Posture is not something we ever leave at home. We take it with us everywhere and having good posture is a part of our overall well being and contributes so much to our longevity.
A particularly good yoga teacher once said to me “we are only as young as our spine”. That really resonated with me and comes back to me every time I try and come up with a lame excuse to skip a yoga class.
I try to lead a pretty active lifestyle by doing yoga, hiking, travelling- but my ultimate favourite thing to do is run. Running keeps my mind calm and makes me feel strong and healthy, but it does come with some down sides. If you’re an outdoor runner like me who does a lot of pavement and sidewalk runs in the city, you know the tole it can take on your body if you’re not mindful.
This week we’ve made it our mission to break it down, body part by body part, on what habits to be aware of when you’re running so you can keep on running (or maybe even start running???) and living a pain free, active life for years to come.
On your mark, get set, go!
How you hold your head while you run is the key to overall posture, which determines how efficiently you run- actually it’s key for you how you to anything… just always be conscious of your head and neck, okay?
While your running let your gaze guide you. Look ahead naturally, not down at your feet, and scan the horizon. This will straighten your neck and back, and bring them into alignment. Don't allow your chin to jut out, keep it in. Just because your chin is sticking out doesn’t mean your going to get to the top of the hill faster.
Shoulders play an important role in keeping your upper body relaxed while you run, which is critical to maintaining efficient running posture. Tension isn’t going to do you any good and it’s certainly not going to make you go faster, so chill out!
Your shoulders should be kept low and loose, not high and tight. As we start to get tired our go-to reaction tends to be to get tense and let your shoulders creep up towards your ears. If they do, shake them out to release the tension. Your shoulders also need to remain level and shouldn't dip from side to side with each stride.
Even though running is primarily a lower-body activity, your arms aren't just along for the ride. Your hands control the tension in your upper body, while your arm swing works in conjunction with your leg stride to drive you forward. Keep your hands in an unclenched fist, with your fingers lightly touching your palms. Imagine yourself trying to carry a potato chip in each hand without crushing it. Your arms should swing mostly forward and back, not across your body, between waist and lower-chest level. Your elbows should be bent at about a 90-degree angle. When you feel your fists clenching or your forearms tensing, drop your arms to your sides and shake them out for a few seconds to release the tension.
The position of your torso while running is a chain reaction based on the placement of your head and shoulders. When you’ve got your head up and looking ahead with your shoulders low and loose, your torso and back are going to naturally straighten, allowing you to run in an efficient, upright position that promotes optimal lung capacity and stride length- so obviously, this is what we’re aiming for. Running is hard enough! If you start to slouch during a run take a deep breath and feel yourself naturally straighten. As you exhale simply maintain that upright position.
Your hips are your center of gravity, so they're key to good running posture. The proper position of your torso while running helps to ensure your hips will also be in the ideal position. With your torso and back comfortably upright and straight, your hips naturally fall into proper alignment--pointing you straight ahead. If you allow your torso to hunch over or lean too far forward during a run, your pelvis will tilt forward as well, which can put pressure on your lower back and throw the rest of your lower body out of alignment. When trying to gauge the position of your hips, think of your pelvis as a bowl filled with marbles, then try not to spill the marbles by tilting the bowl.
Efficient endurance running requires just a slight knee lift, a quick leg turnover, and a short stride. Together, these will facilitate fluid forward movement instead of diverting (and wasting) energy. When running with the proper stride length, your feet should land directly underneath your body. As your foot strikes the ground, your knee should be slightly flexed so that it can bend naturally on impact. If your lower leg (below the knee) extends out in front of your body, your stride is too long.
We know feet aren’t often thought about when posture is being discussed but they certainly should come up when discussing tension. Many of us hold a large amount of tension in our feet and that tension quickly works it way up to our back, neck and shoulders and directly affects our posture. So let’s keep those feet loose! With each step, your foot should hit the ground lightly--landing between your heel and midfoot--then quickly roll forward. Keep your ankle flexed as your foot rolls forward to create more force for push-off. As you roll onto your toes, try to spring off the ground. You should feel your calf muscles propelling you forward on each step. Your feet should not slap loudly as they hit the ground. Good running is springy and quiet.
The most important thing to keep in mind with any activity you find yourself doing throughout the day is whether or not your approaching it with mindfulness. Whether it’s running, walking or sitting make sure you’re taking the time to check in with yourself.
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