaze to move rather than staring into space.

Remember, you are not trying to ‘get’ something, you are ‘letting go’ of something, so avoid trying to force anything. Simply allow your whole self to be supported by the floor.

Try this for 10-15 minutes once or twice a day.  Hopefully you will notice some benefit.  It doesn’t matter if you don’t immediately, you will still have benefitted from the break in your routine and the time spent with your self.