June 10, 2021

Remember that song by Marvin Gaye from the 70’s?  With the Alexander Technique, one of the things we do is to help people get a better idea of what is happening when then run or play or bend or sit because quite often what folks think is going on isn’t. They might think everything is fine but then a reality check tells a different tale.

I remember the first time I saw myself running on video. I’d worked long and hard at improving my form and harbored the notion that my stride was a blend of Kenyan and Ethiopian with a little Moroccan thrown in for good measure…Of course being an Alexander Technique teacher, the author of a book on running as well as a university level track coach reinforced my confidence in what I and the rest of the group was about to see….. “look  and learn boys,  thought I…..” What a rude awakening I was in for, made even more  painful when my form was dissected in excruciating frame by frame analysis. Everything I thought I’d corrected was still there, over-striding, excessive heel striking, tense shoulders, head pulled back….I could not believe it and more importantly, I could not feel or sense it. I thought everything was going to plan.

All this was going through my head at the beginning of a running lesson with a student with whom I’d been working since the fall. He asked if he needed to set his watch to beep every minute, a technique we’d used to structure his run/walk cycle and which had helped progress from being a couch potato to being able to run/walk 5k two or 3 times a week. The question was did I want him to remain dependent on the watch or could he successfully migrate to a reliable low to no tech alternative and still know “what’s going on?”  How could he successfully stay in the easy zone when his competitive nature tended to push him to run too fast on his easy days and increase his risk of injury and burn out?

So we discussed this and came up with a short 4 item check list that would enable him to know when he was red-lining and make an adjustment if he wanted to. (Sometimes it’s nice to just put the pedal to the metal but out of choice not habit)

So here’s what we came up with:

1: Posture: if he found himself staring at the ground or felt his body stiffening or slumping it was time to walk and reset.

2: Breathing: if he found himself breathing at a 2-2 frequency ie 2 steps for the in-breath and 2 for the out he was probably running too fast for his aerobic system to meet the energy demands of his working muscles so time to slow down

3: Perceived Effort: If on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the hardest) he found himself above a 5-6 then he was probably working too hard and could afford to back off a wee bit.

4: Smell the roses: Was he aware of his surroundings , seeing things he found interesting, noticing stuff like bird song, light patterns in the snow etc or was he stuck in an inner world of  pain and suffering! If he wasn’t able to connect with the wider picture then it was probably a good time to walk a bit or even stop and do a little reset.

So there you have it, the 4 step plan to help get your perception of reality clearer and your ability to make better choices a bit more likely.

So Let’s Get It On !

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