I’m rolling this thing out faster than a lot of you can read, and for that I apologize. Here is Part III (if you missed Part I or Part II, check them out) in our series entitled “On The Importance of Setting Up.”
In this post I will discuss the often overlooked skill of posture as it relates to running. Running as a skill is also very often overlooked. A lot of people do not treat running as a skill like they would a snatch or squat. This is a mistake that could set you up for injury, or, and maybe even worse, it could keep you from reaching your full potential during runs! Gasp!
Running might be just as difficult as snatching. When you get good with the bar in a snatch, you add some weight and things fall apart again. You then have to be coached piece by piece through it to fix any deficiencies of movement. When you are becoming proficient at running, you ratchet up the pace or add a set of squats and pull-ups into it and things fall apart. You then have to be coached up, given some drills, and maybe review some video of yourself to begin progressing past that point.
This is lost on a lot of us. Running is something we have been doing since childhood. Sadly, many people have been doing it poorly. I see feet coming across the body, knees dropping in when foot striking (valgus knee), total disconnect between upper and lower body, arms swinging across the body, entire shoulder girdles moving, and atrocious head position just to name a few postural and movement errors. The first step to fixing this stuff is to recognize running as a skill. Understand that it is complex. And try to comprehend that you might just suck at it right now whether you have been doing 5k and marathon races for years.
Let us begin with midline stabilization; after all, it is ALL the rage today. Running is a locomotive movement that requires tremendous amounts of torso strength and strength endurance. Churning those big, squat-meaty thighs while propelling yourself through space puts a lot of rotational force on your midline. To help counteract this you swing your opposite arm as the leg you are driving into the ground – contralateral motion is the industry term (wink). Your beautiful midline has to stabilize those forces, and it is going to have a hard time doing so if you are in a broken position. So let’s brace…
Refer to Part I for a deeper understanding of our bracing strategy. Here is the lite version applied to running posture:
Standing tall with your feet under your hips, go ahead and squeeze your glutes at 100%. Now your pelvis is set. Stack your ribcage right on top of your pelvis with neither one angled forward nor back. Put your head in a neutral position. Roll your shoulders back and down to open your chest and externally rotate your arms. Bend your elbows to about 90 degrees. Thumbs should be on top of your hands like you are holding a chip or piece of paper – think light touch and relaxed fingers/hands. Shrinkwrap your midline muscles around your spine at 100% tension. Now you are in a good running position but at 100% tension. You would not last very long at that sort of peak tension if you were running. So now you need to learn what 20-30% tension feels like or a 2-3 on a scale of 1-10. Find that and make sure you are still in a good position. You can (and should!) run a marathon at 20% tension and maintain good mechanics and position.
Now go for a run. Practice keeping your pelvis neutral. If it were a bowl filled with water, you would not want to spill water out the front (anteriorly rotated) just like you would not want to spill out the back (posteriorly rotated – harder to do). Also think about ribcage, and not just any ribcage, YOUR ribcage. You should not see the bottom front of your ribcage protruding out your shirt. Just having those two structures neutral will help alleviate a lot of the lower back problems we see in runners.
Next, think about those shoulders, neck, and head. They are all interconnected. You rarely will have a fault present in one without a fault present in all of them. So be worried if you find yourself running in a head forward position with fatigue or pain in the back of your neck. Also be aware of running around flailing your arms and shoulder girdle. The actual shoulder girdle should not be moving, only your arms. And those arms should not be coming across your body because that creates momentum in a vector not in line with your travel direction.
So take some of these tips and apply them to your next jog or run. And before you set out on said run, remember that running is a skill to be taken seriously!