In Montreal where I live we get a lot of snow and one of my Alexander students this morning was describing what it took to get his car out after the 30+ cm of snow which had completely buried it. As he labored to unburden his vehicle he said he felt a bit like Michelangelo who as you will recall, started out with a solid block of granite, removed everything that wasn’t David and ended up with a pretty nice statue!
As an Alexander teacher and coach I often think that my work is similar…to Michelangelo’s!! I help people learn to recognize and eliminate unnecessary tension and everything that accompanies it: poor balance, jerky uncoordinated movement and poor posture. When you get rid of what you don’t need, what remains is your version of David.
Runners are often told that if they run enough their form will improve and they will run more efficiently…and I would agree. So why do the Kenyans many of whom will, by the time they’re 18, have run 30,000k more than your average 18 yr old Canadian, bother to do form drills on a regular basis? Why don’t they just rely on the ‘guaranteed improvement in stride efficiency’ that comes with more mileage as the experts claim?
Could it be because they know that nothing stays the same and to overcome the tendency for form to erode like everything else in this world requires ongoing maintenance or at least attention.
Alexander’s discovery that ‘the head leads forward and the body goes up’ has been echoed in many different ways by savvy running coaches over the years; “Run Tall, Keep your Height, Long Back, Chest Up, Don’t Sit…” Children seem to follow these exhortations without much difficulty. But as adults, we’ve added our own twists and turns (down) to the original recipe, so much so that the original is barely recognizable. The unconscious directions guiding many runners’ movement would certainly not be their first choice, if indeed they knew there was a choice. I’m referring to things like “let the body slump, tighten the neck and shoulders, poke the head forward, let the feet slam into the ground and so on. And while it is true that the slumping, tightening poking and slamming runner will learn to manage all these tendencies with aplomb the more they run, it still begs the question why not learn another way to move that didn’t involve coping with all that? Would any runner voluntarily agree to have a leg amputated so they could eventually learn to move better with the prosthesis?
Here’s an alternative: bring some Michelangelo into your running…and your life. Find out, perhaps with the help of a trained Alexander Technique teacher what you don’t need to do in order to stand, sit, walk and run and learn how you can eliminate it. For runners here’s a short list: you don’t need to clench your fists, drop your head and neck to look down, grimace, arch your back, tuck your pelvis, gasp in your breath (once you’re in shape), land heavily or brake. Eliminate some of these and you may, as we are with Michelangelo’s David, be well pleased with the result.