When it comes to runners who clock miles and miles every week on a regular basis attention and care needs to be directed to how they run so they don’t get put off training for stress fractures, ankle sprains, knee injuries, shin splints, Achilles problems, back pain, or anything else we runners face. Of course nothing is guaranteed, but the more you look at how you run the less injuries and time of training you will have to ensure.
I have the habit of giving you a lot, a lot of information, and very detailed. I do this because I hope you will take 20% of what you read. Sometimes even that 20% is better than nothing.
That being said let’s talk about how you position your body to enable you to glide over the terrain, rather than stomping. And we begin with…:
This is a good exercise to practice before you go for a run. It’s connects you to your own body. With practice you will gradually bring it into your run.
A good alignment means you are “stacking” the body in the correct position, and, if you manage to maintain that your run will feel amazing. Trust me, it will. When it clicks, it clicks.
The pressure on your joints will be at angles that don’t cause so much damage. Of course, it’s impossible to keep your body stiff in one position, but try as often as you remember to align and re-align. Also, remember, good alignment means a relaxed body, if you tense up you can do more harm. So relax and go through the exercise below.
- Stand with feet hip width apart
- Toes pointing forward
- Distribute your weight evenly on the left and right foot
- Distribute your weight evenly on the front (ball of food) and back (heel) of each foot left – keep the left/right weight distribution while doing so
- Soften your knees; don’t bend them too much, just lock them and then relax, you are not doing a squat
- Lightly tuck in your tailbone (this will also allow the knees to soften) so that, if your pelvis was a bucket of water, you wouldn’t spill water in any direction; your abdominal muscles should tense slightly and your lumbar spine should flatten slightly. These are signs you are probably in a good position. It should feel comfortable
- Your hip should be in line with the back of your knee cap, and in line with your ankles, roughtly
- Relax your shoulders and align them with your hips which is aligned with your ankles
- Chin parallel to the ground
- Head slightly pushed back until you feel the back of your neck lengthening, releasing tension and the natural curve flattening slightly
- Ears aligned with the shoulders
You can maintain this alignment at any angle. If you lean your body from your ankles everything is still aligned. If you lie on the floor your body is still in the same alignment. But if you stick your bum out, pull your head back or turn your toes out that’s when, in time, things start to go wrong and injuries begin to show up.
This is a simple imagination exercise, or visualization if you wish.
Holding the body in alignment as above, imagine a piece of string tied to the crown of your head and to the ceiling, a branch or the sky above you.
Imagine how this piece of string elongates your body towards the sky. Keeping its shape and alignment though
You can begin to elongate the ankles, the shins, up into the knees, through the thighs, to the hips.
Then elongate your trunk and ribs. You shouldn’t lean back, push your chest out, pull your shoulder blades together or do anything else. Just imagine. There’s no point lengthening the front of your body while tension and shortening the back by pulling your shoulders back.
Then relax your shoulders, keep the alignment, elongate your neck and head – take care not to tilt your head back here.
Then imagine the piece of string and your vertebrae like beads on a string. Allow each vertebra to pop up, away from the one below it, and then lightly stack up on top of each other. Go from the tailbone/coccyx all the way to the neck/cervical spine and up through the crown of your head towards the sky.
You can practice this as a stand alone meditation. It will help improve your posture as well as slowly making its way into your running posture and to a better performance.
After you practice a good alignment while standing and in movement and elongate the body, the next step is to practice a slight lean. The lean should be from the ankles, as described in the POSE Method of Running, and, on a flat ground it’s a matter of millimeters.
Remember, the key is: lean should be from the ankles, not bending from the hips. You can work this out in front of a mirror.
One of the greatest mistakes I see is bending from the hips. This is very very common, so take care, especially when you run uphill. You can easily end up with low back pain and not even make it up that hill.
Some argue the lean is not the way to go. I argue it is for at least 3 reasons:
- For your feet to land under the hip, in alignment with the rest of the body, the hip should be slightly ahead…..which is achieved through that slight lean.
- Pushing off and active landing are actually very very strenous. When you land under the body, and you do this by leaning from the ankles, you can pick up the feet and control the landing.
- Free energy! That’s gravity. It’s so much easier to “fall” forward than to push your body forward over and over again. Let gravity take over! It saves a lot of energy and you end up running faster, as you pick up you feet faster, as a result of landing under the body and not ahead, as a result of that slight lean.
I found this exercise in Chi Running by Danny Dreyer, which is really easy to practice.
- Stand in front of a table, about hip height, about 2 feet away (you will adjust after)
- Align your body, like a column
- Elongate your body
- Lightly tens your abdominal muscles
- Now lean from the ankles until you can rest your hip, or pelvis, on the side of the table
- Keep the column straight though, even at an angle
- Hold the position
You will notice how much your abdominal muscles contribute to this position, as it should when you run. This lean is a lot more than what you normally need, but if you exaggerate the lean when you practice you will do it just right when you’re out there running.
Here is a video talking about the lean as well.
That’s it for today. I wanted to write a short article but it ended up a pretty long one. Just take one exercise at a time. Print this page if you wish and practice each exercise for 1 week. You will transform your running.
Need help? I have a few ways to help you with this. One is a 4 weeks course where you go through ALL the running elements. This course can also be done in 2 weeks. Or, if you aren’t close by, I do have a series of coaching videos you can learn from, a running academy. Another option is online coaching. So there are solutions. Thus give a shout if you need help with this. If not, I’m looking forward to hearing how you implemented these exercises and how they worked out for you.