Running is a common exercise performed by a variety of active people every single day. Running can be very beneficial for your overall health and can help improve your life, however, running is an integrated task requiring multiple systems to work together. When thinking of running, we must look at our body as a chain: if the chain has a weak point or dysfunction, the entire chain becomes fragile, which makes us vulnerable to injury (about two-thirds of runners will suffer some degree of injury this year). Many times, these type of running injuries result from not preparing properly to run—we have developed many bad habits throughout the day that can hinder our physical performance. By changing some things we do throughout the day and being more aware, we can improve our running experience.
One of the common problems with our posture during daily activities and running is our inability to keep our feet in a neutral position—meaning that we are not keeping our feet facing forward in all loaded activities. Whether it is walking, running, or even standing, people tend to have their feet in a turned-out (duck-footed) stance, which causes problems all the way up the chain. Some of the problems associated with having an improper stance are weak ankles, medial knee pain, and improper hip tracking. Dr. Kelly Starrett, author of Ready to Run, addresses this problem in the following YouTube video.
Another common problem people have encounter in their everyday life is a tight middle and upper back. Many people work at a computer or in a seated position throughout the day and find themselves in a hunched position for eight plus hours (sound familiar?) and have trained their bodies into thinking this is the normal position. The effect can be widespread and may cause neck pain, shoulder mobility problems, low back pain, knee pain, and others. Fixing this issue and achieving a supple spine can lead to improvements in running and performance. A more ideal position can be achieved by: sitting or standing with your spine in a neutral position, squeezing your shoulder blades together and externally rotating your shoulders (setting your shoulders back and slightly turning hands out). Working on this simple position can train your body to maintain proper posture, which can alleviate some of the issues encountered while running.
Make it a daily habit! Rather than thinking about stretching or dynamic warm-ups right before running, focus on posture throughout the day. When fixing a couple of postural issues and poor habits, we can have a better running experience.
If you want help preparing for an upcoming race, a personalized plan aimed at injury prevention, or just finding a good place to start, please contact us. We can answer many different questions you might have and help improve your overall running experience.
Mathis Physical Therapy