Recently we discussed how important posture is for your spine. This is true no matter what you're doing, whether you're sitting in front of a computer, standing in line, or running in a marathon. How you hold yourself affects your body. Did you know you increase the amount of pressure on your spine when you run? This means you put yourself at an increased risk of injury when running, so maintaining proper running posture is important.
To review, a healthy spine should make a slight S-shape when viewed from the side. The bottom curve inward of the S would be the slight curve inward at your lower back, which gradually becomes a curve outward at your upper back. This leads up to another slight curve inward at the top of your spine. Good posture helps retain these natural curves, but bad posture warps them, putting your joints and bones in the wrong alignment and causing your body to work harder. This can cause fatigue, muscle strain, headaches, and back pain, but it can also weaken your spine, causing an increased risk of injury. Below are some tips to ensure you maintain good posture while running or walking.
Are you leaning too far forward or too far back? You want to keep your torso upright, straight but relaxed. Resist bending too far forward at the waist, as it puts pressure on your lower back knees. Bending too far back is usually a sign of upper body and arm fatigue, but it can make breathing difficult by preventing you from fully filling your diaphragm. It can be beneficial to incorporate more exercises to strengthen your core and upper body to make it easier to keep the right posture.
Are your shoulders scrunched up near your ears? It's best for them to actually be relaxed and back, just as you would keep them in any other activity. Keep them level while running, but relaxed enough to avoid tension that might strain the muscles in your back.
If you find yourself tilting your head far back, it's a sign you need to relax. Shake your muscles out. Tensing up only puts you in a position to hurt your muscles, making it harder to run. Keep your gaze ahead, scanning the horizon, not at your feet or above you.