Posture—it says a lot about a person. Tall, strong posture gives the appearance of a powerful, confident woman (not to mention it gives the girls a little boost), while slouched posture can make you look timid and not exactly self-confident. Aside from how great posture makes you look, what about the effect it has on your body—and running performance?
When your posture is not on point, neither is your body. The muscles, tendons and ligaments were all designed to function a specific way; when they’re out of alignment due to poor posture, they’re not going to be doing their job efficiently or completely. For example, a slouched posture will close your rib cage, reducing your lung capacity, a huge drawback when you need every ounce of oxygen you can get. Poor posture can also wreak havoc on your running form—making you less efficient with each stride, causing premature fatigue in the muscles of your hips, back, shoulders and chest, as well as leading to unnecessary aches and pains throughout your entire body.
Posture even has an effect on how you think and react to situations. A 2015 study published in Health Psychology found that adopting an upright posture in the face of stress can maintain self-esteem, reduce negative mood, and increase positive mood compared to a slumped posture. So next time you’re feeling beaten down at work or on a run, pull those shoulders back, lift your head up and trudge onward.
If your current postural situation is less than ideal, here are a few tips to get everything back where it’s supposed to be and perk up your posture.
Stretch The Pecs
The fact that many of us spend our days slumped over a computer has created an epidemic of hunched shoulders, which generally results from tight, shortened pecs and weak, lengthened back muscles. Addressing these muscle imbalances will help pull your shoulders back into alignment, in turn lifting and opening up your rib cage. Every chance you get, stretch your pecs. Whether you’re pulling your arms behind you while sitting at your desk or using every doorway you walk through as a stretching tool—stretch those babies!
Lengthen Your Hip Flexors
Because you’re a runner, there’s a good chance you have some pretty tight hip flexors. Add this to all of that sitting time and there’s little doubt that these muscles are causing some trouble. Shortened hip flexors can increase the curvature in your lower back and cause your pelvis to tip forward (issues a lot of women already deal with, thanks to those little bundles of joy we so gladly brought into the world). Make it a point to stretch your hip flexors daily, at least, and always try to move a little deeper into the stretch.
Strengthen Your Posterior Chain
Generally speaking, our flexor muscles (those on the front of our bodies) are overactive, while those on the back are weak and underactive—sitting and running keep us in a constant state of flexion. Strengthening the extensor muscles of the posterior chain (think: back, glutes, hamstrings and calves) will significantly improve your posture (especially if you’re actively stretching your pecs and hip flexors on a regular basis), not to mention your running performance. Implement exercises into your training that target all of those powerful muscles including kettlebell swings, deadlifts, rows, back extensions and hip bridges/thrusts.
Practice Standing Tall
Practice makes perfect and this couldn’t be truer when it comes to posture. To get better posture, you’ve got to practice better posture. Whenever you think about it throughout the day, adjust your body so that your posture is impeccable, and hold it as long as you can or until you get distracted. Eventually, your body will catch on and your posture will improve even without you thinking about it.
Give Your Phone a Break
I know it’s your lifeline to everything, but for your own sake give that little device you love so dearly a break from time to time. The constant looking down at your phone while texting or scrolling through the ‘gram is causing a world of hurt on your neck. The muscles on the back of your neck are working overtime while the ones on the front are growing shorter by the day—neither of which is great for running form. In addition to spending less time looking down, perform neck circles and the chin-to-chest stretch throughout the day and work on strengthening the muscles in the front of your neck with isometric holds.