It all started out the way you would expect. It was a beautiful summer day, and there was a pretty girl, and I was going for it. I was showing off out on the sparkling turquoise waters, going back and forth on a windsurf board that she knew, and I knew, that I had no business using to show off.
After hours out on the water, I started to make my way back to the wooden Turkish yacht the small group of us were on for the week. She came with her friend on the rowboat, and I lurched up from the water onto the boat. My eye aggressively discovered a rowing oar, and soon I was using a cold can of Coca Cola as an ice pack as we headed back to the yacht.
But then a smiling wizard whacked me with a foam tube when I returned. And little did I know at the time, but what mattered most from that week was the wizard and not the girl.
That was the week I went from a level of unremarkable parity with my running teammates my own age to the fastest kid in the school.
Play fighting on a boat for a week with a martial arts master naturally trained my body to function at a higher level of body mechanics. Instead of isolated muscles or groups of muscles doing their lonely work lifting, moving, and straining, larger networks of muscles, tendons and fascia were enlisted. And so running and other movements became that much easier for me to do.
Sword fighting with foam tubes while balancing on a yacht rocking gently in the Mediterranean turned out to have many of the crucial elements to introducing me to a model of running training I now use with clients. It had play and laughter. It introduced far better biomechanics. And the context of the rocking boat was connected to all that.
Why a rocking boat? The story behind that begins with the sad reality of the concrete and asphalt jungle we live in today. With its often uniformly flat surfaces, our modern world removes us from the natural world we evolved to live in. With flat surfaces, our bodies can relax and become lazy. Rather than actively responding to the surface, our bodies become static in their muscle use. They search for the easiest way to stand, regardless of its long-term impact on the body. Contrast this to a jaguar or tiger moving across natural surfaces in the wild with their rippling musculature flowing smoothly underneath the skin.
We are meant to move that way, and I believe this is why smaller animals such as chimpanzees are said to be five times stronger than a human. Not because we can't be at least that strong, but because we don't know how to use our own bodies and create destructive habits around their use.
These habits hinge on fulcrums. A fulcrum is any point in our body upon which we rest ourselves when standing or sitting. Take a look at how you are sitting right now. Your back is probably against a chair with a certain point touching the chair. Perhaps your neck is leaning a certain way. Those spots (probably bent to a certain degree) are your fulcrums in this moment. They are resting points, that if counted on regularly result in knots and limited access to other muscles, tendons and fascia of which that knot is a part.
So, back to the boat. A rocking boat forced me to balance and subconsciously told my body to be just a little bit on alert. In response, my body naturally began shifting how it used my muscles, tendons, and fascia. Just like in nature, where uneven surfaces force the body to balance and respond dynamically. As a result, I become stronger, more supple, and able to distribute work across more of my body- lessening the strain on any particular part.
And a week of doing it carried over into years of running!
Thanks for reading, and happy running!
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