“It was mind-blowing,” said Amidou a few days after our natural movement workshop this weekend with Tony Riddle and Ben Medder. I had been prepared for what we’d see since I had already been through a 4 hour workshop with “Tony” but I still came away with my head spinning and the feeling of a worldview fundamentally shaken.
I have known of holistic performance approaches, natural eating and running and the chemical and neurological processes in the body for some time, but this workshop tied everything together into a cohesive whole. We don’t truly have a “reptilian brain” (reptiles are our cousins, we are not more advanced versions of them, but we share some parts of our brain from the early days of evolution when our “family” the synopsids split from the sauropsids who would become the birds, dinosaurs and reptiles). Yet, “reptilian brain” or not, we have a powerful primitive part of our brain which ingrains habits that are hard to break all in the name of comfort, energy-conservation and survival.
“Zoo-humans” is what Tony refers to us modern men as and he does not look at modern athletes at all when looking for inspiration for proper technique but rather those who retain the vestiges of a natural society without sitting and the many other damaging aspects of modern living. We exude most of the diseases and dysfunctional habits you would see in caged animals and only once you work to restore these unnatural influences can you fully return “to normal”.
The course was a tour-de-force of theory as well, and for the first time I believe I fully understand how the external forces of nature (such as the law of gravity) interact with the internal forces we create through our motion. It is easy over-intellectualise this topic, which is the opposite of what Tony tries to achieve, but I’ll never look at the word “lever” the same way again (more on this some other time).
I have struggled to fill this blog post with updates due to time constraints but also the sheer volume of information I could cover, so instead I’ll enjoy my Kerry Easter weekend away with a group of more than 30 mountain runners. On the Saturday we’ll showcase some of Tony’s techniques to our group as the morning warm-up. It’s hard to cram the topic and teachings into the 17 hours we had last weekend, so will be even harder to cram it into 30 minutes, but we’ll do what we can.
And what about your running style you may ask? Sorry, I almost forgot, Tony’s first “intervention”, seems to have fixed my posture to a high degree but I am a notorious “push-puller” meaning I both push my leg, and then pull it, off the ground when I should only be pulling. “You’re really a remarkable machine,” Tony said as a “confidence booster”, I’m sure, as he coached me through barefoot running on hard gravel trail on the Wicklow Way. He meant that despite this huge waste of energy and wear on the muscles, the aerobic training allows massive amounts of energy to be produced. It should be impossible to be competitive with such a huge waste of energy in each stride, but it shows the remarkable adaptability of the human body and the huge energy reserves you open up when you rely on the fatty acid metabolism. But this type of action eventually will lead to mechanical breakdown.
I’ll leave you with that, enjoy your Easter and perhaps see you in Kerry!