Have you started to see overuse injuries like knee pain or ankle pain? You might also be undergoing a flare-up of your injury or pain while running. People start concluding that this is attributable to too much running on hard surfaces or too much mileage. Some even attribute to treadmill running, age, gender, etc. But probably they miss out on a very important contributing factor, body mechanics. Here when we are mentioning body mechanics, we are not talking about foot strike, pronation, or wrong gait. We are talking about your angle of leaning forward when running.
What happens when we lean forward?
We have seen sprinters taking blocks before running and starting their run with their bodies at an angle to the ground. However, they do this to generate quick acceleration. We shall discuss the science behind this some other time. Distance, endurance, recreational, hobby runners, etc. must understand what happens when they lean forward over a long distance.
Researchers studied different trunk angle positions at -10Deg, -20Deg, and -30Deg for a distance of 5km or more. They measured several factors such as load on joints (mainly knee and ankle), stride length, pace, lactate levels, and VO2max. The surprising result was the more one leans forward the more load joints have to take. Also, we reach the lactate threshold early and VO2 tends to fall. Surprisingly, opposite to our belief, even the stride length was getting shorter whereas everyone used to believe that if one leans forward it results in further movement of the leg and hence should increase stride length.
Factors causing injury
Injury especially to the knee and ankle is many folds among the runners and walkers who do not stand straight while running or walking a long distance. Besides the load factor as mentioned above, the angle of movement of the joint is also not conducive and sustainable. This is because if we lean forward, the upper bone is already stressed to move forward and a forward stride takes the joint to extreme positions. When the body is warmed up, we may not initially feel but as we increase mileage or duration, we can feel the stress. If we do not take corrective action it will convert to acute pain and if still not corrected will become chronic.
Factors causing lower performance
When we lean forward, we do not allow our diaphragm to open fully and allow the flow of gas. This leads to less intake of oxygen at the time when our muscles need it most. Thus we have more of the anaerobic process leading to early lactate threshold. Besides VO2 also goes down.
Stride length reduces as leaning forwards reduces the force our glutes and hamstrings can deliver to flex leg forward. Thus we land up with lower stride length at high energy consumption which is not economical for a distance runner. The result is a slower pace.
How to correct it
We have to work on improving our overall posture and adding few exercises which help us straighten up while running or walking. Adding exercises such as hip flexor, glute bridge, piriformis stretches, upper trapezium stretches and lumbar mobility (Updog yoga, boat, and pigeon poses) can help improve posture and hence reduce stress leading to injury-free walk or run. If you perform these exercises daily and you should be able to see the benefits in about 30 days.
Besides these one needs to do breathing exercises to increase diaphragm movement and learn to do something known as belly breathing.
Article by: Capt. Jitender Harjai – Fitness expert H2FCare