Ever felt like you couldn’t quit get a deep breath on your run? Feeling sluggish and a little unmotivated? Have a sore neck or stiff back? It could all come back to needing to improve your posture!
At my last massage appointment, I mentioned that my neck had been killing me. To which she replied, “well when you got here, your collarbone wasn’t even touching the table because your shoulders were so rounded.” WHAT?!
I swear I have been trying to work on and think about my posture, so this was the final wake up call that all my computer, phone and yes hydration pack wearing time, had lead me to some very bad habits. 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.
All of this of course lead me to begin researching how to fix bad posture!!
Importance of Posture for Running
One easy way to improve running performance is to manage your posture. Improper posture causes imbalances and tightness in our muscles, tendons, and ligaments. In correct alignment, our spine has a natural curve that works as a shock absorber and distributes weight evenly throughout the body.
In addition, bad posture has been shown to lead to:
- Muscle imbalances
- Inhibited breathing
- Injuries from shifted running form
- Poor balance
- Lack of sleep, (which we know is essential for optimal running performance)
With proper posture, we can use our body to run more efficiently, allowing us to breathe, push, and work in a way that contributes to better performance.
Posture isn’t just our shoulders, it’s our hips being in alignment, not having text neck and well everything from head to do being where it should!
If breathing is an issue for you, then posture is a great place to start!!! A hunched back and rounded shoulders hinder breathing.
Running tall allows for the chest to expand and make space for more air to enter. More oxygen means better performance.
What is Good Running Posture?
I’ve talked about running form previously, but good running posture is a results of good posture throughout your day.
Ideally, we should aim to run tall with a slightly forward lean. To maximize the amount of oxygen that enters our lungs when we run, we need to stretch our bodies to full height, with shoulders low and loose.
When we stand or sit for long periods of time, we compensate comfort by slumping in our chairs or locking our knees. Holding irregular positions for long periods of time has a huge effect on our running form causing:
- Heel striking
- Landing with our torso ahead of our knees and feet
The tightness from improper posture doesn’t allow our body to function correctly and efficiently, making us more prone to injury and less efficient runners.
Poor posture is one reason that Achilles tendon injuries are so common in runners. If our body is out of alignment, tendons, muscles, and ligaments cannot do their job.
Causes of Poor Posture
In our technology-driven world, we spend much of the day contributing to our poor posture by putting ourselves in odd positions for long periods of time. When we use the same motion constantly, our bodies become tired and shift to release tension. However, those shifts to accommodate discomfort lead to improper alignment and suffering over time.
Nearly all of us find ourselves in the following sitting positions or odd body holds regularly throughout the day.
- Sitting or standing at a desk for long periods of time
- Texting on our cell phones, aka “text neck”
- Leaning on our desk
- Slouching in chairs
- Cradling the phone between our ear and neck to talk and allow for free hands
- Holding a baby on one hip
When we transfer from the desk to the roads, all those hours spent in idleness contribute to our poor posture and inhibit running performance.
How to tell if you have bad posture?
It can be a bit tricky to self-determine if your posture is out of whack, mainly because you will likely self correct if you are standing in front of a mirror to look at yourself. Instead, ask a friend, your partner, or a co-worker to watch you periodically throughout the day and let them tell you.
Signs of poor posture include:
- Hunched and rounded shoulders
- Leaning on one leg when you stand
- Standing with a flat back
- Sticking your butt out
- Numb feet
- Back, neck and shoulder pain
- Muscle weakness on one side
I discussed one way to determine if your posture is in need of some repair in an Instagram post. Start with a squat to see if you feel any tightness or whether you favor one side. Then move your body through a series of a full range of motions I demonstrate in the video and try the squat once again. See what you notice.
Posture Correction Exercises and Devices
Fortunately, correcting posture is totally doable and just something that you have to be aware of throughout the day, every day. There are numerous devices and exercises that can help work your spine back into correct form.
One of the first things I recommend though is trying to understand exactly how your body feels when you’re in and out of alignment. I learned this routine from a rehab therapist. It’s great to do in the morning as it loosens up the entire body, but you’ll find by working through the FULL RANGE of motion that you more naturally want to end up in neutral.
FHP Correction App
This app allows you to set daily reminders to take a break and do some posture exercises throughout the day. Each exercise includes explanations and illustrations and a timer that tells you when to start, stop, and rest.
Posture Corrector Device
You guys went nuts when I posted Instagram stories of me in this posture corrector contraption. I use it for about an hour each day while I’m working. It felt a little uncomfortable at first, but that means that it’s working! The discomfort comes from muscle fatigue from putting the spine back into alignment.
Strength and Mobility Drills
For posture, you’ll want to focus on exercises that strengthen the core, glutes, and back muscles. I have tons of resources that will help get your posture back in ship shape. Practice daily and you should start seeing results within a few weeks.
Seated rows or other movements that help you pull your shoulder blades together and create upper back strength, which will help ensure you have the muscle activation and endurance to hold good posture.
Squatting with your feet touching the wall force you to keep your chest up.
Love ‘em or hate ‘em planks are one of the best moves runners can do for overall stability and core strength.
- Start with 20 to 30 seconds each day and work up to one minute.
- Gradually try lifting one leg for 15 seconds and then switch sides.
- Be sure to keep your body straight, abdominal muscles tight, and head down for proper alignment.
- If you can hold it for longer than 30 seconds then you aren’t doing these right. You should be squeezing every single muscle in your body, this isn’t endurance.
Switch things up with the reverse plank because it will force you to push up your chest and contract your shoulder blades, helping you to correctly roll those shoulders back. Here’s a good video demonstration.
A few more routines to try:
- Hip Mobility Drills
- Hip Stability Exercises
- Resistance Band Exercises for Hip and Glute Strength
- Stability Ball Workout for Core Muscles
Better Posture Stretches
There are countless stretches that will help reverse the effects of sitting or standing in awkward positions on a regular basis. Regular work will strengthen the muscles and help the body stop itself from correcting into poor posture.
Running-specific stretches, yoga, and regular foam rolling will help break up some of that myofascial tissue and get the body back into alignment.
Here are a few actions you can take every single day to help you create the habit of better posture, even if like me you’re still spending a bit too much time on Instagram scrolling.
Wall Chest Stretch
- Standing inside a door way, make your arms in to field goals
- Place your right forarm on the door frame and then step slightly forward
- You should immediately feel a stretch in your chest
- Hold 30 seconds and do the other side
- Also beneficial to try moving your arm up farther to get a slightly different stretch
- Stand with your back against the wall and your feet about four inches away.
- Keep your glutes, spine, and head against the wall
- Bend your arms in a 90° angle, with your elbow on the wall and hands to the ceiling
- Keeping the backs of your arms and your back on the wall, slowly move your arms up and down
- Repeat 10 times.
If you spend a lot of time looking down at your phone (something most of us do!), then chin tucks need to be incorporated into your daily routine. This exercise helps reverse “text neck” by strengthening the neck muscles.
- Sit or stand with your shoulder blades back and down, but not tight.
- Look forward with your chin slightly down and move your head back while continuing to look forward.
- It’s sort of like you’re bobbing your head to music.
- You’ll know you’re doing it right if you create a double chin.
- Hold for 5 seconds and repeat 10 times.
Slouching inhibits lung capacity, wastes energy, and puts us ask risk for injury because it places stress on other joints like the knees, hips, and lower back. Hopefully, now you have some motivation and tips to fix it!
After reading this article, how would you assess your posture?
How has incorporating regular strength and mobility contributed to improved posture and running performance?
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