When it comes to running, we often work hard on our form, drills, intervals, and everything and anything to do with our training. However, we only run perhaps an hour or two a day. It’s what we do during those other 22 or 23 hours that really matters.
You see, what you do outside of training directly affects your body and makes permanent habits that are very hard to override in training.
So what you do outside of running becomes exceptionally important to making you a stronger, more efficient, injury-resistant runner. Viewed another way, this is a fantastic opportunity to improve your running, without having to work any harder, and if you’re competing, a HUGE way to get a leg up on the competition, because you can use those extra 22 hours a day to give yourself a tremendous leg up.
Everything from diet, how you sit, how you stand, how you walk, eat, sleep, and…well, everything can improve your running.
But one of the most important pieces is how you stand and walk.
I hate to say this, but your mom was right. We need to stop slouching and stand up straight and proud. Poor posture does more than just wreak long-term havoc your the skeletal system, but dramatically affects your performance. Poor posture closes the lungs, making it harder to breath deep and harder to stay relaxed when we run. It brings the shoulders in and rolls them down, both inefficient and perhaps more importantly, off-balanced. Because as our shoulders roll forward, they drag everything forward, putting more weight on our joints and on our feet.
And then there’s the head. You should be able to run an imaginary silvery string from the center-point of your feet, straight up through the mid-line of your body, and out through the center of your head. This helps keep your weight perfectly balanced, which you can use to carry yourself forward.
When you run, if you lean forward just slightly, chest and chin proud (pushing ahead with chest and chin) you enter a state of a controlled fall, put one leg out in front of you, then the next, and then…voila, you’re in a gravity assisted run, with almost no effort at all.
But, if you’re head is leaning out in front of you, it doesn’t work quite this way. The average human head weighs between 8 and 12 pounds if it’s straight on top of you. Lean forward slightly and you can more than double that weight on your body (it’s all about levers). Lean forward just a bit more (typical with our poor posture these days) and it more than TRIPLES the weight.
Now this additional weight doesn’t give you a gravity assist as you run. Instead it pulls you down, pointing huge excess stress on your back, neck, shoulders, hamstrings, hips, knees and feet.
And it makes you incredibly inefficient.
So here’s the answer.
Mindful Posture 24/7: Stand tall. Sit tall. Walk tall.
Make every motion you do throughout the day a mindful tall exercise. Keep your shoulders back, your chest and chin proud, and sit and stand like the best runners you can think of. Picture the Kenyan’s for instance, who are always leading with chest and chin. Can you picture their best runners curled over at the computer, hunching forward with their shoulders or curled up in a car.
No? That’s because they sit, stand, and walk, just like they run.
And now it’s your turn too.
A key note
If you’re having trouble sitting tall. I had difficulty with this myself too.
- Look at your desk chair, and scoot your derriere toward the front. This forces you to pivot on the front of your sit bones, making you sit tall.
- Move yourself away from your desk, this also helps you sit tall.
- And last, but not least, if all else fails, consider a figure eight harness to help you reposition your upper body. It’s like wearing braces for your teeth, but for your shoulders and back, helping you develop perfect posture.
Great posture won’t just help you run. It’ll give you greater confidence in all that you do. And it’s funny, the taller you stand, the more respect you earn from the people around you. There’s also a mindful benefit to it. The taller you stand, the more focused you are on your posture. The taller you stand, the more balanced you feel, the more reassured, quiet of mind, and powerful you feel, in all that you do.
Last piece of advice
Give yourself reminders to keep up your mindful posture…pop up windows, sticky-notes, whatever it takes…just don’t ask a spouse, you don’t want that kind of heat!