I want to tell you a story about me and my son going for a run together, because it so neatly explains how just a little knowledge about how the body works can make a big difference to your experience of moving.
So. My son and I went out for a run around our local park. The perimeter is about 2km (a little over a mile), so not too taxing even for a nearly nine year old.
About two thirds of the way round, my son said his right shoulder was starting to ache. Now neither he nor I could say we are experienced runners, but even we know that our shoulders shouldn’t be doing most of the work while running!
After checking it was okay with him to do some Alexander Technique work, I ran behind him for a few paces to see what was going on. He was throwing his entire shoulder region all over the place as he ran.
I break my story here to explain some anatomy…
Most people don’t realise that, functionally speaking, they have two shoulder joints: the shoulder girdle, which is formed by the collarbone and shoulderblade; and the glenohumeral joint, which is the ball and socket joint formed by the shoulder blade and the upper arm bone (humerus).
If you’re just moving your arm forwards and backwards, the glenohumeral joint will do the job admirably. You don’t need to waggle the whole shoulder girdle.
Back to the story.
I asked my son to stop, and with a bit of hands-on work I explained to him that he could use his whole shoulder region, but that he had a different shoulder joint that could move his arm back and forth more easily. And when he just move at the ball and socket joint, his arm moved so freely and easily that my son laughed.* And then he started to run.
For the first two paces, the right arm was moving in the new way, and the left arm in the old waggly way. But then he changed his left arm to the new streamlined movement. Not only did he move more gracefully, he moved more easily.
Result: he took off. He flew along. I had to work hard to keep up with him!
Once my son stopped doing the waggly thing with his arm, his shoulder stopped getting sore.** Once he knew which joints did what, his running improved.
What could you improve, if you just knew what muscles and joints you have, and how to use them?
* FM Alexander talks about how children love learning about how their bodies work. He writes: “They are not slow to recognise that they are themselves the most interesting machines, and their natural interest in mechanics finds full scope in the process of their own re-education.” Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual, IRDEAT edition, p.381.
** An important caveat here. If you are experiencing pain or discomfort, SEE A DOCTOR. There may be something physiologic or structural going on that the doctor can sort out. The Alexander Technique is fantastic, but it isn’t medicine, and can’t cure medical conditions.
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