ASK THE PHYSIO Kate Senini opened her own clinic, Pure Physio with colleague Andrew Sargent in the Melbourne CBD, in 2010. A keen runner, Kate’s passion is running specific injuries. She enthusiastically spreads her knowledge through lectures, seminars and freelance writing. Contact Kate on 03 9090 7325 or follow Pure Physio on Facebook.
The tendency to slouch is all too great as hours of computer work go by. This may seem the norm within the office, but is it having a negative effect on our after-work run?
The answer is yes. Correct posture is an integral part of our ability to run with flexibility, stability, strength and fluidity. It helps with efficiency and performance, and eliminates many overuse injuries.
Slouched posture creates stiffness into a rounded position through the joints of the spine. The muscles through the lower back become tight as they work to hold us in our poor position all day. The fronts of the hips become tight as they remain in a flexed position, and the abdominal muscles become slow to switch on, and weak. The pelvis is rolled forward, creating an increased arch in the low back. Equally, the gluteals become poor to activate as we sit on them all day. General connective tissue and nerve tension increases with the sustained slouched position, which in turn creates tension into the lower limbs.
Running requires a good upright posture. Your upper back should be straight and chest open. Your arms should be able to swing without being inhibited by upper back stiffness, and your pelvis should be tucked to maintain the normal curve of the lower back. Your pelvis should remain level throughout the running cycle, requiring the deep abdominal muscle layer to engage.
Only when this position is maintained will the gluteal muscles engage. These gluteals are required to control the hip joint, which maintains the correct alignment of the hip, knee and ankle. Without these correct joint positions and stability, the bigger muscles have to work much harder to generate propulsion and absorb shock on the landing of every single step.
A good ergonomic set up and strategies to move more in the workplace will be of great assistance to improving posture. Physiotherapy for the mobilisation of any stiffness and tightness, and specific exercise prescription for the deep abdominal muscles and gluteals will help in correcting any postural imbalances.
Self-management strategies such as using a foam roller, spikey ball and regular stretching are great habits to prevent the onset of stiffness. A regular core and strength component to a running program will also help in building joint stability and alignment, and global muscle strength for efficient and injury-free running.