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Beautiful Movement: A day with Shane Benzie

How 12lbs becomes 40lbs…. Use your Tripod… Your arms are crucial… You are an elastic band…

Shane loves runners and more specifically how they run. He works towards creating what he calls “beautiful movement”. He has worked all around the globe with all kinds of athletes to develop his thoughts on how we can all work towards and achieve ‘Beautiful movement”.

And this was the reason 14 runners had gathered at Odd Down playing fields, Bath. They wanted to gain some insight, through video analysis and discussion of how they might improve their own technique.

Shane is not your classic academic who is found researching, writing papers and sitting within the walls of an institution. He is out in the field, watching, experiencing and entrenching himself with those who run.

He opens the day with the proposition that we are all born to run, we are designed to perform this function and all we need to do is unlock the movement. It is not as instinctive to us any more due to the nature of our western lifestyles. He wanted to take us back, to simplify what we do and how it should look in its purest form.

In order to do this he took different facets of running in turn. Each component was broken down, starting with video analysis of how the runners currently move, discussion on the physiology of how we should move and then a follow up video to show the runners putting their specific adjustments into practice.

We started with the anatomy of the foot. We have a quarter of million nerves in our feet which provide a lot of data every time we hit the ground. The debate on correct foot placement rages on but Shane advocates a neutral foot placement. This makes use of the most stable point of contact, the tripod. The ‘tripod’ is a triangle drawn between your heel to the ball of your foot to the little toe. The arch of your foot is what he calls the “core”. Arches are strong by the definition of their shape and are nature’s natural shock absorber.

Having put the tripod to good use we discussed the head and how it can influence your running from the notion that its position makes a huge difference. It weights 12lbs when nicely aligned on top of your spine but as you bring it forward becomes heavier and pulls your muscles and spine. It increases in weight by 10lbs for every cm of forward movement!

Who would want to carry 40lbs of extra weight around with you as you run around the countryside? Maintaining an eye line set on the horizon will keep the weight on top of your shoulders in a neutral position. Our dynamic posture results from your everyday posture: as I sit here looking down on a laptop keyboard I know I am not doing my posture any good what so ever.

You use your legs to run, sure. But I challenge you to rethink this. Do you ever really consider your arms? You should, because what you do with your arms is crucial to running performance. Think about driving your elbows back and keep your hands above hip height. If you drive back with the elbows the elasticity of the facial system will bring them forward. Your fingers should be held lightly together to complete the neural pathway but also ensures you don’t waste energy tensing. Relax…

Think of yourself as an elastic band as this will help you visualise how you can use this tension to drive you forward in ‘beautiful motion’. Head alignment, leading with your chest and correct foot placement under the hip will all help in our quest to run faster, smoother and with less effort.

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