If we asked you how to become a better runner you’d probably answer that you need to up the miles, the speedwork, maybe do more hills. But what if there was a way to become a stronger, more efficient, more resilient to injury and even a faster runner without all that pain and effort?
Meet Shane Benzie, running technique coach, movement specialist and man on a mission to get us thinking more about the way we move. He’s studied and assisted runners in the US, UK, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda (and is about to head out to the Arctic) and has a special interest in helping amputees to create the symmetry and balance they need to run. And when I say studied, he’s got hundreds of hours of videos featuring runners demonstrating their gaits and incredible amounts of data collected from runners he’s worked with. He takes everything he’s learned from this and is passionate about using it to help us all to develop a natural technique.
At the heart of Shane’s philosophy is fascia. If you’ve read Christopher McDougall’s most recent book, Natural Born Heroes, you might have heard of fascia. [NB If you do an online search for it your search engine will really want to point you towards fascism. This is different.] Fascia is variously described as the connective tissue, a biological fabric or soft tissue webbing, that holds everything together. It envelops everything in our bodies, like a big springy net.
Shane describes fascia as a big rubber band that retains its natural spring. When we move well we enjoy a beautiful elastic recoil. We harness the natural springiness of the body’s fascia and we benefit from the rebound. However, we’re not always in tune with this helpful natural resource. We do strange things with our arms, our foot placement, we bend at the waist, we look as if we’re searching for fivers on the pavement, rather than holding our heads up. And that’s just me. I’m sure you do something equally bad to sabotage all that free energy in your body’s natural rebound.
So how does Shane work with runners to get them to maximise their elasticity and make sure everything’s working synergistically? He decided the easiest way was to show me. Firstly, he used ViMove software to take a look at what my body does when it runs. This is cutting edge stuff - Manchester United are using it to assess the movement of their players and pick up on imbalances and weaknesses in limbs before injury occurs. It showed, among other data, the forces I put through each leg, the speed I moved at, the symmetry of movement. And actually, I didn’t come out of this as badly as I thought.
Then Shane filmed me running around a park. Just prior to this he showed me a video of Wilson Kipsang running in Kenya so I was always going to come out of this looking a bit inferior. When he played my sorry gait back in slo-mo I did indeed look distinctly un-Kipsang-like. I knew I was a heel striker but I didn’t know just how much of a heel striker I was! And my arms! Why wasn’t I aware of the strange movements they make that make them look like somebody else’s arms on my body?
So how do I become a better, more efficient, stronger runner. Ah, that’s in part two. Coming soon...
If you’d like to get in contact with Shane to find out more about his analysis and technique coaching at his company, Running Reborn, take a look at his website here