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Running PSA: stop worrying about your posture

Work on the movements involved in running instead

young woman running

When you start researching running form, it is instantly overwhelming. There is a dizzying amount of information out there about how you should swing your arms, where you should hold your gaze, what position to keep your hips in, how high to drive your knees — the list goes on. Posture, in particular, is one aspect of running form that many of us stress about, but we’re here to assure you that obsessing over it is unnecessary. Here’s why.

Photo: under armour

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According to running movement expert Jae Gruenke, running technique expert known as the “running form guru,” the reason runners don’t need to worry so much about their posture is because, fundamentally, posture is a static position. In other words, posture, as a position, is still. But, she points out, is anything still when you run? The answer is no. The obvious areas of movement are your feet, legs and arms, but your pelvis, spine, shoulders and head are all moving, too.

Gruenke explains the pelvis moves in all three planes of motion when you run:

  • Sagittal Plane:  Cuts the body into left and right halves for forward and backward movements.
  • Frontal Plane:  Cuts the body into front and back halves for side-to-side movements.
  • Transverse Plane:  Cuts the body into top and bottom halves for twisting movements.

Since the spine and the pelvis are attached, the spine also moves when you run. Gruenke says the spine moves in counter-rotation, twisting in the approximate middle of your trunk (a.k.a. torso). Your lower (or lumbar) spine also performs side bends to allow the pelvis to move from side to side, and the entire spine flexes and extends diagonally from each glute to the opposite shoulder. Your shoulders also move in counter-rotation to your pelvis and help you create arm swing, while your head moves side to side in conjunction with your footsteps.

With that in mind, Gruenke asserts that since your entire body is in constant movement while you’re running, there are no positions, and so there is no such thing as running posture. For this reason, when runners try to hold themselves in any one position (for example, hold their shoulders back), they interfere with the action of running. This, in turn, costs you a lot of energy, because you’re essentially fighting against yourself.

Gruenke encourages runners to stop worrying about their posture and instead work on the movements of running. She says that while there is such a thing as excessive movement, trying to restrict that movement (i.e.,  hold a posture) isn’t the answer. The better way to fix excessive movement is to look for what isn’t moving enough or properly and try to improve that. Doing so should solve your excessive movement naturally. As you fatigue on a run, the areas that need attention should become more obvious, so Gruenke recommends you pay attention to your body as you start to get tired. She explains that good running form is about timing and co-ordination, and if everything is moving as it should, posture is unimportant.

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