Trying Out Steve Maxwell’s Vestibular Reset (via Christopher McDougall)

Last week I came across Steve Maxwell’s Vestibular Reset on Christopher McDougall’s blog. It looked good to me so I’ve been testing it out as a pre-run warmup. Take a look at the video and read the accompanying article first and then come back for my comments.

This “vestibular reset” could also be called a developmental movement sequence because it replicates the basic process we went through as infants to develop our ability to move. It is very powerful and a fantastic warmup for running. You’ll feel when you do it that it’s more than just a warmup, it resonates with something fundamental inside you, connecting you to your earliest processes of learning to move, interact with your environment, and fulfill your intentions. Taking that feeling with you into running is a natural progression, as it was when you were very young.

That said, if you plan to do it immediately before running I suggest you finish by returning to a bit of rolling, or even do it in reverse order. Rolling prepares you best to run smoothly and economically, whereas using your arms for weight bearing immediately pre-run doesn’t seem to. I have created and recorded a lot of Feldenkrais lessons for runners over the years involving exactly these types of developmental movements because they are so relevant to running, and I’ve always found that the rolling lessons most directly and immediately make running easier, faster, and more balanced.

It’s crucial how you approach the Reset. You can hurt yourself doing anything, no matter how good it theoretically is, by forcing it. Force may also cause you to miss out on some or all of the benefits by substituting effort for skill and thus preventing yourself from learning anything. You will get the most out of doing this workout by taking a gentle, exploratory approach to building your skill so the movements become easy, which by their nature they are (except possibly the Spider-Man crawl 🙂 ).

Here are two brief videos of a baby working out some of these movements. Notice her learning process, all the trial and error, the variety of experiments, and thus how smooth her movements become:

These videos were made to illustrate how the Feldenkrais Method works, replicating the process we all used from infancy to learn to move and function. There are loads of Feldenkrais lessons on developmental movement themes such as rolling that can be resources for you if you get frustrated or stuck working with the Vestibular Reset. Feldenkrais lessons can give you the preliminary explorations, intermediate steps, and variety of experimentation needed to help you discover how easy these movements naturally are.

I encourage you to explore Maxwell’s Vestibular Reset. I am thrilled to discover the good work he’s doing to help the fitness community understand the power and importance of these kinds of movements! But do make sure that you’re exploring and not pushing; there’s not a single thing in the sequence you need to master today, or on any particular timetable. Personally, I spent 15 minutes pre-run this morning just doing the rolling, particularly trying to work out how to do #3 under the Advanced Challenges without feeling any strain, discomfort, or effort. It was fun, and though I certainly wouldn’t say I mastered it I had a fantastic run afterwards.

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