When applied, these principles guide us to a dynamic experience of kinesthetic lightness, wherein thinking becomes clearer, feelings balanced, sensations livelier, and movement more pleasurable. Within this integrated, more conscious condition, we find our actions strengthened and refined, our sense of time expanded, and our rapport with the environment restored. The demands of modern life have fostered a virtual epidemic of neck, back, and other problems related to misaligned posture and improperly tensed muscles. Basically, the Alexander Technique helps people with chronic pain and tension shed long-established habits and relearn how to use their bodies with ease and grace.
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The Alexander Technique is not a method of accumulating information nor the art of learning something new. It is, instead, the art of unlearning, which is much more subtle and, sometimes, a more difficult endeavor — unlearning that which is habitual, instead of natural; letting go of old patterns and of those repetitious opinions arrived at in times and circumstances totally different from those of the present. Laura Huxley Author, Educator, Humanitarian.
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Summary Background: Complementary medicine and alternative approaches to chronic and intractable health conditions are increasingly being used, and require critical evaluation. Citing Literature. Volume 66 , Issue 1 January Pages Related Information. Close Figure Viewer. Browse All Figures Return to Figure. It is important to note that no spring or elastic material returns all of the force applied to it in recoil, so, clearly, a stretched tendon does not recoil with more energy than that required to stretch it.
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Note that shock absorbers in bikes and cars are there for comfort and to prevent damage to parts and drivers. We can see that any rapid strain on the tendon will cause it to stretch. Starting from the blocks in sprinting, for example, is a time when rapid, extreme strain is placed on the Achilles tendon.
The tendon will recover when the strain on it is reduced, at the end of extension. The tendon will not recoil with the energy that took to compress it, but it may be expected to give something back at the end of extension. However, more force could be delivered during extension if the tendon where rigid. The injury risk would be higher, though. One hopes that cushioned shoes are made from dense rubber that can return part of what it takes away in hard landing or in hard extension.
But no shoe is going to make you faster by giving you more than you gave. Here is an important point. The 3 joints of the legs should fold and extend together, such that the degree of knee flexion is what determines how the heel approaches the ground. In sprinting, when the amplitude of extension is maximal, mid-stance may be quite low, with the knee and ankle flexed such that the heel is very near contact or just kissing the ground.
If you jump rope, think of the difference between small jumps, and high jumps — one flexes more deeply to prepare for a high jumps, whereas small jumps tend to be done at the high end of extension.
Slow runners can either run toward full extension with little flexion, or with more flexion and less extension. Note that one is stronger toward full extension. Doing squats with weights should make this evident. Any discussion of BOS is not complete without discussing neutral posture and static and dynamic posture and how it affects the efficiency of running.
Bad posture habits in standing and walking can leak into dysfunctional movement patterns during a run. How you stand, sit, and walk dictates how you run. A stable and strong spine leads to efficiency at any speed. Enter proprioception: good static and dynamic posture is one that allows you to be more aware of where your body is in space. Being proprioceptively aware of your body and the relationship between the COM and BOS is essential for your ability to load, unload, and recover properly.
You should land slightly in front of your COM for shock absorption and energy storage during the loading phase and maximal force production during the propulsion phase of running. When done correctly you are storing and then releasing energy—like the pogo stick or Superball. A pogo stick is not a very good image for the up and down movement of running. This is what one sees in good runners.
When the body is extended forward from a foot on the ground with enough speed, the body is airborne for long enough for leg recovery and foot placement to occur before the body falls at least this is true on level ground. No bouncing ball here. This bouncing is a result of poor extension, usually caused by keeping the torso too vertical.
The angle of the trunk dictates the degree of extension of the leg. If the trunk it too vertical, leg extension will decelerate rather than accelerate, causing poor mixed of horizontal and vertical movement. The result is the pogoing. What then is considered neutral standing posture and how does this relate to walking and running? From a side view, good posture is seen as an imaginary vertical line through the ear, shoulder, hip, knee, and ankle.
The three natural curves in your back will be maintained.
Running and the Alexander Technique
This posture will result in the COM being directly over the BOS allowing your weight to be primarily over the heel when standing but evenly distributed throughout the whole foot in athletic posture of running ready to spring. There is no alignment of body parts in vertebrates: not in horses, chickens nor in humans.
Masses of weight, beginning with the head, have evolved out of alignment such that gravity is constantly stimulating stretch reflexes. The center of gravity of the head is quite forward of its fulcrum of support at the atlanto-occipital joint at the top of the spine. This falling weight puts tone in the neck muscles and spinal extensors. Clearly, also, one stands forward on the foot, such that the calves take tone.
