Running Coach Lee Saxby Clinic


Lee Saxby image courtesy of

Last Thusday evening Lee Saxby came by ZombieRunner in Palo Alto to give a running clinic, and I had the good fortune to hear about it and participate.  Lee resides in London, comes from a physical rehab therapist background, has solid knowledge in fitness, anatomy, physiology and biomechanics, and in working with Dr. Nicholas Romanov is now a Level IV Pose coach.  He was in  the US with Terra Plana shoes giving clinics and made an extra stop.

Lee’s normal process is to work with an individual for about an hour.  He videotapes them on a treadmill so he can watch them at 30 frames per second.  The human eye can not see everything going on at full speed.  Then with a few simple exercises and thoughts, he can get people headed on the road to better running, as long as they are prepared to listen.  Better means pain and injury free, more enjoyable, and potentially faster, although that is not the focus.  Since we were a group of about 10 and only had 2 hours, Lee picked one individual to videotape.  He then spent time going through his process and the methodology behind it.

Here are some of the points I took away from the clinic, with a caveat.  These are just some of the things I, as a novice, heard.  Please do not consider this a coaching lesson.  Like you, I am just learning.  Lee, on the other hand, is an excellent speaker and coach – positive, supportive and very inspirational.  If you get a chance to see him in person, I highly recommend it.

Mammals by design have several efficient modes of locomotion.  Just as horses can choose between walking, trotting and galloping, humans can choose between walking and running.  Walking is an incredibly efficient mode for humans.  It is a pendular motion which keeps exchanging kinetic for potential energy.  My understanding is that walking uses about 50 calories more per mile than you would burn just sitting around.  Running, while an efficient mode for humans, is not as efficient mile for mile.  Running takes about 100 calories per mile.  But once you decide to transition from walking to running, you can run at various speeds and still only use about 100 calories per mile.  Once you commit to break into a run, it is very efficient.

What does it mean to run?  This is where Lee comes in.  Running means making use of the springs and levers that make up your legs – things like your plantar facea, your foot’s arch, your achilles tendon all need to come into play.  Running is not jogging.  Jogging is the brain’s subconcious way of trying to keep doing that efficient 50 calorie per mile walking while the jogger is trying to say go faster.  The result is typically heel striking, bent at the waist, injury inducing locomotion – made possible because running shoes prevent the foot from communicating with the brain.

But how do you do it – how do you run?  Lee’s focus is on Posture, Rhythm, Relaxation and being barefoot while learning.

Posture – Head over hips, upright.  Feet landing directly under hips.  There should be a straight line from the head to hips to feet landing.

Rhythm – cadence of 180 steps per minute.

Relaxation – Upper body still and relaxed.  Lower body muscles should also be relaxed.

Sure, there is a lot of stuff going on in your legs, but you don’t want to get caught up in over analyzing all of it.  If you are barefoot, get your posture right and your cadence up, your legs will be free to spin, you will be landing on the ball of your foot, your foot will be in a neutral position (not supinated or pronated) and you will minimize impact.  Let your foot and brain learn how to reconnect without a shoe interfering.

Your feet will actually travel in a circular motion.  Use your hamstring to lift your foot.  Let gravity drop it back.  Keep the cadence up at 180 and focus on lifting your feet.  The landings will take care of themselves.  Do not push off – just lift.

Running requires a strong core.  Planks are a good exercise.  Get in a plank position with your weight forward over your arms.  You can then expand on this by bouncing your belly button up and down.  Then lift one leg and bounce.  Then lift one arm.

Overhead squats are a great way to line up your posture.  Start with a 10 lb. bar and move up as you can.  Balance on the balls of your feet.  Use good form.  Ideally feet flat, but if your heels initially go up, that is OK.  Once comfortable, you can bounce at the bottom of the squat.  Lee is big on rhythm. He also mentioned in many parts of the world they have no chairs and people “sit” by being in a squat.  This is natural and good for you.

He views all of the olympic lifts as good. They build skill, elasticity and range of motion.  Focus is on good technique, range of movement, small reps, and work on increasing the weight.

You can do an instant posture check by holding a bar overhead, stand at a line on the ground and bounce 10 times.  Are you still standing at the line, or have you drifted forward or back.

The foot should travel in a circle, but when it starts flying out too far in back, the body will tend to compensate by having the opposite foot land out in front (remember it should land under you)  You can do a drill where you practice on one side at a time.  Every 4th step, pull your heel straight up to your butt.  This will help to build that memory of foot motion, lifting it up, into your brain.

Your landing should be on the ball of your foot.  If you find the outside of your foot is landing first (closer to your little toe), this may be due to landing out in front of you.  The foot will tend to supinate when you land too far out.

Lee talked a little bit about shoes. He has been running in the Terra Plana Aquas. In fact, it was because he was using their shoe that they connected and began working together. ZombieRunner had the Evo to look at. A very minimal shoe, looks like 0 mm heel to toe drop with a large toe box to give the feet room to splay. Basically a huarache with a light upper. Looks interesting, although expensive.

Here is a link to a video from Lee himself, to give you and idea of what he is like and has to offer:  Terra Plana – Learning the skill of barefoot running.

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