There's been a ton of focus in recent years on running form. And this is a great thing as I gobble up tips as much as the next running geek.
Yet certain aspects of form have gotten WAY more 'press' than others. I'm thinking specifically of footstrike. Forefoot? Mid-foot? Heel strike? Barefoot? Definitely useful to consider, but let's not miss the forest for the trees or overstate it's importance.
Today I'd like to draw your attention to all of the various ways rotation is present throughout our body as we walk and run. Or, it's supposed to be.
Rotation allows us to “load to explode” very efficiently. In other words, when our bodies rotate properly, we use much less energy to walk and run.
That's right, your foot rotates during the loading and propulsion phases. Your hips rotate, your pelvis rotates, your spine, your neck, and even your hands rotate!
To keep things simple for today, let's focus on one area: the middle back. While watching people walk (never mind run), one quickly notices a downright epidemic in lack of rotation in this area.
Thanks to carrying bags, cell phones, putting hands in pockets, we tend to walk without swinging our arms. Yet the arm swing is a consequence of torso rotation; we shouldn't have to think about swinging our arms!
The other big reason I think people don't rotate is that they don't breathe properly due to stress. Show of hands: who carries their stress in their upper back?
Yeah, that's because you're using your emergency breathing muscles to breathe all day. I'd be pretty pissed too, if I had to contract 15,000 times a day more than I should. And that's exactly what happens to your neck and upper chest/back muscles when you aren't using your diaphragm properly.
When you're not breathing well and you're stressed, do you think you will be relaxed? Obviously not, by definition. You will be tight because your nervous system is just trying to survive the perceived threat. Chances of relaxed fluid running form: zero.
So, here are a couple of drills to implement and a form cue to take with you.
Thoracic Rotation Stretch With Breathing
Here, we're incorporating diaphragmatic breathing while relaxing deeper into the position during the exhalation.
Good breathing =
- In & out through nose
- Mouth closed, tongue on roof of mouth
- 3D expansion of belly/sides/low back during inhale. (Do not actively push the belly out).
During this stretch, it's important to keep the knees pulled up towards your chest. After the stretch, try using the following drill while walking.
Thoracic Rotation Emphasis While Walking
Here, we're interested in allowing the ribcage to rotate towards the front leg, while the pelvis rotates towards the rear leg. The pelvis and ribcage should be moving in opposite directions, not locked up as one unit as in a push-up or log roll. The easiest way I've found to do this is to consciously just relax and touch the opposite thigh with your hand.
So the take home is this: relax and allow yourself to rotate freely. Walking and even running can be therapeutic, but not if we're doing it wrong. Try those 2 drills immediately before running and see if you notice a difference ;-)
So, here's your challenge: start watching people walk. Notice – are they rotating their ribcage area? Or are they locked up, chest pointed straight ahead?