Off the Couch at Last

How Nadia & the Feldenkrais Method helped me build a “running habit”

Morya Short
Aug 8, 2016 · 4 min read

As a way to get some exercise running has always made sense to me. It’s free, it can fit into even the most hectic schedule, and it ticks all the boxes when it comes to the physical and mental benefits of exercise.

The problem is I hate it.

Mainly because it’s uncomfortable. Knees, lungs, back you name it, they all hurt while I am running. That and the fact that my first thought at the end of run is, “thank goodness, let’s never do that again.” Over the years I have tried to convince myself that it’s “good pain.” Alas, no matter how I rationalise it, the results have always been the same. My attempt to build a “running habit” have always been short lived.

Until now.

Inspired by a friend of mine who has just completed a half-marathon (well done Jackie). I decided to give it another go. This time I decided to change my approach, since doing the same thing and expecting different results is the first sign of madness.

Following Jackie’s advice I downloaded an app which would help me pace my progress to a 5K run. Starting slow apparently is key to success. Admittedly, anyone who has seen me run might say slow and very slow were my only speeds. Still, I took the advice of my digital friend who every few minutes screamed out “Start running,” “Slow down and walk” and the cringe worthy “Hey, there awesome runner, good job.”

At the end of my first “run” too thoughts struck me.

1. Gratitude for the volume control on my phone.
2. That I could do that again.

It might not seem like much, particularly to seasoned runners but for me this was a big breakthrough. A week later and I have now reached a personal best, 6 runs! Yes, I know underwhelming, but for me it’s a big deal. Plus, I am pretty sure I am going to make it to number 7!

On reflection there are two things that have helped me be 4 x times more successful than any other “running” attempt.

• Firstly, my digital trainer (now she’s on a lower volume and not telling all the dog walkers in a 200m radius to “START RUNNING”).
• Movement between habit and choice (Feldenkrais Method).

If you are not familiar with Feldenkrais it’s a system that improves connections between mind and body promotes pain-free, easy, efficient and graceful movement.

I started classes almost a year ago now because I was curious. I didn’t think I really had problems with my mind body connections, but it turns out I did, which is why Feldenkrais classes have been so amazing. It’s had a huge impact on my running but also less obvious things like standing with easy.

One of the big benefits for running has been becoming more aware of unnecessary effort. It seems obvious that we all choose the most efficient ways of moving but I discovered early on that was only true in principle. For example, holding my shoulders up by my ears while I run does not help. I don’t go faster, it’s not aerodynamically superior. It just makes my shoulders sore. As choices go, it was mad on all fronts. But “choice” is the key word here. I was not making a choice I didn’t even notice I was doing it. Feldenkrais has made my habits obvious to me and given me practices to change them

When I go for a run, instead of stretching before warming up, I run through a few Feldenkrais moves. Then at the end instead of stretching I go back to Feldenkrais. This new routine is helping in a big way, so too is noticing what is happening when I am running. I might notice one of my shins is twisting more than the other or my left hip is not moving as much as my right. Rather than keep repeating the same action until my shin and hip become painful, I change what I am doing. Before I didn’t have much awareness or the understanding that there were other options. I didn’t know I had a choice.

Now, I know I have choices and how to explore them. I still go to a weekly class run by the wonderful Nadia Chavka. It’s going to take me awhile to discover all my unhelpful habits but at least I have help now. I know if I can’t sort out my twisting shin Nadia will have suggestions.

Thanks Nadia. I know people tell you this all the time but you have changed my life!

Morya Short

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Evolutionary dedicated to charting a path to greater joy in life and work. Founder of POSE (Personal Organizational Social Evolution)