6 Body Alignment Tips for Efficient Running
1. What is good body alignment? It is the ability to maintain a straight line running through your ears, shoulders, hip joint and ankles while in a standing stance or during the support phase of your running stride.
2. How can I improve it? Core strength and relaxation are both needed. You need strengthening in the muscles that hold your body in alignment while running. And, you'll need relaxation in the areas that are moving as you run. Note where you hold tension when you stand or sit. The ONLY place you should feel muscles working is in your core… not in your back, shoulders, neck, arms or legs. If you slump you might feel some tension along the back of your spine as you work to align yourself. This is normal as you transition to a straighter posture. But, as those muscles get stronger you won't feel them as much.
3. Why is it important? Whether you're walking, running or standing, it is important to allow your structure (bones, ligaments and tendons) to support your body and not have your muscles doing this work. The only muscles required to support your body weight are the muscles needed to hold your body in alignment (see #1). If you're a runner trying to run economically, your biggest concern should be using the least amount of muscle to move you forward. If your leg muscles are working to support your body weight during each support stance, they'll be doing the double-duty of supporting you and powering you forward, which makes you fatigue sooner.
4. How can I tell if my body is aligned? When you're standing in good alignment you should be able to look down and see your shoelaces. Or, you can check your posture line looking at a side view of your body in a full-length mirror. Either way, your shoulders, hips and ankles should always line up. You can also tell if you're not in good alignment if you experience any back pain, lower or higher, if you hold tension in your glutes, calves, ankles or feet, or if you have posterior neck pain.
5. Will I get injured if I have poor body alignment? It's most likely you will. It will happen in some part of your musculature that has to work harder to make up for the lack of core strength. For most people it's their lower back, hips, quads and hamstrings. Also, with the impact incurred from running, all of the vertebral discs (and nerve pathways) are vulnerable to compression, especially if your spine has too much curve in the lumbar, thoracic or cervical areas.
6. How can I hold myself in alignment during a long run, or race? Imagine you're being pulled upward and forward by a thin cable attached to a huge parasail (like the guys who do wake-boarding). If you keep using this image continually, your posture will not degrade as you run farther. Also, if you don't feel your core engaged with ever step you take… then it's not, and your posture will fall apart accordingly.
Posted in Technique