This is essential to good standing balance. Simply put, the non-aligned body responds to the pull of gravity on its parts by taking tone throughout the musculature. It is this distributed tone that gives us our balance, proprioception and sense of ourselves. Were it possible to place our parts in alignment, necessary postural tone would cease, and so would we. Now for the connection to running. Agree about the forward lean. But obviously, leaning forward moves your weight forward onto the forefoot and toes, which makes maximum use of the full length of the leg.
One caveat to all this is the truly elite runner with an incredibly strong foot and ankle. When racing at high speed, I think some elite runners do favor the ball of foot. The new or recreational runner does not have the foot and ankle strength and forcing them into this position might be bad advice.
Forcing them into this position may be bad advice, but encouraging them to strengthen the foot and lower legs is good advice.
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I disagree. This may occur in sprinting but not in endurance running. When making contact with the ground, the lower leg from the knee down should ideally be perpendicular to the ground. This results in the ankle joint being neutral, setting up the calf and Achilles tendon to be loaded for a recoil effect. This effect can be easily understood by taking a rubber band, stretching it, then letting it go.
The energy that is created by stretching the rubber band is returned relatively for free; it just needs to be taken advantage of. This is the stretch reflex. This will ultimately lead to more work and inefficiency. The calf will try to do the work and act as the hip. This can lead to reduced force production, potential calf strains, Achilles tendinopathies, and dysfunction up the body chain.
Again, the idea of elastic recoil is greatly exaggerated. Reaching forward with the foot to take the ground quickly, before the body falls out of the arc of the running stride is preferable to truncating the stride to keep the calves vertical, or waiting for the leg to return from its forward most position to place nearer to the body.
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There is no good reason to do this if extension is adequate. Making contact primarily in the rearfoot with overstride heel strike pattern allows for significant braking forces, reduced elastic energy storage, and longer ground contact times which can lead to a number of different injuries. Landing on the outside of the foot is ideal for the foot to be loaded effectively.
This helps the transfer of weight from the outside of the foot to the big toe. This transfer of weight allows for the foot to passively lock-up, creating a natural rigid lever to push off of in the propulsion phase of running. The leverage is from the big toe. Hanging passively from the knee, the bones of the lower leg will be rotated somewhat externally, supinating the foot, so that one lands naturally on the outer edge of the ball of the foot.
In fact, the manner in which the toes flexors attach to the tibia flexor digitorum longus and fibula flexor hallicis longus allows this rotation to power toe-off. You do dorsiflex and shift weight to the toes on toe off for windlass effect action of plantar fascia to restore arch and makes it into a rigid lever and propulsion. Plantar flexion of the ankle is assisted by dorsiflexion of the hallux, otherwise the windlass effect does not work as well.
You must load the big toe for maximum efficiency. Though your other toes are small, they are powerful and mighty. Moving weight onto the toes with the forefoot rocker helps engage the posterior compartment. Note: hallux limitus limited mobility in big toe joint will impair the windlass effect and will cause premature calf engagement. Do not strive for an active toe off, but rather allow your foot to roll forward and spring off.
This may have been my problem prior to corrective surgery for hallux limitus. There is dorsiflexion and plantarflexion; this is the magic elastic effect. If you disagree watch any high level track race. Yes , I agree. Amount of knee flexion in recovery is dependent on speed. Run fast, the heel folds up. As the pace increases the spring stiffens and the flexion on contact becomes less. The knee extends pretty far during maximum hip flexion. The good runner increases knee flexion before contact.
Gee, good sprinters straighten the knees completely. Again, the amplitude of extension determines speed. But one can run slowly, too, and use a fairly complete extension. Do not focus so much on this to be free-falling forward and off balance; this is inefficient! Practice running with a jump rope. In order to move forward well, one needs the spine to extend forward in the direction of movement.
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Running with a jump rope overemphasizes vertical travel and limits the horizontal. Not a great idea, in my opinion.
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Although jumping rope is a good way to condition the muscles of the feet and lower legs for running, if done judiciously. Do not overstride in front of you.
You want to increase stride length and thigh angle through mobility on hip extension and applied power to the ground. Cadence can only go up so much before it begins to compromise elasticity. Again just study the elites. Again watch the elites run. You need to use knee drive forward, activate the abdominals in swing, and use eccentric stretch of hip flexors as triggers. This is a bit active at initiation of swing but then passive.