For many years now, the fitness industry has embraced the importance of research, which in turn has driven technological advancements in exercise equipment design.
While the need for equipment driven training methods will always be popular, it is nevertheless refreshing to see that bodyweight training is fast becoming an integral part of many exercise programmes.
However, among the multitude of bodyweight approaches that are widespread in the industry,
running technique is often missing or understated. Is this an oversight on our part, or do
Do we assume that running is not a useful skill to master?
From a developmental perspective, learning to run has a number of pre-requisites:
we learn to crawl, squat, stand, walk and jump, before we learn to run. However, as functioning adults it’s easy to assume that we have mastered these
developmental milestones. From an evolutionary perspective, our hardware
is ideally adapted to run - consider our upright posture, long legs, and the design of a
foot that is as complete as can be for terrestrial locomotion.
So surely the simple act of running now becomes not only a useful movement pattern, but
an essential one to master for any human?
Running has long been a popular form of exercise for many individuals. However,
just like any other movement pattern, there is a skill to running – a skill that when
mastered reap the benefits of injury-free movement and other health benefits. I was
fortunate enough to experience the skill of running at a recent
exclusive 5-day training clinic at VIVOBAREFOT, delivered by internationally renowned
running expert, Lee Saxby. Since then, Premier Training International and VIVOBAREFOT have collaborated to produce an exclusive 1-day workshop on Running Technique.
As we build up to the launch of our first Running Technique workshop, I caught up with
Lee Saxby to get his thoughts on running technique and his unique approach to coaching it.
KP: Lee, I’d like to thank you for giving up time in your busy schedule to talk to us today.
For those readers who haven’t heard of you, tell us a little bit about your background in the
world of running.
Lee Saxby: Thanks Kesh. The running world began to knock at my door in 2010 after the book ‘Born to Run’ was published. The author, Chris MacDougall came to see me just before
the book was released with chronic plantar fasciitis – which I managed to fix by adjusting
his technique. As the popularity of the book and the philosophy of barefoot running grew, so
did the demand for coaching in correct technique. People rapidly discovered that there is
a lot more to barefoot running than just ‘taking your shoes off’!
KP: It seems that almost everyone who runs on a regular basis is suffering from
various niggles and injuries. Why is this so common?
Lee Saxby: Running is very skilful. A 5K run requires the ability to balance 2-3 times your
body weight on one leg for a fraction of a second for over 6000 reps! Even though
we have been designed to run, if you don’t have the technique, strength and flexibility to handle these forces you will get injured.
KP: Having recently attended your 5-day Training Clinic, I was surprised by the simplicity
of your approach. In an industry that is often drowning in information, yet starving
for wisdom – is simplicity an important part of running education?
Lee Saxby: Nature loves simple, elegant solutions and running should definitely fall into this category!
KP: Many of our readers will be aware of approaches to ‘natural’ running, including
POSE and Chi running. How does your coaching model differ, and what is the message
you are trying to promote?
Lee Saxby: On the surface most approaches to ‘natural’ running technique appear to espouse the same principles: “forefoot/ mid-foot strike, good posture” etc. But there are fundamental differences in definitions and methodology. My approach is based on evolutionary biology and ethology, and the premise of my coaching model is that running is a skill and that the foundation of skill is proprioceptive feedback.
This essentially translates to learning to run barefoot and mastering a ‘barefoot style’.
KP: You have a strong passion for evolutionary biology and biomechanics.
How important are these subjects when it comes to improving running skill?
Lee Saxby: Not very important for runners but incredibly important for running coaches! A solid grounding in these subjects stops coaches getting confused by the latest fitness trends and marketing propaganda!
KP: Is improving running skill simply a matter of running more, or are there specific exercises that can be done alongside running?
Lee Saxby: Running is the same as any other motor skill – “practice does not make perfect”, only “perfect practice makes perfect”! Therefore, warming up with specific running drills
and taking the time to build running specific strength, flexibility and elasticity is important
if you want to improve performance and reduce the risk of injury.
KP: So, onto the subject of footwear. There appears to be a lot of choice and confusion when it comes to running shoes, from minimalist footwear to those that offer high levels of
motion control. What should we be looking for in a running shoe?
Lee Saxby: It’s actually quite simple if you ignore all the marketing/ pseudoscience. The human body is the product of 2 million years of endurance running. The foot and the brain will provide all the shock absorption and motion control you need if you allow them to communicate with each other. But shoes are useful if they provide at least one of 3 things:
protect the foot from puncture wounds, protect the foot from thermal damage, and provide extra traction.
Normally, it’s a tradeoff between these 3 elements and sensory feedback, so if a shoe
doesn’t do any of these 3 things it’s not worth wearing!
KP: Finally, you have often been referred to as the ‘world’s best running coach’ – who
do you take your inspiration from?
Lee Saxby: Actually, I think I was referred to as the ‘world’s best barefoot running coach’, which is a completely different accolade! There are probably hundreds of running coaches that are far superior to me in experience and skill (Alberto Salazar springs to mind!). I take my inspiration from Mother Nature and her laws - don’t mess with Mother Nature! If you’ve been inspired by Lee Saxby then take Premier’s Running Technique Instructor Training course to gain cutting-edge knowledge and skills in analysing and improving running technique.
This one-day workshop requires you to hold a minimum of a REPs accredited Level 2 Fitness Instructor qualification as well as working actively in the health and fitness, or sports conditioning/coaching industry with a range of clients.
All Fitness ___ Interview with an expert: Lee Saxby
Kesh Patel Research & Development Manager