Running 102: Posture
Lawrence van Lingen
One of the most powerful influencers of running form, economy and resistance to injury is your posture. We can think of posture being both static (standing still) and active (whilst running). In running 101 we talk about the most important rule of running being controlling your center of mass. That is correct. Improving your posture improves your center of mass and thus enhances Rule number 1.
It would be very hard to run well if your head is too far forward on your shoulders. Your head weighs around 11 pounds or 5 kg's. You can imagine that balancing an 11 pound ball on top of a broomstick is going to be very difficult and place exponential strain as it leans further forward. It would be very hard to hold a broomstick up from lower down as the heavy ball moves forward. How much strain on your achilles and lower limb, never mind your neck is your head causing if it is shifted forward?
So having a relaxed and upright posture is very important for running and indeed for life. You can watch a video on running posture here.
The best place to start on working on your posture is awareness of the problem. Then periodically check on your posture and practice your standing running posture until you know and can feel the proper shape of posture.
To free your body up in order to run well, start by doing the happy penguin exercise.
This simple exercise helps down regulate tension in your body and teaches you how to run with a tall posture.
In order to run well you must master the basics, so stick with it and master your center of mass and your posture first and foremost.
Lawrence van Lingen
Hi Lawrence, thanks for the posts - really enjoying reading them. A topic I was hoping you could touch on at some time is quality technique work (for want of a better term). It seems to me that there is a lot of focus by athletes and coaches on the different energy systems as well as doing sessions that may not make much sense from a metabolic stand point but instead are geared to get some form of psychological response, such as build confidence etc. In this model, which is typically adhered to by athletes who come to the sport from a non-track background, they tend to set up their week's training around say 2 quality workouts, a few easy runs and then a long run with the odd tempo effort thrown in to gauge fitness levels.
While this model ticks the boxes from a metabolic and perhaps psychological standpoint in my mind it misses a key element and that is working on improving movement quality and rhythm while running. While quality of movement obviously needs to be addressed outside of running as well, I think there is a lot to be gained from quality technique work on say a grass field. Sprinting (dragging tyres etc), drills, plyometrics (adapted for the individual), stairs, short hills, and rhythm 'intervals' are so often neglected by the time pressed runner / triathlete. I almost feel that this type of work can replace a lot of the harder anaerobic work that often leads to burnt out / injured athletes. When times don't improve it's easy to believe that your fitness has deteriorated and that more hard anaerobic work is needed. I suspect in many of these cases, more quality technique work is not only likely to help improve running economy but also enable the body to handle higher loads of intensity without breaking down.
Would love to hear your thoughts?
Lawrence van Lingen
Hi James. Yes you are quite right. I feel improvement in form and efficiency is almost infinitely rewarded and many times runners and coaches get bogged down in physiology which is not infinitely improvable.
I think that the standard formula of 2 quality, one long run and maybe a tempo is for the young and or professional and only relevant if you are doing enough mileage per week.
For distance runners a rough guideline would be something like this:
If you run 40 to 50 km per week, one fun, light, speed or tempo session and one longer (60 to 80 minutes) run is more than adequate.
If you run 50 to 75km per week. One fun speed session, one tougher run or hilly run or maybe tempo and a longer run (60 to 100 minutes).
If you run 75km to 120 km you are starting to get into the land of 2 spadework and a tempo and long run. Arthur Lydiard would say do three longer runs per week and it would all be within yourself. but on the longer days if you are aureate deliver in spadework you can add in the quality on the longer days.
120km to 160km is for the serious runner, and now you are running enough to maximally stimulate your aerobic potential. you might now have to drop a quality session and or combine a long run and quality or tempo in order to recover enough.
So I guess for most runners that don't approach the 100mile per week distance and thus maximal aerobic development, they would be well served becoming more efficient.
Most runners can dramatically improve efficiency (typically 20 to 40 seconds per kilometer by mastering, 1.center of mass 2. the shape of running and then 3. the timing of running.
I also feel that a lot of running drills these days are sprinters drills or more competitive middle distance drills and not endurance drills. Sure they help with agility and balance and technique but they can overcomplicate the running from. No point in moving badly and then training to enthusiastically move badly. Master the fundamentals.
Thanks for the comment. Food for thought for way more posts.
Lawrence van Lingen
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