Ideal Running Technique and Your Unique Body

A couple of days ago a reader posed a very thoughtful question, one that someone asks me at least a couple of times a year. The question is, essentially: how can I as a Feldenkrais practitioner write about “correct” running form?

After all, the Feldenkrais Method uses an organic learning process, allowing people with many different learning styles to discover how to move their own unique bodies more easily and be able to achieve their aims. The special effectiveness of the method is that it doesn’t involve instruction; Feldenkrais practitioners never tell their students how to move, and what students learn through Feldenkrais lessons is highly responsive to context, meaning they’ll be able to feel how to apply it in varied ways depending on the situation rather than always performing movements in pre-set “correct” ways. In a Feldenkrais class students are encouraged not to copy or even care what their fellows are doing, but just pay attention to their own movement. In some parts of the running community, a notion that each person has a “signature stride” is somewhat related to this idea that we shouldn’t copy or resemble each other but just pay attention to ourselves.

In my training to become a Feldenkrais practitioner, this question was central and not just related to running technique. How can we say there is a norm or basic principle for how to do any activity? Wouldn’t everyone do everything differently because their bodies and histories are different? So how can a practitioner look at how a person gets out of a chair or walks or plays violin and come to any conclusion about what could be improved, what the person needs to learn to feel more comfortable and satisfied with how they do the action?

In answer to that question, my teacher pointed out that before a Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement lesson practically every one of the fifty people in the room were lying on our backs differently. After the lesson we were all lying nearly identically. The way we lay before the lesson reflected our personal habits, the way we lay afterwards reflected something we might call phylogenetic, which Dr. Feldenkrais called our biological inheritance.

Feldenkrais practitioners spend our professional training learning to deeply understand this biological inheritance, and in my professional practice my focus has been on how running also forms part of our biological inheritance. After more than a decade of using the Feldenkrais Method to help runners engage in an exploratory learning process I have seen the movement patterns I write about emerge in each person’s running without exception. So I write and speak about what I’ve learned in addition to giving Feldenkrais lessons because it benefits many runners–and I believe it benefits the whole running community–to learn how running works from the viewpoint of our phylogeny rather than the collection of poorly applied biomechanical principles, poorly thought-out “commonsense” recommendations, and culturally biased notions of human function that characterize the bulk of popular running form advice.

Discovering that my writing helped runners who lived too far away for me to touch with my hands has been one of the more joyful revelations of my professional life. Not everyone  can make the same use of written running form advice, but for those who can I’m thrilled to offer it, and if I can help runners, coaches, and other running-related professionals view running through a more accurate lens then everyone who participates in the sport benefits.

14 thoughts on “Ideal Running Technique and Your Unique Body”

  1. I’m one of those runner’s who has followed Jae’s blog from a distance. I live in Canada and I have benefitted immensely from Jae’s weekly postings and video guidance. I firmly believe it is possible to improve running form this way and it is exciting to see these improvements in all aspects of my life.

  2. i agree with sue … particularly since i’m also a Canadian! jae, i think that your insights have been invaluable and in a short time have already contributed greatly to me experiencing a more connected running form and efficient stride. thanks so much for being as generous as you are with your accumulated knowledge and insights!

  3. I find the posts very valuable – they’ve made me think, and the recent posts on arm swing have made me try new things. I love the analysis of elites.

    I’d love you to do a post specific to Deena Kastor and perhaps also Meb Keflezghi as they’ve both been competing at a high level for a long time and are now in the Masters ranks – perhaps analyzing their form over time? I flatter myself by thinking I have a similar body type and architecture to Deena – though I’m taller – and so perhaps naively think it might be possible to learn to run more like her form and gait wise, which could only help improve my speed!

    I live just outside DC in the US – perhaps your NYC branch could do a workshop down here sometime?

    I’m also trying to get you on the Marathon Talk and Cloud259 podcasts to help more people hear about you.

    Thanks so much!

    • Thanks very much! I’ve written about Meb a few times, take a look at my posts on the Boston Marathons this year and especially last year. I need video to work with for blog posts, so I need Deena to be in a televised race to write about or alternatively I need high-quality (and if possible high-speed) spectator video of her running. If you can get me some, I’ll work on it.

      As for your own running, I’m sure you could run more like her form and gait-wise. I’m just about to announce my next online running technique training camp will happen in July; consider that, it is designed to help with exactly this sort of goal.

      Many thanks for your efforts on my behalf. I’m in DC from time to time and will reach out if I can manage to fit a workshop in.

      Enjoy your running.

  4. Love your posts Miss Jae ,
    Would like you to maybe write a more deeper post about the pelvic movement in running, because i read all the time that “it´s all in the hips” , that the twisting of the hips and arching the back lead to energy loss in the torquing ..
    Thanks in advance, keep it up and God bless !!!

  5. Hi Jae..I find your commentaries the most intelligent writing on running I’ve ever come across. There’s nothing superficial yet it’s so clear. And as a Feldenkrais practitioner myself I also discover insights in your running writing that help me better understand Moshe’s work in general, like the references to biological inheritance in this post.


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