Running is addictive because it delves into the unknown, we all have those moments mid race…can I go faster? How long before I blow? Surely I can’t maintain this? Any trick to conserve or recycle energy is like gold dust. But sometimes it pays to work smart rather than hard.
What is Fascia And How Does It Work?
Muscles are encased with fascia – a web of tissue. This fascia is extremely pliable and more to the point, bouncy.
Dr Robert Schleip explains it best. Imagine an elastic band tied to a pen. One sharp tug and the pen bounces up storing the energy for the next rebound, it carries on bouncing without any further effort on your part until the original energy you put in runs out.
Elastic tissue (ie your fascia) works in the same way. Your muscles provide the initial energy moving your legs and body, while, with correct posture, rhythm and technique, your elastic tissue helps recycle that energy.
How To Use Your Fascia For Free Energy
Let’s go back to the elastic band and pen analogy. The energy you put in to make the elastic band bounce is limited. If the pen bounces around erratically from side to side it will waste energy and bounce less efficiently. If however your pen and band stay stacked, in line and move in a vertical motion the band will continue its bounce for longer.
Think of your stereotypical Ballet dancer, flying through the air with grace. What you don’t see is the hours upon hours of training that goes into stacking their bodies, correcting posture and teaching good habits. In Ballet you spring from one trick into the next, using stored elasticity, the same principle can be applied to running. For me, there are three key areas which must be understood.
Think back to your best and worst downhill descents. I bet your best was pure freedom, you felt untouchable, light footed and flying through the air. It may even be hard to put your finger on exactly what you did right. Your worst? It was probably the complete opposite. Awkward, clumsy, heavy, you probably thought out every foothold and eyed out every rock.
When the elastic band is stacked it maintains its bounce for longer. Good running posture is no different, you need to stack your body straight and then lean into your run from the ankles, not the hips or back. Keep your head up and make this a habit. Your fascia will learn both good and bad habits so repeat, repeat, repeat.
Gate and how your feet contact the floor seriously effects your fascias efficiency. The ideal foot strike is mid or forefoot, not heal. Strike the floor heal first and you lose most of your bounce, it’s like putting the breaks on. Ever tried running barefoot? Try it and attempt running heal first, it really hurts. Your body knows what it needs, modern day cushioned shoes just drown out the pain.
If you run stacked straight, leaning from the ankles and look to spring from your big toe lifting your knees forward rather than focusing on the backwards movement the ideal foot strike should come naturally. Still struggling? Increase your cadence (foot turnover,) if you heel strike your stride is probably too long. Add to this a good old arm pump uphill, swinging like a windmill for balance downhill and your set.
You can teach your fascia to run downhill on its own without the brain slowing you down – this is explained in more detail below. Basically, if you try and think out every step, it will take a long time to descend. Switch off and let your feet find their way…let your intuition carry you.
Muscle Memory – Store Good Habits
Your Fascia has nerve endings, it can interpret and send information to the brain. If for instance you look down while you run, your fascia will log this and it will become a habit. I tend to run like a duck, looking down to check my feet seemed innocent and now it’s a habit I am trying to break.
A good coach will teach you the correct techniques and build them into your strength and conditioning. This is what Jayson Cavill did for me and it’s working.
Learning Ballet, you begin class holding onto a bar which is never present during performance. Some think bar work is a warmup, its actually a way of teaching the fascia. What it does is help train your balance and teach your body the correct movements/posture for the tricks you will perform later. Train good habits and good habits will stick.
Don’t Block Your Fascia – Trust Your Intuition
Intuition is apt, it’s like an inner knowing you can’t quite explain. That is because you don’t think, it’s muscle memory uploaded by your fascia to be recalled in the same scenario. How do you think Dancers remember two hour long shows which consist of hundreds of thousands of micro movements? We don’t all have photographic memories.
Practise enough and your fascia will just know how to move; but practise the right techniques and habits.
As with anything there are varying opinions on this subject. I’m just commenting based on what I’ve felt through years as a professional Dancer and what I have learned through research and a short group session with Jayson Cavill.