Run better, not less: Injury-free running workshop

Practising squats

Glendalough, 18-19 August 2012

Hosted by ChampionsEverywhere: Tony, Rene, Ben, Jason

There are champions everywhere. Every street’s got them. All we need to do is train them properly.

– Arthur Lydiard

Most people’s idea of a relaxing weekend involves forgetting about work and spending time putting the feet up at home or enjoying time with friends and family. So why did I decide to spend 2 full days to learn about running at a workshop in the Wicklow Mountains? When you’re a child, no one shows you how the run, in the same way as you’re dragged to swimming lessons, football training or have the stabilizers taken off your bike.

What did I expect?

championseverywhereI had attended a talk recently by the ChampionsEverywhere team in 53 Degrees North store in Dublin, so had gotten an intro into the concepts and goals of the workshop. I expected it to be a very practical workshop, with lots of running and stretching, but also expected to learn a lot of theory about the physiological and mental side of sport and movement.

Why did I go?

After that taster talk on “natural movement/running”, I was intrigued by the mechanics of how we run and how we can do it better. My primary goal is to become a better (i.e. faster) runner, so I hope this workshop can help me achieve this. I also liked the idea of “injury free running” as most of us are hit by shin splints, hip problems, knee pain, tight IT bands or Achilles issues over time.

What did we cover?

The workshop was split over 2 days, starting bright and early on Saturday at 9am. The first day focused more on the model of natural movement and how the physical, mental and technical sides of movement (whether that’s running or jumping) determine our ability/skill at that task. We also did lots of video analysis of our running styles, both on the treadmill and out on the hills. We finished the afternoon by learning lots of dynamic movements which will help our flexibility and movement ranges. A lot of it involved finding our big toe!

The second day focused more on applying the skills we had learned by practising the drills out doing more outdoor work on the trails. This included jumping over walls and gates, which was fun. We also focused on the mental side of things and removing fear/anxiety – perception is so important. There was also plenty of time for Q&A, covering everything from footwear to injuries.


What did I learn?

My mind is exploding with concepts and ideas that I’d love to put into practice. I wish I could win the lotto, so work wouldn’t get in the way of me doing all these things tomorrow! Here’s a list of the main things that I took away from the weekend:

· Technique is so important to mastering any skill (whether that’s swimming freestyle or dancing Salsa)

· The ways of modern life present huge challenges to the way our bodies are designed to operate

· Our minds are so powerful – we shouldn’t set limits on what we can achieve (“the sky’s the limit”)

· The human body is an amazing piece of engineering

· I discovered a new –ology: kinesiology, the scientific study of human movement.

· Most of the time we treat the symptom not the cause (e.g. going to the physio to ease back pain instead of understanding why the back is complaining?)

· Fair play to the guys at Nike and Adidas, for creating a billion dollar industry

· Barefoot running is just a romantic idea unless you learn how to apply it properly

Was it fun?

Yep, there was good mix to balance the theory and concepts. The drills are not meant to be regimental but adaptable to any environment and don’t require lots of equipment. We also played quadrapedal games like mimicking animal motion: glide like a cat, jump like a monkey or leap like a frog. The best fun was probably vaulting over gates on the forest trail – at first we all thought, no way, I’ll walk around the gate, but by the end we’d learned how to jump over it with ease.

Great Gorilla Run

We learned about Gorillas and Monkeys – and yes there is a Great Gorilla Run in London

Will you run better now?

Yes, if I stick with the drills over time. While I mightn’t get faster immediately, I should have a better technique, which can only help further towards my potential. The video analysis and feedback from Tony told me I need to have a more upright posture, with a straighter back, head over my shoulders, arms relaxed and a higher foot cadence to ensure I pull my feet off the ground quicker. Our body’s flexibility should also be improved by practicing the natural movement drills.

Would I recommend the course?

It depends what you’re looking for – if you’re interested in learning about the human body and how we can reach our full potential, I think this course has some merit. Time will tell whether it leads to the bold claim of injury free running, but I like the philosophy, not just for running, but for leading a more balanced physical and mental life. I also liked the historical aspect of this course, which explores the development of humans on this planet, from primates to bipeds to “zoo humans.” The ideas are thought provoking on how living in a society with so many technological developments and comforts can challenge our body’s fundamental design and suitability for this environment.

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