Do You Know Where Your Springs Really Are?

By Jae Gruenke | Natural Running Form

Sep 06

Last week I posted about stride rate and Dr. Stephen Levin’s explanation for why manipulating your default stride rate doesn’t improve your elasticity, but actually worsens it. That was far from the most amazing thing I learned from him that afternoon. Here’s more.

Has it ever bothered you when people talk about stride rate and elastic energy, that the phrase “elastic tissue” or “connective tissue” seems awfully general and vague? The only real specific image of elastic function in a part of our bodies we’re given is the arches of the feet, and that does create a fairly clear, satisfying picture in the mind.

The picture you have in your mind of what you’re actually doing when you run is terribly important, and will affect the way you move. And I don’t just mean your body image, which is the map that unconsciously informs all your movement choices, and that Feldenkrais lessons help you improve. I mean even the things you read and that people tell you about your body influence how you move and interpret sensations.

So for that reason it might make a big difference for you to hear what Dr. Levin told me about those mysterious elastic tissues that power your running.

They’re your bones.

It makes sense to use the stiffest springs you have to run, he said. You get the most energy that way. And the shapes of the bones that are loaded in running (he spoke specifically about the femur) allow them to flex, store energy, and release it as you move on and off them.

We all grew up with the idea that our bones are rigid and provide us structure and support, the muscles create movement, and the tendons and ligaments connect things, and fascia probably never even got mentioned.

Consequently when you run you may think that your bones get a shock, which you try to cushion with trainers and strength, and hopefully also (as a reader of this blog) with ever-improving technique.

All of this is undergoing radical revision when viewed through the lens of biotensegrity, and so my question to you is this: how will running feel to you if you think of your bones themselves as flexible and springy, as a source of energy?

I’m very excited to hear how you experience this, so please leave a comment!

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About the Author

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.

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(4) comments

Matthew Newnham September 6, 2015

Hmmm, I’m intrigued, Jae. I know that since working with you over the past 20 months, my running is far springier [and much more responsive and fluid, for that matter].

As for my skeleton, my feet felt battered for most of my 40 years and 40,000 miles of running. Happily, since working with you, they feel great, and are a noticeable part of feeling springier when I run.

I’m now curious about how we can bring “dem bones” even more into the active part of the equation…

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MP Nunan September 6, 2015

Looking forward to trying it!

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Rupert Watson September 7, 2015

And “dem bones” reminds me of David Kaetz’s new little book on “the Ezekiel code – A vision of living bones”.

Integrating Feldenkrais movement with Jungian inner life (his wife is a dream worker in Jungian mode)and they do joint workshops – just occasionally.

I’ve been doing lots of beach running barefoot and park/golf course vibra-bare – old bones not too bad. Also making a point of sitting more on floor – “archetypal sitting postures”. Have an osteo friend who likes Feldy but says we don’t go far enough in pushing people off chairs and out of shoes. I’m sure this is helping my running too……another angle for you Jae. All best from down here in NZ. Get back on bike and track soon.

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    Jae Gruenke September 15, 2015

    Great to hear from you, Rupert! Yes, I’m sure getting out of chairs is good for your running. Glad to hear you’re doing well, and thanks for your good wishes.

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