Now that I am teaching people the correct mechanics to prevent running injuries I have become very observant of peoples running style and posture.
I see people running with good form and others with not such good form. A bad running form can lead to injuries and unfortunately, that’s why running is associated with injuries.
The Importance of Posture
Posture is the most important aspect of the ChiRunning technique and crucial to building strong core muscles. In running, posture plays a vital role in terms of energy efficiency and muscle usage. Chi is the flow of energy through our body, we all have chi in our body, it can’t be quantified but we can tap into our chi and gain more energy by having good postural alignment and allowing the chi or energy flow through.
In my ChiRunning classes, I give the comparison of water flowing through a straight pipe. It does so much easier than through a bent pipe and its the same with the energy in our body. If our bodies are aligned properly the energy can flow through unhindered.
So, now I check in on my posture all of the time and it also helps me cope with everyday life and helps me feel more confident and in control.
When your posture is aligned properly your body weight is supported by your bones, ligaments and tendons, not your muscles. This allows your muscles to relax while doing the job of moving your body. Relaxed muscles allow energy to move through your body, while restricted muscles do not move freely or efficiently, causing pain and sometimes injury.
Learning to relax is easier said than done. I have learned in recent years the more I can relax the easier it is to run. When I am out running now I do a body scan and if I feel that I am holding tension in any part of my body I breathe into that area and allow it to relax.
During my competitive running career, I held tension in the different part of my body without knowing it but I have become very focused and body awareness and I am able to let go of any tension I am holding and as a result run freer and easier. You know it is virtually impossible to injure a relaxed muscle, so maybe its time you to started to relax your muscles and believe you me, you will feel better and run faster.
How to Learn Good Posture
The best way to learn to feel your posture is to focus on your spine by holding your attention on the line that your spine makes as it runs from the top of your head to your tailbone. Focus on this as often possible all day long every day no matter what you are doing.
With the ChiRunning technique, you lean forward and allow gravity to pull your body forward. Your legs are not for propulsion, but for momentary support between strides, so posture plays an important support role when your foot hits the ground. If your muscles are supporting your body weight you will tire more quickly.
If you bend at the waist while running your lower back, quads and neck muscles will be supporting your body weight instead of your bones, ligaments and tendons. This is an inefficient way to run and you will leave your muscles tired and sore after running.
A lot of people run bending at the waist and this puts pressure on the lower back. In order to keep your posture correctly aligned while running, it is important to engage your lower abdominal muscles and this keeps your pelvis level while running. Here’s an exercise called “the vertical crunch” which involves levelling your pelvis. It means that, as you stand or run, you are lifting your pelvis up in front with your lower abdominal muscles so that instead of tilting down in front, your pelvis takes on a more level aspect. You need to imagine your pelvis as a bowl and it can’t be too far forward or too far back, but in a nice level position.
Start by standing with your feet parallel and hip-width apart. Now imagine that you have a string attached to the top of your head and it is pulling you up, making you tall and straight. Next, use your lower abdominals to pick up on your pubic bone while relaxing your glutes. This movement will level your pelvis and feel like you are doing a crunch. Hold this position for 30 seconds. By repeating this throughout the day, you will strengthen your abdominal muscles, allowing you to hold your posture straighter while running, swimming, sitting, standing and even driving your car. By practising this simple exercise every day you will be surprised at the difference it makes in your running. Your muscles will not have to do all that extra work of supporting your body, they will be freed up to move more freely and efficiently. Doing the vertical crunch makes it nearly impossible to bend at the waist. It also relaxes your lower back muscles and takes some of the curves out of your lower back which relieves compression on the discs in your spine.
Good body alignment is the cornerstone of good, efficient running form and good health in general. When you learn to maintain good posture your running will feel easier and more enjoyable.