Four Components of Alignment for RunningTechnique Efficiency and Injury Prevention
Alignment is a key element for running technique efficiency and injury prevention. When you are aligned a higher level of relaxation is possible while running. These are the two primary concepts in Chi Running® – Alignment and Relaxation and the balance between them. The more you are aligned, the less you need your muscles. The less you use your muscles, the easier it is to stay aligned. But too much alignment without relaxation and you may be too stiff to move. Or too much relaxation without alignment and you may be too loose to maintain your position.
Here are 4 Components of Running Technique Alignment:
Internal Postural Alignment
Posture is the most important element in the Chi Running technique. It is the ‘framework’ for all the other elements. Your posture manages the force of gravity acting down on you. Efficient posture aligns your shoulders over your hips over your ankles with a neutral head position and feet pointed forward. It also maintains a level pelvis to stabilize both your pelvis and your posture line.
When your posture is aligned your structure efficiently maintains your position, against the downward force of gravity, with limited effort from your muscles. In motion, postural alignment also engages proper muscles and limits the use of compensating muscles.
See a related posture presentation here:
- The Key to Posture for Efficiency and Injury Prevention
For increased running efficiency you can also focus on having as many parts of your body moving in the same direction as you are – horizontally forward. If there are parts of your body moving from side to side, there is wasted energy and possibly unnecessary stress on the body. The most common forms of excess running motion are rotation in the legs/knees, hips sliding side to side, shoulders/torso rocking side to side, shoulders rotating, and a side to side arm swing crossing your centerline.
If parts of the body are moving vertically, then again there is effort and potential stress in that direction. The most common causes of vertical motion are pushing off with the feet/toes, lifting the thigh vertically and allowing the knee to ‘sag’ or bend at mid-stance.
[Note: In the Chi Running technique the knees stay ‘soft’. This means slightly bent or not ‘locked’, and not enough to significantly engage the quad muscle.]
When your effort and motion is aligned forward you can add efficiency while reducing stress and impact.
External Alignment with the Forces of Nature
There are two big forces of nature you can use to your advantage and cooperate with. The first is gravity which will pull you forward if you tilt your posture line from relaxed ankles. The more you lean into gravity the more focus you need on maintaining your aligned position. And the more relaxed you must be to not resist the forward pull of gravity.
The second is the force of the approaching ground. When you allow your feet to land midfoot (or fullfoot) under your posture line and allow them to move to the rear as the land, you are cooperating with this very big force. You can enhance this cooperation by allowing your pelvis to rotate back to soften impact and extend stride length. There are even ways to use this force to your advantage.
See a related article here:
- A T’ai Chi Lesson for Your Running: Cooperating with the Force of Gravity and the Force of the Road
When your body’s position is cooperating with the external forces of nature, then the body can move with these forces for external propulsion and minimal resistance.
Mental Alignment with Your Intention
An even higher level of alignment is your mental focus on your intention. Your intention is where you are headed and how you plan to get there. With this alignment, your eyes are focused down your path and you senses are focused on your body.
When you are aligned mentally, then the body and mind are acting congruently as a team.
Alignment and Relaxation
If you wish to run efficiently while reducing stress, impact and injury; then your alignment internally, directionally, externally and mentally are all focus points that can enhance your running form. Two questions to ask often: How can I be more aligned? How can I be more relaxed?
[Note: If you are a walker (aren’t we all ...), then Chi Walking is a great way to apply the same principles of nature to walking and hiking. And applying more focus to walking can lead to higher levels of running technique since we get to practice our running all day long].
Please share your thoughts and any questions in a comment below.
Chi Running®/Chi Walking® Certified Instructor