The Speed Factory at Steelworks is a three part series that aims to improve your running.  Over the next three weeks we will be examining the following topics related to running:

Week 1:  Posture. We’ll look at common biomechanical errors in running patterns and positions and will offer solutions to some of those major postural problems that hinder performance.

Week 2:  Propulsion.  In this week’s installment, we will offer you movement strategies that teach you how to better harness the power of your body to help you run more efficiently.

Week 3:  Pacing.  In the final installment, we will teach you how to efficiently pace a training run and a 10 kilometer race.  A four week sample training program will be created that will help you peak for a hypothetical road race.

While humans have evolved to be natural runners, running is an athletic skill set that demands as much analysis and tinkering as much as a golf swing or a free throw.  Running form matters.   Not convinced?  Consider the fact that the average amount of steps at a 6 minute mile pace is around 350.  Run 10 minute mile pace and you will still have 230 steps under your legs.  Most recreational runners log anywhere between 4-10 miles per day.  When you do the math, that’s anywhere between 920 to 3500 steps per training session.  Not only is the amount of steps high, but then add in the fact that with each foot strike, the knee experiences a force equal to eight times a person’s body weight — for a 150-lb. person, that comes out to 1,200 lb. of impact, step after step.

If you want to enjoy running for years to come, attending to your mechanics is paramount.  It all starts with basic posture.  With a professional career, most of us are trapped in a desk in front of a computer screen every day of the week.  Because of this, we start to develop poor posture.  This poor posture becomes ingrained into our normal everyday lives, but even worse into how we move athletically.

Being hunched over at a desk leads to forward shrugged shoulders and or a forward leaning head and neck. (As seen in the pics on the left.)

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First Step to Reclaiming Better Posture

Throughout the work day, get up out of your chair and try this simple system reset.

The drill starts with placing the feet together with the edges of the big toes touching flush against each other.  This will bring the knees into a neutral position.  The next step is to take the arms out to the side with the palms up.  Keeping the shoulders back, gently lower your hands back to the side.  By externally rotating the shoulders, you reset your shoulders into a more neutral and secure position.  Following this, rotate the pelvis forward so that you are tucking your hips underneath you.  Many of us spend our days with our lower backs in a hyperextended position.  By posteriorly tilting the pelvis, we bring the spine into a more (yes, you guessed it) neutral position.  The system reset drill ends with you pushing your chin back over your spine.

By doing this little drill throughout the day, you will slowly start to reclaim better posture that you surrender throughout by sitting in a desk.

Addressing Shoulder Positioning

How you carry your arms while you run plays an important part to your efficiency.  Every movement you make while you run should be propelling you forward.  Simple concept, right?  Then why do so many people run with their arms flared out or sway their arms across their chest?  If this is you, you can do better.  Here’s how.

Poor shoulder positioning is a result of a number of things.  One, you are simply not blessed with good anatomy.  Bone angles and joint positioning just isn’t optimal.  Two, your shoulder musculature is simply impinged.  There are a host of drills you can do to improve shoulder posture and strength.  Given that you have only so much time in the day to work on your running, you need a tool set that gets the most bang for the buck.

Addressing Upper Back/Core Restriction/Weakness

In the next video, I examine how to improve the range of motion in your thoracic spine which will help you keep a more upright torso when you run.

Once the thoracic spine has been mobilized, a great way to strengthen the back and maintain a more upright posture is a simple exercise called the farmer’s carry.

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As shown in the picture above, simply grab some kettlebells or dumbbells or anything heavy in both hands.  Then you walk for a set distance with the weight in hand.  An example of a good farmer’s carry workout would be 5 x 150 meters farmer’s carries resting 1 minute between each set.

Addressing Excessive External Rotation in the Hip

While the amount of mobility drills are endless, the above strategies are great starting points to getting you in the proper positions to help you run effectively and effortlessly.

Stay tuned for next week’s post on the mechanics of efficient running!