Running Safely with Good Posture
Regular exercise is arguably the most proactive way you can improve your overall well being, and running is a great way to get your dose. However, a common thread amongst both new and seasoned runners is the very high injury rates associated with the sport. According to an article on Sports Med. 1992 Nov;14(5):320-35 entitled “Running Injuries: A review of the epidemiological literature” by Van Mechelen, somewhere between 37% and 56% percent of runners will report an injury this year. So, how do we reconcile telling someone to exercise on the one hand, and help you avoid injury on the other?
One answer: improve technique!
It is counter intuitive that we should have to learn how to run. Yet, most other sports (swimmers, golfers, archers and dancers) rely on lessons, technique and form as a means to avoid injury and improve. Should running be any different?
One simple, yet incredibly powerful way to run with better technique is to improve your posture. Hence, as the title goes, running safely with good posture. A good, upright posture works with the natural curves in your spine. An adult’s neutral spine is never flat, but instead, has distinct curves. These prominent curves in the neck and the lower back counter balance the curve in your torso, where your ribs are.
Deviations from this neutral posture shock your body into absorbing forces poorly. The result can be painful. Headache, neck, shoulder and lower back pain can all be aggravated by poor posture. As we fatigue, we can load up these sore areas more so.
For example, every 2.5 cm that your head juts forward from neutral, the weight of your head doubles! This is not very efficient. It loads up the neck muscles, triggers headaches, aggravates shoulders and looks terrible.
Yet with an upright posture, your body is so much more capable of distributing the forces evenly. When upright, the bony prominences of the spine, its discs and ligaments can all work with gravity as passive shock distributors so that your muscles need not work as hard. It can take pressure off of your neck, shoulders, low back and gluteal muscles! Standing upright also opens the passage way to your lungs for O2/CO2 exchange, allowing for the primary muscle, the diaphragm, to function optimally. These all greatly improve your efficiency.
So, how does one really go about running safely with good posture? One simple thing to do before your run is to find a neutral posture. A technique I enjoy teaching in my www.enhancerunning.com.au workshops is called the Champion’s Drill. Before you start your run, reach both of your arms vertically into the air as high as you can. Really stretch. Now imagine helium balloons are individually attached to the top of your fingers, behind the lobes of your ears, the top of your clavicles, and the front of the pelvis, all lifting you further upwards. Then, maintaining this posture through your torso, drop your arms by your side. Now you can start your run with a safe, efficient and neutral spine.
This posture is also great if you notice that you are feeling fatigued at the end of your run, and resetting your posture is a helpful way to ensure you finish strong at the end of a race. And there goes running safely with good posture!
Matt Bulman, author of Running Safely with Good Posture, is an enthusiastic runner, chiropractor, and running technician. He has a background in sports chiropractic, and runs an injury management centre in Sydney’s Inner West called Sports N Spine. Beyond spinal corrections to keep you functioning at your best, Matt diagnoses and treats conditions of the foot, knee, hips, hand, arm and shoulders of athletes. And if you have a body, you are an athlete!