Saturday, August 9, 2014

Improving Your Running Form: Posture

(This is an excerpt from my upcoming Natural Running Guide.)

Good running form starts with good posture. Posture describes the “three natural curves” of the spine. For running, good posture describes your body making a straight line from your head, shoulders, pelvis, and ankles.

If you don’t utilize good running posture it becomes very difficult for you to efficiently use elastic recoil (described in another post). This is because a kinked posture forces your muscles to work harder to keep your body from collapsing, preventing you from reusing much of your running momentum.

Bad Posture
Because there are so many ways that a person can have bad posture when running, I'll just use an example that makes it very difficult to use good running economy (discussed in a later post). First and foremost, DO NOT SLOUCH when running. Slouching misaligns your running column and requires more energy from your muscles for support. It also reduces the amount of elastic recoil energy that can be stored in your feet and calves.

Good Posture
Correct posture is all about standing tall but relaxed. Your body should be straight (like a column), with your head, shoulders, hips, and ankles lined up. This alignment allows your skeleton—and not your muscles—to do most of the work of supporting your weight.

Also, your posture will largely follow the position of your head, so make sure to keep your head and eyes are forward. Your pelvis should be in a neutral position (not tipped forward or backward, but level).

Finally, for some passive acceleration (discussed later), lean at the ankle.

Improving Your Posture
Correcting poor posture takes a little while to master, mostly because standing with good posture will initially feel weird and "unnatural." However, if you do the following drill twice a day (once when you wake up and once before you go to bed) for the next month, your brain should re-learn what correct posture feels like, making your old poor posture feel weird.  

  1. Find a tall, flat wall.
  2. Place your heels, butt, shoulder blades, and the back of your head against this wall (if you have a big derriere, then your heels, shoulders, and head may not actually touch the wall). Imagine that you are pulling a string anchored to the top of your head. As you pull this string, your body should straighten.
  3. Make sure that your lower back is NOT arched too much.
  4. Make sure that your head is level (eyes forward) and directly above your shoulders.
  5. Hold this position for 30 seconds. 
  6. Memorize this position and maintain it while walking and running.

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