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  • Writer's pictureCoach Joe Beckerley, CSCS

5 Tips To Improve Your Running Posture

As she ran towards the finish line. I cheered, knowing Crystal was achieving a personal record during her Olympic Triathlon.

Crystal looked at me. “I’m running pretty coach.” She yelled at me with a smile.

My running cue for the athletes I coach has been engrained in their heads. When they think about it they smile. Who doesn’t smile thinking about being pretty and for many, even tall. It can sound silly too many, but this one thought works to help improve running posture and speed.

How you run has a direct impact on how much energy you use when you run. It also affects your risk of potential injury. Improving your running posture and form can help you run further, faster, and easier.

Assessing Your Running Posture

Assessing your running posture is a three-step process. The first step is to pay attention to your posture on your next run. Here are some things to assess:

• Are you bent at the waist, standing up straight or leaning forward from the hips?

• Are your shoulders scrunched up or relaxed?

• When you run up hill do you shorten your stride, lengthen your stride or keep it the same?

• When you swing your arms, do they move parallel to your body? Do they swing in front of your body? Do they move at all?

• Do you clench your fists or are your hands relaxed?

• Is your chin tucked down, tipped toward the sky or looking straight ahead?

When you are running, try a few different things and see how it feels. For example, scrunch your shoulders then relax them. What feels different? Now lean forward at the waist and run for a minute. Then straighten and run for a minute. Now lean forward at the hips and run for a minute. How did each change feel? How did it affect your running, your effort level, your pace?

It's difficult to assess your posture by yourself. The next step is to ask a friend to videotape you running. Try to run naturally, making no changes or adjustments. Tape yourself for a few minutes. When you review the video, you can assess yourself based on the questions listed above. You can also send this to a coach to assess.

What to Aim For

Ideally, your upper body, including your shoulders, arms and hands, will be relaxed. Your arms will move from side to side and match your stride. If they cross your body, it causes your torso to rotate, which takes energy. This energy is better spent on your legs.

Imagine a string running from the top of your head down to the center of your belly. This string keeps your head, neck, and back in alignment. When you need to increase your speed, lean forward from the hips just a touch. You notice that you gain momentum by changing gravity here. Stand up straight and you slow down. Think about how you run when you are going downhill. You automatically lean back bit right? And when you're running uphill, you lean forward. It is an instinct. Make sure you're leaning from the hips instead of your waist for maximum efficiency.

Finally, your feet will ideally stay under you. If your leg reaches too far forward, it causes your heel to strike the ground first. This impact can cause injury to your knees, shins, and hips. This may mean you need to start with a shorter stride. You can make up the speed by increasing your turnover or the number of steps you take in a specific amount of time.

Good posture makes an enormous difference in the amount of energy you expend when you run. The more efficiently you can run, the less energy it takes to complete a run. It may take time to correct your posture but it’s worth it - less effort, better results and fewer injuries.

Simply thinking about running tall and pretty or tall and light naturally corrects many posture issues runners have. Especially as you fatigue during your run. I can look at my watch and instantly see my pace improve after this thought. It helps remind me to relax my upper body and hands. To look up, straighten my back, stop bending from the waist. Stop being scrunched over. I instantly become lighter on my feet as my feet with my body back in alignment, my feet stay under me, driving my body forward. It no longer looks ugly, it looks tall and pretty.

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