For most of us, going on a run or just a light jog is an easy, accessible way to get some cardio in when we can’t really afford the gym or at-home equipment.
But if like us, you thought it was as simple as putting one foot in front of the other, science comes in and the smallest details apparently make the biggest difference when we want to go on a run effectively (and safely!).
Runner’s World advised on focusing on six key areas to improve your posture during runs, evenly distributing weight throughout your body so that the impact during high-intensity running doesn’t cause too much pain in the long run.
“How you hold your head is key to overall posture, which determines how efficiently you run,” said Runner’s World. “Let your gaze guide you. Look ahead naturally, not down at your feet, and scan the horizon. This will straighten your neck and back, and bring them into alignment. Don’t allow your chin to jut out.”
Shoulders play an important role in keeping your upper body relaxed while you run, and for optimum performance, your shoulders should be low and loose, not high and tight.
“As you tire on a run, don’t let them creep up toward your ears. If they do, shake them out to release the tension. Your shoulders also need to remain level and shouldn’t dip from side to side with each stride.”
Your arms aren’t just along for the ride in the mostly lower-body activity that is running. “Your hands control the tension in your upper body, while your arm swing works in conjunction with your leg stride to drive you forward. Keep your hands in an unclenched fist, with your fingers lightly touching your palms. Imagine yourself trying to carry a potato chip in each hand without crushing it.” Thoughts of junkfood during fitness runs sounds just like the thing a lot of casual runners do. Thanks, Runner’s World!
“Your arms should swing mostly forward and back, not across your body, between waist and lower-chest level. Your elbows should be bent at about a 90-degree angle. When you feel your fists clenching or your forearms tensing, drop your arms to your sides and shake them out for a few seconds to release the tension.”
“The position of your torso while running is affected by the position of your head and shoulders. With your head up and looking ahead and your shoulders low and loose, your torso and back naturally straighten to allow you to run in an efficient, upright position that promotes optimal lung capacity and stride length,” they advise.
“If you start to slouch during a run take a deep breath and feel yourself naturally straighten. As you exhale simply maintain that upright position.”
“The hips are key to running posture as it serves as your center of gravity. The proper position of your torso while running helps to ensure your hips will also be in the ideal position: with your torso and back comfortably upright and straight, your hips naturally fall into proper alignment–pointing you straight ahead. If you allow your torso to hunch over or lean too far forward during a run, your pelvis will tilt forward as well, which can put pressure on your lower back and throw the rest of your lower body out of alignment. When trying to gauge the position of your hips, think of your pelvis as a bowl filled with marbles, then try not to spill the marbles by tilting the bowl.”
“While sprinters need to lift their knees high to achieve maximum leg power, distance runners don’t need such an exaggerated knee lift–it’s simply too hard to sustain for any length of time,” they said.
Instead, Runner’s World recommends just a slight knee lift, a quick leg turnover, and a short stride for effective endurance running. “Together, these will facilitate fluid forward movement instead of diverting (and wasting) energy. When running with the proper stride length, your feet should land directly underneath your body. As your foot strikes the ground, your knee should be slightly flexed so that it can bend naturally on impact. If your lower leg (below the knee) extends out in front of your body, your stride is too long.”
“To run well, you need to push off the ground with maximum force. With each step, your foot should hit the ground lightly–landing between your heel and midfoot–then quickly roll forward.” Remember to keep the ankle flexed as your foot rolls forward to create more force for push-off.
“As you roll onto your toes, try to spring off the ground. You should feel your calf muscles propelling you forward on each step. Your feet should not slap loudly as they hit the ground. Good running is springy and quiet.”