Have you ever been on a Segway?
Or better yet do you know what a Segway is?
You typically see them in larger centres, specifically being ridden by mall security. The rider stands on a platform with a handle in front and two wheels at the base. To initiate movement the rider leans their body forward which is detected by a gyroscope within the unit and results in forward motion. Motions other than leaning the until forward by shifting body-weight won’t help in moving the Segway.
In the same way the Segway can be stopped by returning the unit to a vertical position, and I am assuming, come to sudden stop if the unit is tilted backwards.
We can think about running in the same way.
To generate the forward momentum to propel us we need to have our centre of mass in front of the point of ground contact. Some describe running as ‘controlled falling’. The body is falling forward and we catch ourselves with each stride just enough to not fall flat on our face but not so much that we can to a complete stop.
This forward lean of our bodies needs to be from the ground however. Many hear this concept of having a forward lean and simply bend over at the waist rather than leaning from the ground.
By bending forward at the waist a number of bad things happen.
1. Less Stability
We don’t maintain the tallest spine possible. And a tall spine is a more stable spine. So when we are shorter and we shorten the lengthen of the spine we won’t be as stable. A lack of stability means that every time a foot contacts the ground some energy will be lost as it leaked out through point in the kinetic chain where we lack stability.
2. Less Mobility
We will have less hip mobility when we run in a hunched over position. Try the following to see what I mean. Bend forward at the trunk so your upper body faces the ground in front of you. Maintaining this body position try and swing your leg as high as possible.
Next change your body position so you are standing tall from the hips and try this drill again. Did you notice a difference in the range of motion you were able to achieve when swinging your leg? A tall, stable spine in a neutral position allows for the greatest range possible.
3. Better Gas Exchange
I remember a few years attending a course on the spine and knee where the presenter demonstrated how an anterior pelvic tilt impaired complete gas exchange as it didn’t allow optimal position of the diaphragm. And even if we were able to maintain a neutral pelvic alignment we are closing the chest and not facilitating optimal gas exchange.
The next time you are out for a run play around with your position keeping these points in mind. One drill we will commonly use is to practice running with our hands on a wall at shoulder height. When your foot contacts the ground under or behind the body you will feel pressure on your hands as though you could knock the wall over. Don’t make the mistake of artificially trying to push the hands hard into the wall. This should happen naturally as a proper foot contact generates forward pressure all the way up through the hands.
Practice this for a little bit and let me know how it works for you. You may face you are able to eliminate some of the nagging running injuries for a while and shave some time off your daily run.
And who knows you may just end up being perfectly qualified for mall security.