Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Assessing & Improving Your Running Posture

Running may sound simple, but actually, there's more to it than you might think. How you run has a direct impact on how much energy you use when you run. It also affects your risk for potential injury. Improving your running posture and form can help you run further, faster, and easier.

Assessing Your Running Posture

This is a two or three step process. The first step is to pay attention to your posture on your next run. Here are some things to assess:

Giving my all:  poor posture!
Poor posture (Photo credit: midwestnerd)
* Are you bent at the waist, standing up straight or leaning forward from the hips?
* Are your shoulders scrunched up or relaxed?
* When you run up hill do you shorten your stride, lengthen your stride or keep it the same?
* When you swing your arms do they move parallel to your body? Do they swing in front of your body? Do they move at all?
* Do you clench your fists or are your hands relaxed?
* Is your chin tucked down, tipped toward the sky or looking straight ahead?

When you’re running try a few different things and see how it feels. For example, scrunch your shoulders then relax them. What feels different? Now lean forward at the waist and run for a minute. Now straighten and run for a minute. Now lean forward at the hips and run for a minute. How did each change feel? How did it affect your running and your effort level?

Now it can be difficult to assess your posture by yourself. The next step is to ask a friend to video tape you running. Try to run naturally without making any changes or adjustments. Tape yourself for a few minutes. When you review the video you can assess yourself based on the questions listed above.

What to Aim For

Ideally, your upper body including your shoulders, arms and hand will be relaxed. Your arms will move from side to side and match your stride. If they cross your body it causes your torso to rotate which takes energy. This energy is better spent in your legs.

Imagine a string running from the top of your head down to the center of your belly. This string keeps your head, neck and back in alignment. When you need to increase your speed, lean forward from the hips just a touch. You’ll notice that you gain momentum by changing gravity here. Stand up straight and you slow down. Think about how you run when you’re going downhill, you automatically lean back bit right? And when you’re running uphill you lean forward. It’s a natural instinct. Make sure you’re leaning from the hips instead of your waist for maximum efficiency.

Finally, your feet will ideally stay under you. If your leg reaches too far forward it causes your heel to strike the ground first. This impact can cause injury to your knees, shins, and hips. This may mean you need to start with a shorter stride. You can make up the speed by increasing your turnover or the number of steps you take in a specific amount of time.

Good posture makes a huge difference in the amount of energy you expend when you run. The more efficiently you can run the less energy it takes to complete a run. It may take time to correct your posture but it’s worth it - less effort, better results and fewer injuries.
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