Running is a motor skill! Simple.
It is a series of movement patterns that we learned years and years ago and developed to put them all together over and over again to produce the past time that we have grown to know and sometimes even love!
Close your eyes and touch your nose.
Chances are that you did it, if not first time, then after 2 or 3 goes you got it.
But go back to when you were a child, the first time that you tried, (whether you knew that you were trying, or you were just trying to scratch your nose) you would have had to try several times until you got it right, and the next time that you needed to do it you probably got it wrong a few times until you got it right!
This is because, every time you did it, that (at the time) complex sequence of movements, your brain was learning the right patterns that were needed to do it;
- keep head still
- put index finger out
- lift arm towards face
- put finger on end of nose
Because we’ve learned this movement pattern, and we have a good subconscious awareness of where our nose is in relation to the rest of our body, as adults, we’re pretty damn amazing at touching our nose. Give yourself a pat on the back! – (That’s another motor movement!)
Think of other movement patterns that we found difficult at first, but after practice we got better at.
How many of us just woke up one day when we were 6 years old and discovered that we could whistle?
It took weeks & weeks of practicing, getting it wrong, getting frustrated and annoying everybody around us, whilst we blew in our parent’s face and spat all over Granny.
Who among us woke up and found out that we could click our fingers?
None of us.
We spent hours and hours, with aching hands and broken nails until, well, until it all clicked into place!
Because that’s what we do as kids; we don’t know it, but we practice practice practice until our brains learn the best movement patterns; the right motor movements, to get the skill perfectly right.
It’s only now as adults, that we want everything for nothing. We want to be an amazing runner, and injury free, but we don’t want to put in the work that deserves it! We don’t practice the motor movements.
Watch a toddler trying to stand up. They’re not wobbly because they’re wobbly; they’re wobbly because their brain is learning all of the right movement patterns that it needs to put together in one go, so it can stand up straight. Once it’s done that, it tries to move. And falls over. And gets up, and tries again. And each time it is burning, imprinting these patterns into it’s memory.
What we need to do, or what I recommend you do, to become a ‘better’ runner, with sound movement patterns, is to break the movement patterns of running down into smaller movements, and re-learn, or teach ourselves them perfectly. Stubbornly, with resilience and patience, like we did when we learned to stand up as a toddler, or whistle and click our fingers as a child.
Practice each movement over and over and over again, until our brain learns each single movement the right way. Then put two together and practice them until you get them right perfectly. Then chain a few movement patterns together and so on.
You might see a picture of yourself running and your right knee might buckle in, or your left hand is lower than your right hand.
If you’ve decided that this is incorrect, how are you going to correct it?
By giving it conscious effort on your next race?
NO. Give it conscious effort for 2 minutes, 3-4 times a day. Re-learn the movement pattern.
Practice standing tall on your right leg and hop to your left leg, then back, standing tall. Practice it over and over for a few minutes a few times a day. Teach yourself the good movement pattern of landing on one leg properly, and jumping from that leg properly.
Practice driving both arms to the same position each, over and over again.
You don’t need to be in the gym, or at the running track. I’ll let you into a little secret…you don’t need to tweet about it or put a photo of yourself doing it on Facebook either.
Do it at home when the adverts come on on the TV.
Do it whilst you’re brushing your teeth.
Do it whilst you’re waiting for the kettle to boil. Consciously concentrate on it every few minutes on your easy runs.
It’s great when clients come to me and ask me to help them come back from injury, because it is a perfect opportunity to start from scratch and learn proper movement patterns. This is what makes us economical. This is what gives us a better chance to resist injuries. This is what gives us great pics to upload to social media!
Pick one or two movement patterns at a time to practice and give it time. You didn’t learn to walk over-night, and you won’t re-learn to run over night either!
One of the things that sets great runners and average runners apart, is the amount of time per week that they dedicate to getting the small things right. Perfectly right.
An observation of toddlers and children, would be that their movement patterns are bio-mechanically perfect. That goes to say, that as children, we have ‘learned & burned’ these movement patterns into our brain. It is only as we get older that we ‘un-learn’ the good movement patterns by learning bad movement patterns. That needn’t be the case!
TIPS FOR IMPROVING MOVEMENT PATTERNS
First you must decide what the ‘correct’ movement looks like. I call this a ‘template’. You want your movement pattern to be as close to the template as you can.
Decide if you are close to the template or you need to improve.
Decide what it is that you need to improve.
Decide how you can improve.
Measure or quantify your current movement pattern.
Decide what you want your new movement pattern to look like.
Break the pattern down into small steps.
Do them very often for just a small amount of time.
Remember, or understand, that we are ALWAYS learning and relearning movement patterns so do not practice them badly, only perfectly.
AN EXAMPLE OF HOW TO IDENTIFY AND IMPROVE ON A MOVEMENT PATTERN
As an example, let’s pretend that we want to bring our knee higher during the ‘late stance’ phase (on the picture at the heading) as it follows through. We might have seen a picture of ourselves next to another runner and theirs is far higher and we have identified that that might held us to be a more economical runner. This could be your template of the correct, or better movement pattern.
“My knee doesn’t go as high as other runner’s during the late stance phase”.
“I can work towards improving my knee lift and strengthening my hip flexors”.
“My knee only reaches 5 o’clock (when compared to the numbers on a clock face) on a clock face and the template I have in mind reaches 4 o’clock.”
BREAK THE MOVEMENT DOWN. LITTLE AND OFTEN. PERFECT IT.
- Start by standing on one leg and lifting your knee to the desired height.
- Progress to repeatedly lifting and lowering your leg to the desired height.
- Progress to doing it faster (but perfectly).
- Progress to doing it on both legs, march on the spot.
- Progress to doing it more dynamically. Add some spring to your step.
- Progress to doing it whilst moving forward.
- Progress by adding props or training aids, like a rope ladder.
- Progress to chaining this movement pattern to another PERFECT movement pattern.
As an example, what would your opposite arm be doing at the same time? Or what would your opposite foot/leg be doing at the same time?
You have just (hopefully) learned the proper movement pattern for a ‘high knee’ drill.
You can search online, especially on YouTube, for hundreds of different drills that are designed to help runners. But the MAJOR mistake with these drills and videos, is that they rarely break the movement down into single slow movements. You see a dumb ass coach or personal trainer doing the whole movement pattern and doing it in real time, or fast. They rarely show you each individual movement that goes into the pattern. It is VITAL that you learn each individual movement perfectly before chaining them together into a pattern.
Think about it. If you were teaching an alien how to touch it’s finger to it’s nose, would you say “just do this”, and touch your nose, or would you say “keep your head still. Now extend your index finger. Now raise your arms towards your head. Now try to touch your nose.”
This can take months and months to perfect. That’s fine. The end result will be that it’s perfect, and that takes time. You didn’t learn to walk overnight, so let’s take some time to learn how to run properly.
“PRACTICE DOES NOT MAKE PERFECT.
PERFECT PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT”
RUN Smarter|RUN Easier|RUN Faster