I'm what you might call a little bit obsessed with fascia, not surprising really as it plays a major part in my job. But I've also been revisiting some fantastic books about the role it plays in our sporting performance.
Your fascia is the connective tissue that connects every part of the body with every other part, in essence it's what makes the human body a chain, a chain of explosive, elastic power that we need to unlock to really achieve our potential.
The question is, how do we best do this as runners? I mean running is simple right? You just put on your shoes, grab your Garmin and head out the door (if it's not on Strava...).
But what if a few tweaks or even just one small tweak to what you're doing could bring about some big improvements?
Surely that's an issue worth exploring, because believe it or not it's not just about training harder, running more or even running faster.
Run tall, run beautifully
As both a running coach and sports massage therapist I spend a lot of time watching people move, if i'm in the car I cant help but people watch and if I see someone running along the road I have to of course critique their form!
Reading about running form is a minefield of conflicting opinions and views, heel striking, mid foot landing, barefoot running, ground contact, vertical oscillation, arm drive, energy leakage etc. It's hard to know which of these are relevant and whats the benefit of looking at them.
So, how about instead of looking at everything we just take one thing and focus on that? Let that one thing sink in and become part of our muscle memory before delving deeper.
Maybe by changing one thing, other things will naturally follow?
The mantra I think that works best here is "run tall, run beautifully". Focusing on the first and most important part and this is to 'run tall'. So next time you're out just think 'run tall' and lift your head, chin up and eyes forward and not looking at the floor, shoulders back and relaxed and see how you feel. Think of nothing else and every so often during your run just repeat to yourself 'run tall'. Catch a glimpse of yourself hunched over, then run tall. Feeling the weight of your head hanging forward, then run tall.
Before heading out for a run, what do you do? How do you prepare your body for hard efforts? Whats your warm up routine? If your one of those people that regard a warm up as an easy first mile then the addition of 5-10 minutes spent on preparation is going to be a huge benefit to you.
Before you even leave the house a 5 minute foam rolling routine will be the single most effective thing you can do, work your legs, glutes and mid back and you'll be amazed how it improves your form and flexibility. Dont believe me? Then try it, surely you have 5 minutes spare.
If you're planning a tough session then drills are essential to prime and prepare your body for what you're about to put it through. They take running form and break it into it's primary movements and ignite the respective muscles for whats coming. A nice steady warm up run to warm the body and raise the heart rate followed by run specific drills for 10 minutes and feel the difference when your session starts.
Want to learn more?
Reading is a great place to start. A fantastic book I would recommend is The Lost Art of Running by Shane Benzie and if you have hours and hours of time on your hands then take a look at The Lore of Running by Tim Noakes, I warn you now its over 1000 pages!
Also get somebody to film you running, watch other people run, look at your reflection in a shop window as you run past but most importantly focus on running tall with your head up.
If you're still reading by this point you are just the sort of person that will benefit massively from coming along to one of my foam rolling workshops where I discuss all things fascia related and show you how to effectively use a foam roller as both a body maintenance tool and an athletic performance enhancer! This includes fully demonstrating myofascial release techniques, running through a 5 minute pre-run routine and a detailed full body workout.
The key to foam rolling is less about rolling and more about releasing, 5 minutes rolling up and down just doesn't cut it but a few minutes knowing what you're doing and you'll see and feel the benefits.