Managing your posture is a powerful tool when you’re running.
It can mean the difference between struggling through a 2 mile run or effortlessly breezing past 10 miles. It’s the difference between a training season without injury and one with multiple setbacks due to overuse. Posture is the difference between casual exercise and goal-oriented training.
Now that Spring is here and more and more people are out running again, I thought I’d write a blog about how your posture can dramatically improve performance and reduce the risk of injury.
Let’s start from the ground up – how should your foot hit the ground? I used to think that a midfoot strike was best. It allows you to hit the ground softly with a slightly bent knee to distribute shock evenly. The alternative is a heel strike with a straight leg – it generates a lot of force that must be absorbed by the knees and lower back.
The latest research is fairly inconclusive as to which is better. The midfoot strike is definitely softer and easier on the body, but as far as efficiency goes, it depends on the runner. Go with what feels natural for you.
Moving up, the hips are your center of gravity. You’ll run more efficiently if you keep your hips directly over your feet. Therefore, it’s better to shorten your stride just a bit and increase your cadence.
The glutes are the major hip muscles – they are large, powerful muscles that control hip and thigh movement. Focus on these muscles when you run and use them for power and rely less on the smaller leg muscles – they are more easily overworked and injured. This is one of the most crucial tips for efficient, injury-free running.
Next, let’s move all the way up to your head. Keep your head up with your eyes fixed on the horizon (instead of looking down). Keeping your head up improves oxygen uptake and running efficiency. It also helps determine your overall running posture.
Your shoulders should be low and loose in order to allow the best range of motion for your arms and reduce the risk of injury at the shoulder joint. Relaxed shoulders play a key role in keeping the rest of your body relaxed.
Carry your arms at stomach level with your elbows gently bent to 90 degrees. Your wrists should be loose and your hands unclenched – this will help reduce tension in your shoulders, chest, and back. Swing your arms back and forth (not across your body) and use arm movement to drive your legs forwards and backwards. Using your arms for power coordinates the propulsion and efficiency of your legs.
Finally, keeping your head up and your eyes fixed on the horizon will automatically place your chest in the best position for optimal breathing. Avoid leaning too far forwards or backwards – this puts excess stress on your back, knees, and Achilles tendons.
Above all, running should be carefree and fun. It’s a great way to relieve stress and shouldn’t feel like work! Think about your posture and these guidelines, but also do what feels right and natural for you. The more you enjoy yourself, the easier it will feel.