Someone recently asked me whether we need a special method for learning how to run. It was a rhetorical question, as the person was making a point that running is natural for our species and the world class distance runners learned “without a special method.” But actually it’s a fair question.
I firmly believe there is no such thing as a new way of running. No one is going to invent a method that works better than the way our species overall spontaneously runs.
So a running technique teacher such as myself has the job, not of inventing new things, but of:
1. discovering how running already works
2. facilitating a learning process to help struggling runners make those discoveries in their own bodies
Everyone required a learning process to start running. We all once learned how to run. Nobody was born knowing how.
For a variety of reasons, some of us learned how to run better than others. Genetics play a part, but even more so the kind of environment each of us grew up in, and how much freedom we had to explore and play.
Even for those of us who learned well, roadblocks may later have appeared in the form of bad shoes, bad chairs in school, too much sitting, too little outdoor play, and accidents, illnesses, and injuries.
Any difficulty with your original learning process or any loss of running coordination due to later life experiences means you need an effective learning process to help you rediscover (or discover for the first time) what’s missing.
And the emphasis there is on the word “effective.”
And you know what? Nobody is going to invent a truly new method for that either. The original method–the one you used to learn how to run and walk and crawl and feed yourself–is how motor learning works for human beings. Somewhat disorderly, often not goal-oriented, usually playful, and built around the pillars of exploration, experimentation, and feedback.
So some of the most popular methods for helping people recover the basic movement abilities of human beings are built around those pillars. And while they’re called methods and they have names that are probably even trademarked, they’re just variations on the original learning method of babies and children.
The method I use is the Feldenkrais Method of Movement Education®. In my experience, I’ve found it to be the most powerful motor learning method out there.
So to go back to the original question, no, you don’t need a method for learning how to run. But you may come to a point that you feel you could be running better, so you need to do some learning.
That may be because you’re having problems. Or it may be because you realize that the way you run now was something you learned, and maybe you haven’t learned everything there is to know.
In my experience the very best runners take this attitude. The runners you’d imagine could legitimately declare they don’t need to learn anything else about how to run are the ones who are hungry to keep learning.
Those are the runners who are on the most “natural” path of all.
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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.