Why your posture matters in running

mobility run form running injuries Jul 21, 2021
woman running with correct running posture

One of the most powerful influencers of running form, running economy and resistance to injury is your posture.

Having a relaxed, upright posture is important for running and life in general.

A good running posture has many benefits:

  • It encourages you to have a neutral spine – where the muscles surrounding the spine are balanced.
  • It improves spine flexibility
  • It prevents muscular pain
  • It allows you to breathe deeply and fill your lungs with oxygen
  • It relieves lower back pain
  • It places less stress on the lower body
  • It helps to engage and build a stronger core
  • It keeps your pelvis aligned
  • It supports healthy blood flow around the body
  • It helps with lymph drainage and your immunity

Your posture can be both static (standing still) and active (whilst running). I often talk about the most important rule of running, which is the ability to control your center of mass, or the pivot point your body moves from.

Improving your posture automatically improves your center of mass and your running form, which will ultimately enhance your running journey and performance. Conversely, a poor posture can make running feel slow and painful.

What does a good posture look like?

Good posture means that your skeleton and spine are aligned and balanced in gravity. From the side, the big picture means:

  1. Your ear is over your shoulder
  2. Your shoulder is over the middle of your hip
  3. Your hip is over your knee and your knee is over your malleolus (small ankle bone).

From the front, you should be able to draw a line from your nose to your sternum, through your belly button, the center of your hips to the floor and your feet must be equidistant from that line. Your legs should be straight with a line from your hip, through your knee to the middle of your foot and 2nd or 3rd toe.

Some people can have imbalances and variances in their skeletal system, so it’s important to stand and move without tension and to not force a correct posture.

Consequences of a poor posture

When you have a poor posture, you may move inefficiently, and movement will become harder than it should be. Additionally, you can place undue stress on your joints and ligaments and put yourself at risk of injuries and joint problems later.

As I’ve mentioned, some people have asymmetries/imbalances in their posture, so the aim is always to stand and move with ease and less tension.

Not everyone can have a perfect posture or running form, but we can all work on standing and moving with better balance, grace and ease.

Why your center of mass is important

As your head weighs 11 pounds (5kg), it would be hard to run or move well if your head is too far forward on your shoulders. Think about the exponential strain it would cause to balance an 11-pound ball on top of a broomstick that is leaning forward. This would place enormous pressure on your neck, shoulders and upper back, as well as your lower limbs and Achilles’ tendon.

If we continue with the broomstick analogy, it would also be tricky to hold the broomstick up from lower down as the heavy ball continues to move forward.

A relaxed, upright posture allows your body to stack in a straight line (rather than your head tilting too far forward), encouraging your feet to land under your body as opposed to in front. This will improve your running position and reduce your chance of injury.

How to improve your posture

The best place to start working on your posture is awareness. Think about your posture when you sit, drive, work and run.

For a healthy spine, the Cleveland Clinic suggests sitting in the following way:

  • Sit up with your back straight and your shoulders back. Your buttocks should touch the back of your chair.
  • All 3 normal back curves should be present while sitting. Use a small, rolled-up towel or a lumbar roll to help maintain the normal curves in your back.
  • Sit at the end of your chair and slouch completely.
  • Then, draw yourself up and accentuate the curve of your back as far as possible. Hold for a few seconds.
  • Release the position slightly (about 10 degrees). This is a good sitting posture.
  • Distribute your body weight evenly on both hips.
  • Bend your knees at a right angle. Keep your knees even with or slightly higher than your hips. (Use a footrest or stool if necessary.) Don’t cross your legs.
  • Keep your feet flat on the floor.
  • Try to avoid sitting in the same position for more than 30 minutes.

It can be tough to maintain an upright, sitting posture so it’s ok to wriggle and move around in your chair. As they say in ergonomics, “Your next position is the best position”. For desk workers, consider getting an adjustable desk so that you can alternate between sitting and standing throughout the day.

To practice a relaxed upright posture when you stand, walk or run, picture a rope attached to the top of your head pulling your body gently towards the ceiling.

Check your posture periodically and practice controlling your center of mass until you feel comfortable standing, walking and running with a relaxed, upright posture.

WATCH this video to learn how to control your center of mass:

To free your body up to run well, it’s also a good idea to start with the happy penguin exercise. This simple mobility exercise helps down regulate tension in your body and teaches you how to run with a tall posture.

The spinal wave is also a great exercise to correct a head forward posture and help to get your head aligned with your shoulders. Click here to learn how to do it.

Ultimately, running with a good posture helps to improve running efficiency including your speed and stride length without working too hard or causing injury. It’s a win-win!

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