Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Book Review: Master The Art of Running

Master the Art of Running: Raising Your Performance with the Alexander Technique By Malcolm Balk

I picked this up as a quick read on our recent trip to Kentucky because it looked like a slim fairly easy read. I was hoping there would be some cool tricks in this book to help me increase my speed and endurance. I had never heard of the Alexander technique and had no idea how it related, but I hoped it helped me run faster. 

Instead of focusing on how to run faster or last longer (attitudes the book refers to as "end gaining") the book focuses more on using your body more effectively, good posture, good breathing, and listening to your body. Early in the book the author points out anecdotal evidence to show that the majority of people who are running or working out simply as a chore are not getting the most out of their time.  It was a study that was cited that discussed how much better runners did when not "engaged" that has helped me put away the head phones while I run and focus more on my form and my surroundings. 

There are many great tips in the book including the 3 to 3 breathing technique I have tried to adapt. I also thought the focus on the impact your posture can have on your run, even when you are sitting or standing.  

Who is Alexander? Well, I honestly thought he would be some great runner or great running coach. In fact Alexander was a voice over specialist who developed breathing and use techniques to help save his voice. These techniques have been adapted to other areas of life. You can not learn everything about the technique from this book, which is why Mr. Balk offers workshops to help train you to use the technique.

Many of the ideas in the book seem to focus on a holistic approach to running and while it offers a lot of great tips it is also full of some abstract ideas that are not fully fleshed out. Many of the tests the book recommends you to administer would be very difficult to do without a trained proctor to assist you.

If you enjoy running but would like some techniques to increase the enjoyment or to help you transition from running as a chore to running for enjoyment, I would recommend the book. If you are looking for insights into successful "end gaining" this is probably not the best book for you. I have  taken a few things from the book which has made running more enjoyable and for that reason alone I am glad I took the time.

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