Spring into exercise safely and with ease after a long winter: Learn the Alexander Technique


One-time opportunity to work with Master Teacher Bill Conable for teachers and students of AT.


The birds are chirping, the trees are in bloom, and suddenly you have the urge to hop on your bike or jog around the park. You dust off your sneakers and off you go. Then… ouch!

While nature can bounce back after months of dormancy, people who are out of shape often cannot. If you have been inactive for a sustained period of time, then sudden or aggressive exercise can prove dangerous since weaker muscles and bones are prone to sprains, tears, and breaks.

According to the University of Maryland’s Baltimore Washington Medical Center, “Emergency rooms and sports medicine clinics see a fairly dramatic rise in sports-related injuries during the spring and summer months.”

Perhaps this year, you could give yourself the opportunity to notice “how” you are doing your exercise of choice, rather than just pushing through it.  The “how” of it is often so much more important than the quantity or mileage though it is hard for us to believe that.

What gets most of us into trouble is a habit the Alexander Technique world calls “end-gaining.” We see where we want to go and we rush to get there without taking the time to really go through the process. Maybe we’ve achieved the goal before so we don’t understand why we can’t just go out and do it again. 

At the Pilates Garage, I have started using the The AlexanderTechnique as a jumping off point for my clients in their pilates work but it applies to all activities. AT is a method that rebalances your mind and body, increases your awareness of good “use,” and promotes efficient movement, thereby decreasing your chance for injury. 

Recently, I came across some advice to runners from an Alexander teacher/running coach named Malcolm Balk. He gives workshops to runners using the technique. Here is his advice for runners. Read it carefully. Even if you aren’t a runner you will notice the language is very different than what our usual “end-gaining” idea of running would be:

  • Lie down for a few minutes before you run to prepare mentally and to allow the spine to decompress. Keep your knees bent and put a few books under your head.

  • Think “up” before you move forward. Most of us have a tendency to shorten and contract before we move - think about lengthening and expanding instead.

  • Release your knees and ankles before you move. This may feel counterintuitive because we tend to clench them before action.

  • Allow your knees - not your feet - to lead your stride. Trying to increase your stride length by extending the foot out further results in a braking action, while the body has to catch up with the legs.

  • Don’t try to “fix” your posture by sucking in the stomach, pulling the shoulders down, tilting the pelvis or pushing the chest forward and up. This creates unnecessary tension.

  • Run with your whole body, not just your legs.

  • Don’t bend at the waist, but to take your weight slightly forward, to let gravity tilt you from the ground up.

  • Look ahead, not down, and keep your eyes “soft”.

  • Don’t expect to get it right all the time. “Even Roger Federer loses sometimes,” says Balk.

  • Practice running very slowly. You’ll notice more about your style. Do you have a light or heavy footfall? Is there any unnecessary tension? How fast do your feet lift off the ground?

  • Set goals. Having a realistic target or goal helps maintain motivation long after the initial thrill of becoming a runner is gone.

Enjoy the beautiful weather and remember to take your time as you launch yourself back into that next run around Prospect Park.