Having good posture is the cornerstone of any good running technique and is an essential foundation for every runner’s health and performance, writes Sherry Mannion

Importance

One of the hot topics today is running form but, before we start looking into changing our form, the real solution may start with correcting our posture. Good running posture is a result of being conscious of your posture throughout your day. Just a few simple changes to your posture can make a huge difference to your running over time.

Poor control of the position of your spine and hips means you can’t take advantage of the storage and release of elastic energy that enables you to run efficiently. Poor posture is also the primary cause of low back pain, and it plays a major role in injuries. With adequate posture, your muscles, tendons, ligaments, and fascia will be activated correctly, and we can then use our body to run more efficiently, allowing us to breathe, push, and work in a way that contributes to better performance. Fortunately, correcting posture is totally achievable.

Posture Perfect

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The posture you strive towards depends on the type of running you do, but in general, you want to think ‘run tall’, looking straight ahead with your head raised vertically. Arms provide power and rhythm during your run, swing them close to your body at almost 90 degrees angle. Shoulders are low and relaxed. Fists unclenched and fingers relaxed. Although your back should remain straight, running is a controlled fall, meaning your centre of gravity is going forward. Therefore, your torso should reflect this by leaning forward just slightly. Hips in a neutral position, avoid letting them lean forward or backward.

Alignment

In correct alignment, our spine has a natural curve that works as a shock absorber and distributes weight evenly throughout the body. The ability to keep your spine neutral while running is an important aspect in holding better running posture. Ideally, your hips, torso, arms, shoulders and head should all be aligned, and your weight is equally distributed between the fore and rear foot. You simply must learn to find your neutral spine and get into the habit of maintaining it.

Mobility

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Posture is active and greatly influenced by your mobility and strength. To improve running posture, you’ll want to focus on strengthening the deep spinal and core muscles, as well as muscle groups such as the glutes, calves and quads. Exercises that encourage lengthening of the spinal column and better control of the hips. Helping you hold the body upright against the force of gravity. We’ll touch on some important postural elements and exercise below.

EXERCISE 1

Kneeling hip flexor stretch with dowel

Benefit

Opening tight hip flexors, improving hip extension.

One vital element to having a good running posture, is the ability to keep your spine neutral, while having the mobility to swing your legs forwards and backwards. This is prevented by tightness in hip flexors, or muscles to the front of your pelvis. Tight hip flexors tend to pull your spine into an arch, thereby placing your hips in a flexed position while running. This prevents you properly swinging your leg behind your body during push-off, which translates to less running efficiency and strain on the lower back.

To do
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Start by kneeling on a mat, place one foot forward so that you have a 90-degree angle at the hip and knee. Using a dowel to find neutral spine, you’ll naturally have a bit of space between lower back and dowel. Engage abdominals and tighten glutes, tilt pelvis backward so hollow between lower back and dowel disappears. You’ll feel the stretch in the front of your hip maximise. Hold for three minutes.

EXERCISE 2

Balanced donkey kicks (dowel balanced on your spine)

Benefit

Keeps core and spine neutral while isolating the gluteal muscles to extend your hip.

As a runner, you also want the ability to extend your hip behind you while keeping your spine stable on the run. And for this you need to generate enough power through the gluteus maximus muscles to get your hip behind you during push-off.

To do

From all-fours with a dowel balanced along your back. Keeping the spine and dowel as still as possible, extend one leg back and slightly to the side. The dowel provides feedback to ensure you are moving correctly. If you rock your body or the dowel excessively, make smaller movements until your control improves. Three sets of 20 reps on each leg.

EXERCISE 3

Overhead squat with dowel

Benefit

Improves mobility throughout your lower body, including the ankles, knees, glutes, and hips. Using the dowel overhead has the bonus of thoracic extension of the spine.

If I could pick only one exercise to recommend to runners, it’s the squat. Overhead squats target major muscles groups and help improve knee stability, leg power, and body awareness, as well as prevent common injuries. Running injuries are often caused by movement faults such as losing posture, improper knee loading, and misalignment in the knees, hips, and ankles. Practising squats can address these movement faults ultimately training your body to easily recognise if your posture has collapsed, and other common running mistakes.

To do

Begin standing, feet shoulder-width, toes pointing slightly out and your arms overhead holding a dowel, just behind your ears in a ‘Y’ position. Bend your knees and stick your buttocks toward the back, squat as low as you can while keeping your lower back flat throughout. Straightening knees and pressing hips forward to stand.

Bad posture quickly becomes a habit as we create tight muscles, so your body tries to go back to that bad position, which means we need to find good posture, be aware of it and then do some work to maintain it.

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