A Runner’s Alphabet—M Is for Muscle
is for muscle.
Don’t worry, this definitely won’t be a lecture on anatomy!
I’m all for strength training (with or without weights) to keep your muscles strong and improve your running. But another type of inner work can also help.
If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know that I am a nationally certified teacher of the Alexander Technique. You can find a fuller discussion here, but the short explanation is that about 120 years ago, an Australian actor named F. M. Alexander discovered that by detecting and releasing, or undoing, unnecessary muscular tension, he could improve his speaking voice, his posture, and all the activities in his life.
I’ll bet you’ve seen runners—especially older runners—walking with a forward stoop. Most likely, they also run that way. How do you think that feels?
Try this out for yourself briefly: Lean forward into a slight hunch and take a very short walk, no more than a few paces. Then try running in your hunched pose—again for no more than a few paces.
I’ll bet your back hurts, right? Can you figure out why? The muscles of your back are overstrained, but meanwhile, the muscles on the front of your body are being underworked.
Let’s try to get your front and back muscles balanced. Stand quietly and keep your eyes open. Think about your head balancing at the top of your spine. Don’t try to put it in a position. It might help if you soften your gaze. Now think of the muscles of your front body and your back body as having equal value. Again, don’t try to find the “right” position, just try to find an inner muscular balance.
Try taking this on the road. It might be easier to start with walking. Of course we do lean forward a bit in running, but thinking of your front and back muscles as being in balance with each other can go a long way toward reducing back pain.
M can stand for a lot of other things: mindfulness, merry, motivation, mystery. I encourage you to explore your own ideas.
Please feel free to send me any questions you might have. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
AND if you don’t want to miss my next blog on how to get fit and stay happily fit, sign up on my mailing list to get it by e-mail the moment I publish it.
Meanwhile, happy running!
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