"Master the Art of Running: Running with the Alexander Technique"
by Malcom Balk and Andrew Shields
Reading history and reviews
Finished on 29th September 2009Kyle bought this for my birthday at the start of the year, and it's one in a series of "Master the Art of..." books where the principles of the Alexander Technique (AT) are brought to bear on specific activities such as running or swimming. I've been running recreationally a couple of times a week for about a year now and have been developing my interest in AT for roughly the same length of time, but for the most part I'd been focusing more on my swimming. So it took a six week lay-off from swimming to focus on applying the principles to my running, and it was interesting to read this book in that context.
It starts off with the obligatory potted history of Alexander and outlines the general principles of AT (being mindful and aware of what you're actually doing, and of the physical relationships between different parts of the body - specifically the head, neck and back) before moving on to look at how these principles are often ignored - especially in competitive runners - and how they can be applied specifically in running. This includes both body position (as opposed to "posture") and mental attitude, and is as often about not doing what is "wrong" as it is about doing what's "right" (although AT is not dogmatic about "right" and "wrong"). This isn't a training manual, although it does offer some exercises and drills - it's more about increasing awareness of your technique, and then working to improve it.
For me, not being a competitive runner I found the later chapters about competition less essential. But there's still a lot of interesting stuff that I've started to apply to my own running, and I can see myself trying out more of the exercises in the future. I'm not sure how much someone who is less familiar with AT would get out of this, although it doesn't assume previous knowledge - but hopefully the principles can still be applied, and they might feel inspired to learn more in future. For me, by approaching Alexander's principles again from another direction I think it's renewed some of my interest in those principles not just in running but across my life as a whole - and I can imagine getting more out of this book in future re-readings.