The TCR Framework - Blockages
The system I’ve developed over the past ten years – first to teach myself to run better, and then to teach hundreds of other runners – looks at things a little differently from most running coaches and courses.
They all talk about, teach and contain elements that are the same as my approach, but they do it by accident rather than deliberately.
Of course, I still need to think about how our muscles, bones and connective tissue all adapt. I still need to build strength and mobility into the system. But the one major difference is that first, I look at what’s causing the blockage in the system.
I am always asking “why?”. Why is your foot turning out? Why is your heel whipping? Why aren’t you even aware that you are doing these things?
Quite simply, if you can’t move your hips smoothly, if you can’t bend forwards without your hamstrings jamming tight; if you get painful knees going past 5 miles (or 15 miles or just 100 metres), then you have a blockage in your system. Something is stopping you moving properly; something is creating pain.
And no matter how many physio visits, new pairs of shoes or hours of stretching, you are unlikely to progress properly until you address the blockage in your system.
So what’s this system I keep on about? It’s your nervous system – the network of nerves that carry all kinds of messages back and forth between your body’s tissues, muscles, joints and your brain.
You see, your brain is at the top of the tree. It’s the master controller that ultimately decides whether you can run that PB or not. If that sounds a bit “out there” or perhaps even too simple. consider this (go try it now):
Try for Yourself
Lie down on the floor on your back, with your legs stretched out straight.
Keeping your legs straight (locked at the knee), lift your right leg.
You’ll be able to lift it so far, and this is called your active range of motion.
Now imagine you have someone helping you, and when you reach the limit of where you can lift your leg they take over. They push your leg gently up until you tell them that’s enough as it’s tight and stretched to the max: this is your passive range of motion and is almost always larger than your active range of motion.
Now, let’s imagine that you were put under general anaesthetic and then someone lifts your leg (I know you can’t do that right now – please don’t try any DIY alternatives!). Your leg would have way more range of motion than before, only stopping when there is a physical restriction such as bone or actual tissue length. But why is this?
Quite simply, it’s your nervous system. By taking your brain and nervous system out of the picture – by putting it to sleep – we see the actual and real full range of motion your leg is capable of.
But why does your brain and nervous system reduce or block the range of motion with either the active or passive stretches? Why would it limit it like that?
The answer is very simple: protection. Or rather: safety.
And this is exactly why it likes the status quo: for you to stay the same as you are now – whether that’s in your running, your bodyweight and composition or any other aspect of your life. Being stuck is often seen by your brain as the safer option to making change.
Your brain’s number one job is survival and it does this by keeping you safe at all times. It constantly monitors everything, and if it senses something – anything – as a threat, it will take action to reduce that threat.
If you have ever watched the opening of the animated movie The Croods, you can see this illustrated perfectly in a hilarious display of total brain safety lockdown.
Anyway, the father of the family hates them being out of their cave and does everything he can to keep them in there. He lives in complete fear of being eaten or otherwise forced into extinction – a brilliant representation of the brain as master controller in survival mode.
And yes, it’s a pretty extreme example, but it does show us how you can be held back by the brain’s desire to keep you safe. In our modern culture, it is unlikely that we’ll be eaten. However, there are plenty of other threats. some of which aren’t very obvious…
Image credit: Z-Health
Discovering, reducing and aiming to completely eliminate some of those threats is what your goal needs to be for you to improve as a runner.
This is the approach I’ve taken since I started running, although I didn’t know it at the time. And it’s this way of training and teaching that sets me apart from most other coaches and systems.