The photo of this rather old-fashioned-looking man was taken probably when he was in his sixties. Notice how poised and upright he is and the liveliness in his eyes. He looks calm and composed, but he could move easily at a
moment’s notice. He’s the last person you’d think of as being a running coach, but he’s been that and much more for people around the world.
This elderly gent was Frederick Matthias Alexander (1869–1955). When he was a young actor, in the days before microphones, he had the worst possible problem—he kept losing his voice!
After seeing many doctors who couldn’t help him, and after years of thinking and experimenting, he made an amazing and profound discovery:
His speaking—and, indeed, everything he did—depended on the natural, easy balance of his head at the top of his neck and his whole spine.
Once Alexander realized this, he also realized that he had a whole range of supposedly good habits that actually interfered with his ability to recite, move, and do everything else in his life. Gradually, he developed a way of thinking that allowed him to overcome his old habits and apply his discovery to everything he did. Later he taught students, and trained teachers to continue his work, which became known as the Alexander Technique. One of the teaching ideas he came up with was Constructive Rest.
Here’s an experiment for you to try:
Think about how many times parents, teachers, and others have told you how to fix your posture: Stand up straight! Chin up! Shoulders back! Chest out! Suck in your stomach! Squeeze your butt!
Try it now: Stand up straight! Chin up! Shoulders back! Chest out! Suck in your stomach! Squeeze your butt!
Does your posture feel fixed? In the sense that fixed can mean frozen or stiff, I’m sure it does. I imagine you’re feeling extremely tense and wound up—physicallyand mentally. Not very pleasant, is it? So gently allow yourself to come out of it.
Now try this. You can do it either standing or sitting:
Take a moment to become quiet in yourself, but keep your eyes open.
Think about your own head balancing on top of your neck and your whole spine. Remember that this isn’t a position or a pose, just an idea. Try to remember it at least once a day, when you’re doing some ordinary activity.
How does this idea carry over into your running? I’ll talk about that in upcoming blogs.
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!