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How Do I Maintain Good Running Posture?

Woman running on a treadmill.
Running shoes.
Runners should pay attention to foot impact, stride and minimizing their bounce.
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  • Written By: Jeany Miller
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 22 March 2014
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The effects of poor posture on running may include fatigue, injury and inefficient body movements. Good running posture, however, can improve oxygen flow and running times. This is likely to start with the head and shoulders, which often need to be tilted upward and kept loose and low. The torso often needs to be tall and straight with arms that move backward and forward while remaining close to the body. Runners should also minimize bouncing, land on the balls of their feet and maintain comfortable strides.

The right running posture can be key to conserving energy and maintaining momentum. Posture may help prevent injuries, muscle strains and forward falls, all of which may hamper a runner’s workout. A relaxed and upright posture may also improve oxygen flow and prevent ragged breathing. Some runners follow a 3/3 ratio, which equates to inhaling for three steps and exhaling for three steps, to prevent oxygen loss and keep posture upright.

Good running posture likely begins with the head and shoulders. Head tilt often dictates overall posture, which in turn may determine the efficiency of a run. Holding one’s head down, for example, is likely to cause hunching of the upper body, impairing breathing and blood flow. The legs and arms may also have to work harder to keep the body moving forward.

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Maintaining an upward head tilt, on the other hand, may help to straighten the neck and back. Head tilt and gaze are often connected, so runners may want to keep their eyes naturally forward without jutting the chin or stretching the neck. This posture may also help a runner keep track of breathing and running techniques, which may need adjusting during a workout.

Once the head and neck are at a natural, comfortable angle, the shoulders may help to relax the upper body. These should remain level and not dip with each stride. Runners may also have a tendency to keep shoulders high, which often causes tension. When relaxed, however, and kept loose and low, the shoulders may minimize running effort. Although fatigue during a run may bring the shoulders back up, runners should shake them loose.

Running posture often involves the torso, which is likely to be influenced by head and shoulder positions. A straight torso may create optimal lung capacity, support the lower back and improve stride length. Each breath should keep the torso straight to relieve pressure points on joints and legs. Some runners imagine carrying a helium balloon on their heads to achieve proper torso alignment.

A runner often needs to pay attention to arms as well. Arm swing often works with leg stride to propel a runner forward. In addition, hands often control tension levels in the upper body. Running posture may thus benefit from loose hands with fingers just lightly touching the palms. Arms should also swing forward and backward rather than in front of the body or out to the sides with elbows kept close to the body.

A bad running posture is often one in which the body strains against itself. Arms may be turned outward, for example, rather than in. This may create wind resistance and drive the legs to work harder. Similarly, if the head, shoulders or torso are not in upward alignment, running may be compromised. Instead, a slight forward lean from the ankles may help to improve total running techniques, keep the body straight and provide a more comfortable workout.

Additional running tips often concern bouncing, foot impact and stride. It is usually suggested that runners try to minimize bouncing so as to avoid further muscle fatigue. In addition, foot impact should generally be on the balls of the feet to minimize injury. A growing trend with running barefoot reportedly helps runners avoid landing on their heels while keeping footstrikes beneath or slightly behind the body.

Strides will likely vary considerably among individual runners. Long steps may be favorable if they do not encourage an over-stride, which can lead to injury and poor posture. Some runners ignore each individual step and instead strive for foot turnover that enables between 85 and 90 strides per minute.

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