In the past couple of posts I’ve been telling the story of my frustrating, miserable early days as a runner, as I fruitlessly chased the dream of running that would feel nearly effortless, flowing… even like I was flying!
If you’re a runner I’m guessing you have that dream too. You may be actively trying to make it a reality like I was, or it may be just a tiny, private spark in your heart that never goes away even though you say you believe pain and suffering and hard work are what running is all about.
Like so many runners, I tried the hard work route. I tried strengthening, stretching, core work, buying shoes, avoiding hard running surfaces, and steeping myself in the conventional wisdom of the running establishment. And I tried a whole lot of that most popular strategy: pushing myself harder.
But I learned those things don’t work. They didn’t change the way I was moving, or not in a lasting way.
A substantial change in how I moved was clearly what was needed. For heaven’s sake, I knew that at the outset! But for a long time I didn’t come across either an accurate idea of what needed to change or an effective technique for making the change happen.
Reading the ChiRunning and Pose books was the first inkling I had of a possibly accurate idea, but I had trouble knowing how those ideas compared to what I was doing. And amazingly, even though I was a dancer, I didn’t have enough control over my movement to be able to choose how I was running.
And that’s when something wonderful happened. I did a Feldenkrais lesson and then went for a run.
In case you’re not familiar with the Feldenkrais Method, it’s a movement education method, an ingenious process for helping people make really significant improvements in how they move and function. Nowadays it’s known as one of the leading “neuroplastic methods,” but the word neuroplasticity wasn’t really on most people’s radar then.
Feldenkrais had helped me return to dancing after an apparently career-ending bout of achilles tendonitis, and had also made me a much better dancer.
Right now you’re asking yourself why I waited to long to use Feldenkrais to help me with my running. In retrospect it does seem astonishingly stupid.
But the fact is that I thought I already was, and it just wasn’t working. I was already partway through a four-year training program to become a Feldenkrais practitioner, and I just assumed that this was having an effect on my movement, and should make running work better. That’s what had happened with my dancing, after all.
But there are a lot of ways to run. It’s a fundamental human gait, and thus is versatile enough to be done while pulling, pushing, carrying, kicking, and throwing things, and also while injured. We can pull it off a million different ways. Just doing Feldenkrais lessons had not made it at all clear to me what was the best way to simply run.
Doing a Feldenkrais lesson and then running, or better yet running right before and after a Feldenkrais lesson so I could feel the effect of the lesson, turned out to be the magic combination.
Some lessons made me feel much better! I vividly remember the first smooth run I ever took. It was as though the sun had finally come out.
Some lessons, however, made my running feel wretched. I vividly remember one lesson making my feet seem to stop working altogether. Lessons like that, I discovered, may help me do other things but not running.
The whole puzzle suddenly seemed to be solving itself before my eyes. I could really feel what to do and what not to do. And I could control what I was doing!
My two biggest revelations from doing Feldenkrais lessons were that my pelvis needed to move (so much for the million articles I’d read in Runners’ World about core stability!) and that I needed to lean forward. (With all due respect to my anatomy teacher, who was right about nearly everything else.)
After that I could go back to the ChiRunning and Pose books, Dr. Daniel Lieberman’s work which had recently been published in Nature, and other research, make sense of it, and also see what the experts had missed. And I could use this process to locate other Feldenkrais lessons that would improve my running.
I could look at other runners and understand what was working about how they ran and what wasn’t, and I could create learning experiences for them to make the changes they needed.
Two years later, my own running felt just wonderful. All the time. I’d found my way to The Dream.
In the 13 years since then I’ve helped many hundreds of runners do the same thing, and I developed a series of recorded lessons that reliably help them get there. I’ve tested, revised, and tested again. Beginners, lifelong runners, world class runners… they work for everybody. More about that in a minute.
I’ve also created a single, simple lesson that allows you to begin to feel my revelation that the pelvis has to move. You can feel how it moves, how this movement helps your legs and shifts your weight, and how it makes your running smoother. It opens the door to The Dream and allows you to start moving towards it. I call the lesson “Mobilizing Your Core to Run.”
You can download this lesson now and start learning — not exercising, not training, not correcting, and not pushing, but learning.
Set aside about 40 minutes and follow the instructions in the audio recording exactly. You may feel a little at sea if the kind of movement is really new to you, and you may need to try the lesson more than once to feel like you have a grasp of the movements. The more time you give it, the more will change.
I did many lessons to get my running to the point where it felt good consistently — because there was a lot of trial and error involved it took about two years, and I would say in fact that I’m still discovering new things fifteen years after my first attempt to become a runner.
You might want to get there faster. You might want to do more than just one lesson, and to be sure they’re the lessons that will most directly improve your running. In that case, I’ve got good news.
“Mobilizing Your Core to Run” is only a small part of my six-week online running camp. It’s an in-depth learning experience that will take you to The Dream, even if you’re the type of runner who doesn’t admit to having one. It will also help you snag that elusive BQ, finish your first half or full marathon, and/or get that PB you’ve got your sights on with a smile on your face.
Enrollment is currently open, but I’m afraid there isn’t much time left to sign up — enrollment closes Friday night at 11:59 PST. I apologize for that. I normally like to give a larger window but the camp needs to get underway on Sunday. I’ve promised the 40 people who’ve already signed up!
You can read about the camp here, and tomorrow I’ll have a much fuller description to help you decide whether it’s right for you.
Whether you feel it might be or not, though, give the free lesson a try and share your questions and insights below.
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Jae Gruenke, GCFP, is a running technique expert and Feldenkrais Practitioner. Known as a “running form guru,” she is the Founder and CEO of The Balanced Runner™ in New York City and The Balanced Runner UK. She has helped runners from beginner to Olympian improve their form to become pain-free, economical, and fast.