Monday, December 26, 2011

Arms up - Face Forward

A recent article Healthy Running Comes from the Arms and Head Connection over at The Natural Running Center by Jae Gruenke gives two tips to improve your running posture that counter the notion that you tuck your chin in when running and keep your hands low. Her tips are based on the Feldenkrais Method of movement. One is to keep your hands close to your chest, and bring your knuckles to the midpoint of your breastbone on the forward swing as in the photo taken at the World Cross-Country Championships.

 Her other tip is on the face forward head position.
When you run and therefore lean, you still need your eyes and inner ears upright relative to gravity so they work properly for balance and orientation, which means you have to let the distance between your chin and your throat increase in a move we have nicknamed “face forward.” What actually happens is that your skull slides forward on your atlas vertebra (this is the top vertebrae that along with the axis forms the connection to the skull) the same way it does when you kiss someone or when you hunch up at your laptop. But in running you allow this forward movement of your head to cause your whole body to fall forward, rather than just caving in your chest and hunching your shoulders, and it leads you into a beautiful, free, and easy lean.
Jae can be found over at The Balanced Runner. I have enjoyed doing Jae's cds in the past as a method to warm-up for a run or in an attempt to move better. If anyone these cues on a run, let me know how it goes.

Here is a Runners World interview with 3 time Olympian Jenn Rhines who explains her work with Jae  Gruenke and the Feldenkrais Method.

Well, you mentioned earlier in this Chat that there had been some tweaking of your running form. What exactly did you do, and what was the reason a need for that was perceived?
JR: Last year, I was running some decent workouts. I couldn't put anything together in a race and felt like I was really struggling. I felt like my body couldn't do it anymore, so I figured I'm either done or I need to figure out a way to do it differently.  I've been working with Terrence; I also worked with a woman in New York. Her name is Jae Gruenke, doing a thing called Feldenkrais Lessons – basically, teaching your body there's an easier way to do things. Things are starting to stick now. It's starting to come around.

Can you explain a little bit what Feldenkrais Lessons re?
JR: They're called awareness through movement lessons. I was actually doing them with her over Skype. To me, the easiest way to explain it is just that you're doing simple movements and teaching yourself to use different muscles and to do things a little move easily than in the patterns you've been stuck in. For somebody like me who's been running for over 20 years, I was definitely stuck in some bad habits.

One thing I've learned about is how everything interacts together. I'll get a very tight upper body and my arms with be way up high and twisting when I get tired, and now I kind of understand you can't just force yourself to drop them and have it be perfect. I understand more how everything works together.  It's probably still subtle, because I know I don't look dramatically different, but I'm not overstriding quite as much and I'm using my glutes and hamstrings more so I have a little bit higher back kick. It's better for me;  I don't look like a gazelle yet.

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