Today we’ll talk about proper posture while running, how it affects your running form, and how you can get and maintain good posture. Maintaining proper posture while running is pretty easy as long as you run through a short checklist while you’re running; Is my back straight? Are my shoulders relaxed? Am I looking straight ahead?
The most important thing having a straight back is going to do is help prevent injury. With the back in its natural upright position it allows it to transfer force the way its supposed to, rather than a hunched back directing that force to your back and causing injury. Another thing having a straight back does is connect your arms to your legs. With a straight back and a strong core to connect them, the driving forces generated by your arms are able to transfer to your legs. This results in less required energy from your legs (less energy = less effort = more fun). The last thing this does, is allow us to take advantage of gravity for propulsion. With a straight back we are able to create the optimal amount of imbalance (lean) to allow gravity to pull us is such a way that we can direct it into forward movement. With a hunched back the lean we would create would be both to far forward (resulting in too much imbalance) and less even weight distribution along your body (adding to that imbalance). To help explain I have more poorly made diagrams.
Note how the person with a straight back has his mass evenly distributed over the ground. This even distribution will give this runner a control over his lean, and transversely more control over how much gravity affects their movement. The second person however has his mass unevenly distributed; generating a greater imbalance than is ideal, while forcing his back and neck to strain against the force of gravity.
The big thing that having relaxed shoulders does is allow fluid arm movement. If your shoulders are tensed up, your arms have to use more energy to push through that tension in the desired back and forth motion; resulting in wasted energy (not to mention the wasted energy from having tense shoulders in the first place). To demonstrate; stand up, relax your shoulders, let your arms hang, and swing them back-and-forth. Then do the same while tensing up your shoulders. You’ll notice a large difference in your arms mobility, and the same thing happens when you are running; you are actively restricting your natural movement and wasting energy in the process (wasted energy = more effort = less fun). So don’t be afraid to shake out your arms, or whatever else you need to do to keep loose and relaxed while you are running.
The last thing we want to remember is to keep your eyes forward and up. With your eyes looking up towards the horizon rather than down at your feet it makes it harder to hunch your back, and keeping a straight back much easier. It also helps to prevent reaching out with your feet; with your eyes up, rather than on the ground, it encourages you to keep your feet underneath your center of mass. This is because your body will recognize the potential for injury (tripping or rolling an ankle) and adjust so that you are landing on your forefoot giving you more control over each landing.
Now let’s address how to get good posture. The best posture correction technique I have found is Egoscue (guess where I learned about it).
*it doesn’t say in the video but if you don’t have a tower just rest your leg at the same height as your 90 degree leg (I put my bent leg on the ottoman and my straight leg on the couch)
I know it looks strange and like you aren’t really doing anything, but after having back problems my whole life going through these exercises once allowed me to comfortably stand with perfect posture for the first time in my life. The only problem I had, was that after a few hours I was back to my old slouchy self. Later after some research and trial-and-error I realized that the problem was my back; It wasn’t sufficiently strong enough to maintain proper posture. This, aided by my stronger chest and ab muscles, resulted in a muscular imbalance that created my bodies tendency to slouch. So if you’re having problems with posture and chiropractor visits and Egoscue aren’t quite helping, strengthening your core is most likely the answer you’ve been looking for. With that in mind I’ve picked a few exercises I’ve found most effective in strengthening my core.
(The Four Hour Body is a great book)
*to start try doing 75 reps (divided however you like) two or three times a week
Also if you don’t have access to some of the equipment you would need to do these exercises; planks (do regular and side planks) and supermans are a decent alternative.
So now that you know why good posture is important for running, and how to get good posture, go try it out. As usual, take things slow at first; an injured runner is an unhappy runner, and no one should be an unhappy runner.