Alexander Technique & Running
talk: Friends Meeting
House, London, 28 April 2009
By Lynn Edmonstone
Balk, an Alexander Teacher from Canada came to give a short
talk on his life as an AT teacher and how he has applied the
technique to his passion -running.
of this review is so that anyone who was unable to make the
talk can still benefit from his words of wisdom on the
trained with Patrick McDonald and Shoshana
Kaminitz in 1984.
As an AT Teacher, he works a great deal with musicians as he
himself confessed to previously playing the cello like a
Before his Alexander
training, Malcolm used to compete in marathons and had
observed an increase in injuries, a lack of emotionality for
the pursuit and the fact his technique was not improving.
Upon embarking upon his AT training he was advised by
McDonald to "Continue to run . . . but don’t tighten
Since applying the
technique to his own running practice, he now teaches many
workshops for runners all over the world including the
International Congress in Brighton and with Robin Simmons in
Switzerland. Since these workshops, Malcolm noticed the
number of injuries was reducing.
Before going any
further, Malcolm wanted to find out why we had come to this
event and what we wanted to gain from the evening. Here are
How to find more joy
How to learn to work
better with pupils who do running as a hobby;
How to get more
motivated and run with less effort;
What about breathing
in running compared to singing?
What about equipment
i.e. running shoes, does he have any advice?
One of the first
things Malcolm mentioned was "It makes sense to take
lessons". If one was to embark on any other sport i.e. hand
gliding you wouldn’t think of starting before getting some
tips from an expert. The same applies to running, however
many people think they can do a marathon with little
preparation and simple shoes.
We began to look at
some typical unhelpful habits that hinder one’s joy and
cause too much effort to be used when running. With the
help of a video camera (the modern version of F.M
Alexander’s mirrors) we observed several runners and here is
what we discovered:
people have their gaze / head towards the ground (mainly
to avoid stepping on dog poo!) The first piece of
advice was to "stay up" and ensure the "head
leads and the body follows" . . . . . this was
repeated several times during the event.
running a common habit is to land on the toes. Malcolm
advised it was better to land on the ball of the foot.
He also said that good runners spend less time on the
ground, their steps are quick and light. "tap, tap,
"Pulling on the breaks" .
. . this is where one would drive the heal of the foot
into the ground when in reality we should be aiming for
the foot to land underneath you. Malcolm said that if
you run barefoot, you never dig your heal into
"Pushing off" . . . this
is where the back leg is straight propelling us forward
when in actual fact we want the "Head to lead us into
length" and avoid having such a wide stride as
gravity will naturally move us forward without having to
make so much extra effort.
don’t stretch enough -"Stretching is a bit like
flossing, we should do it more often".
people waste too much energy from moving up and down in
space when running but in an ideal world the head should
stay level. (Watch George Best run with little movement
up and down on You Tube).
question of breathing, Malcolm said that:
Alexander Teacher doesn’t talk about breathing" . . .
"If you lengthen and widen, the breath takes care of itself"
. . . "When you start running, the breath happens by
onto how he works with runners in an Alexander lesson and he
uses several methods:
- As per
usual working on a chair to improve the student’s
general use because many people "run like they sit".
He gave the obvious example of the football player on
the bench slouching over and then getting up to play the
game in peak condition. So it makes sense to improve
how one moves and sits throughout the day so as to avoid
a "split personality" and "stay the same
person . . . to stay up and with length always and
everywhere so that when you start to run, you are
continuing in the same fashion".
Negative practice -this is where you would exaggerate
the negative activity with the student so they can
really sense what they are doing repeating the negative
Continue to emphasise the right way to reinforce a more
desirable technique i.e. head up with a good connection
from the head through to the foot, arms bent.
to the question about equipment, Malcolm recommends a
running shoe that is not too bulky and not too thin. He
reminded us that running shouldn’t be hard work unless you
are a competitive runner.
information can be found in his book "Master the Art of
Running" . . . or by attending a workshop . . . details of
which can be found on Malcolm’s website: