Gary 'Smiler' Turner's Blog

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Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Learning to run

I run quite a bit. I’ve always run. I thought I knew how to run. I was wrong!

Just over a week ago I spent a fantastic hour with The Running School at Woking ( working with an amazing coach – Andy Cornelius. Access had been arranged through my good friend Chris Fletcher – a former marine who I enjoyed a nice 30 mile run with last November. Chris works at the School’s Chiswick branch – Woking was just closer for me!

I was there to have my running style assessed, discussed, and to receive initial coaching as to how I can improve it. In order for this to take place a lovely use of video capture combined with the application of modern technology – and of course a running machine.

During the session I ran several times on the running machine whilst I was videoed from behind and also the side. Detailed explanations were given by Andy at every stage of the process helping me to understand exactly what I was doing and why.

Reviewing the initial footage on the computer I was amazed at just how efficient my running style was. Using slow motion, freeze frame, and using the mouse to draw graphics to help illustrate his points Andy explained every inefficiency in the way that I run. My left hand comes too far across my body. My footfall was uneven between the feet. My left foot crossed my right. My heels were too low. My kinetic flow and my knees weren’t optimum. My right hip flexor showed a lack of movement.

Andy used comparisons with footage of other runners to highlight what I should be doing. With this, and Andy’s detailed explanations, I understood exactly what I should be doing. Now, if only I could actually do it…

We went back to the running machine. Andy worked on just two things – the major ‘corrections’ that I needed to do for the maximum improvement. I needed my heels to ‘lift’ as they leave the floor, and I needed to make my arm movements “like your taking chocolate from your pocket and putting it in your mouth”.

We worked on each in turn and then together. At every stage Andy was coaching me with the perfect level of instruction. We would run for around 20 seconds each time, then review, then go back again and repeat. Andy explained that neurologically the optimum timing for these practice runs was around 20 seconds – any longer and I may start to lose form, any shorter and it wouldn’t be stored in my neurology.

In fact I was very impressed with Andy’s knowledge throughout. Technically he knows running inside out. We discussed POSE running and its problems, and Chi Running and its problems. How wearing minimalist trainers does NOT make you a 'barefoot runner'. Biomechanics, kinetic flow, biotensegrity, neurology - all were handled by Andy perfectly, and he perfectly applied them to running. Yet I was incredibly impressed with his coaching skills! It was almost like I was being given a coaching master-class. As you know, I’m a performance expert, and studying optimum coaching ability and installing it in others is an expert area of mine. The best bit is, Andy didn’t realise just how great a coach he was. He knows he’s getting amazing results with clients, yet, he just has this natural coaching ability. His language, his knowledge, his rapport, his use of words, utilising mirror neurons, focusing on the key areas that make the biggest difference, his modelling skills, his explanations – everything he didn’t was not good practice. It was exceptional practice.

To finish we set up the video capture once more. Lifting my heels and eating my chocolate new footage was recorded. I was already running faster, and it felt easier, more relaxed, and effortless. Reviewing the footage showed a massive difference in my running style. A massive improvement! Just by working on two areas, so much more had fallen into place.

Sure, there is lots of work still to do. That’s why I’m going back! In the mean time I’ve been putting in the deliberate practice so that my heels will naturally lift and my arm movement will be naturally efficient. I’m working on forming a new habit, a habit of running more efficiently. More efficiency means more speed, more stamina, less energy burnt, and most importantly a vastly reduced chance of injuries.

As someone who runs between 35 and 70 miles a week I wish I had found this service sooner. It has already made me a better runner. I’ve even improved the way that I walk as a result – hiking out with the huskies I now walk smoother and faster as well!

My conclusion is that anyone who runs MUST consider getting along to the running school. One session has already resulted in a massive improvement in my ability. They are also too cheap for their services – so get in quick before they realise this! I’m going back for more. I’d be a fool not to!

I asked Andy to put together a little video showing the difference before and after. Reviewing this footage I also understood what I needed to do in order to improve in practice, to not just sustain the improvements, yet to make them better as well. Have a look at the difference:
The Running School Woking - Gary Turner Before and After

In conclusion I am so pleased I went. I didn’t just go and become a better running; I also received a coaching master-class. I am very, very impressed. This blog post sounds like a testimonial, and I guess it is. Because great service and ability needs to be shouted about.

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