Old Dog Learns New Tricks

Old Dog Learns New Tricks

August 3, 2021

For a number of years now I have not been running well. I say that in spite of the fact I have set several Quebec records at distances ranging from 400m to 3000m and have also been age group Canadian champion at the half marathon and Cross Country…I wish I could run so badly you might be saying….So what do I mean when I say I haven’t been running well. When I set the 400m record my right leg was heavily taped and I wasn’t sure I would even be able to finish the race much less perform. Somehow I managed but the pain in that hamstring lingered for the next few years…worse at some times better at others. The same goes for the other races. In spite of different injures I managed to cobble together enough training to put it together on the day…until last year when I didn’t manage to run a single race. This might have been a good thing in that it caused me to stop, reassess and to try and figure out another way forward.

The well-known Aussie running coach, FM Alexander was once quoted as saying “there’s no sitting on the fence mate, you’re either getting better or you’re getting worse!”

I was reminded of his quote as I went for a morning run on Mt Royal the other day and remarked that my hamstring was not bothering me…not even a twinge. I pushed it a bit by doing a few hill repeats at a faster clip…nada. My stride felt strong, elastic, effortless…I was working but not laboring. No will power required to get through the last few kilometers….lots left in the tank.
And to what do I owe these improvements: finding and working with a couple of really good coaches (Douglas Wisoff, John Macy and Helen Hall) who helped me work out some issues with my stride that I’d missed, in spite of my knowledge and experience.
And here I was on a cold early winter morning, working on stuff…today the focus was on keeping my length and widening my base, ie better traction. Both required a certain amount of intention and attention. I had to keep renewing what I wanted…asking for it again. Sometimes I needed to stop and repeat a drill a few times. I would also slow to a walk if I thought I was losing it risked slipping back into old habits. The result: I was running well again, maybe not too fast…yet but building the base which if I choose would allow me to get back into competitive shape without all the pain.

So as 2018 is winding down, perhaps it’s time to take stock of your own running. Are you enjoying it? Are you moving better than you did this time last year. Are you looking forward to what the New Year brings?

If you answered no to any of the previous questions, maybe it’s time to bust a move and make some changes. Find a coach or an Alexander Technique teacher and work on your form. I guarantee that if you improve your stride, you will enjoy running more and who knows, you might having something different to say about your running this time next year!

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