Your head weighs about 4 kg, give or take, with all the accessories (i.e. eyes, ears etc). So bobbing the head around is not a great idea for most people (Paula Radcliffe is a different story, it works for some people).
The point is that what you do with your head sends ripples down the body, all the way to the feet. This means the rest of the body has to adapt to what your head it doing. It’s a chain reaction.
Think about it this way, when you balance on a balance beam, if your head stays over your feet you are balanced. When you head goes left your whole body follows, you lost balance. If you manage to get your head back over your feet you might have a chance of re-gaining your balance.
But it’s more than that, it’s not about that kind of balance, that’s only an example, when you run your body has a different state of balance. When you run you “jump” from one foot to the other, you are on one foot at a time. Your muscles, joints, ligaments all have to activate and do their job to keep everything in one piece and going forwards. There are many elements of movement you have unaware of. And your head it an important part of this chain.
Bottom line, the idea is that your head should be nicely balanced at the top of your spine, with your neck relatively straight, don’t tilt your head backwards or forwards, left or right. Just straight.
Yeah but you need to look ahead!! You might think you need to lift your head to look forward or tilt it forwards (chin to chest) to look down. Actually the eyes are independent of the head, they can look up, forward and down without the help of the head. To a certain angle of course, after that head needs to move as well.
Most runners tilt their head backwards, so they can look ahead I suppose (I used to be one of them until recently), putting strain on the back of the neck and cervical vertebrae. Since this is a chain reaction, the tension and strain goes down through the body, ripple effect. While running there is a lot of vibration going through the body, neck and spine as it is, you don’t want your 4 kg pounding on top of your spine, do you?
That being said your head with never stay put, it has to have some movement of course. It’s a balancing act in fact. If you try to stop it you will only tense and strain your neck even more than if you don’t.
Try this when you walk to begin with:
- keep chin parallel to the ground
- back of neck straight
- look forwards – eyes are independent of your head!
Actually, when you get the hang of it, having a straight neck releases that tension at the back of the neck, tension you are probably not aware of….until you straighten your neck. I know I do run faster and easier when I straighten my neck, it’s an instant shift, but you can’t tell you are tensed until you relax.
- Tilt head back
- Tilt head forward (chin in chest)
- Tilt head to the side
- Bob your head
- Keep chin parallel to the ground
- Keep back of neck straight (there will be a natural curve in the spine of course)
- Use eyes independent of the head when possible (probably not on tough trail terrain, make sure you see where you step)
- Allow for the natural head movement
If you want to run lighter, faster and stronger get your head in the right place. And if you have any questions just leave a comment below.
In the meantime, keep developing your running skills.