August 06, 2020 5 min read

Breathing is often taken for granted until demand is not met. There are a variety of factors that influence breathing and we advise anyone reading this to consult with their doctor if they are having difficulties breathing under normal conditions. Everyone else can likely benefit from improved posture, particularly under fatigue. Even runners with good posture often lose their form when they begin to tire, which sets in motion a reinforcing cycle.

In photo A you see (A) neutral head posture aligned over (B) relaxed shoulders, aligned over neutral hips (C), and the only forward angle is at the ankle of the loaded leg (D). In contrast, photo B shows an extended head position (A), protracted shoulders (B), forward-tilted pelvis and the forward angle is at the hips (C) causing the loaded knee and ankle to absorb downward force instead of using it to go forward. Images C and D demonstrate this same difference from the front. Note in image B and D how the diaphragm is compressed as a result of the bend at the waist and head and shoulders being out front of the hips (not understanding). Also, note the landing position of the lead leg in images C and D. With good form the foot will land underneath the body and extend behind the runner. With poor form, the leg extends ahead of the body and the foot and knee have to power through the downward forces to move the runner forward, effectively putting on a brake, then shortening the stride but requiring more energy to go forward.

Poor posture while exercising makes finding air increasingly difficult, which creates more fatigue and leads to worse posture. Thankfully this vicious cycle is avoidable.

Direct Instruction: 

Let's begin with a quick assessment of what happens when you lose form. Stand with ears, shoulders, hips, and ankles in line. Next, begin running in place at a moderate effort. Aim to get 20-22 right steps every 15 seconds. Once you notice you are breathing heavier, bend forward at the waist, but still keep with the same tempo. Notice the difference in difficulty? Now raise your torso and align the shoulders, hips, and ankles once more. Notice the perceived effort dropped yet you’ve maintained the same tempo throughout. Of course, you’re thinking, duh bending forward while running isn’t going to feel good, I’d never do that. And yet few among us, even at the elite level, don't have at least one race photo of our shoulders up to our ears, chest rolled in, and creases at the beltline. Let’s be real… It's a bad look. The good news is, you don’t have to fear this happening to you ever again so long as you integrate the following short routine into your training.

Guided Practice:

1. Stand in a door frame with your head, shoulder blades, glutes, and heels touching the frame. Place the RAD Roller or Helix behind your low back. Engage your core and hold the RAD Roller or Helix in place.

 

2. Next, lift your right knee 6-12 inches and swing your left arm forward as though you would if running. Lower the leg, making sure to bring the heal to the wall.

 

3. Repeat with the left leg and right arm. This is one cycle. Many people struggle to keep the RAD Roller or Helix in place while lifting a leg and still keeping the head, shoulder blades, glutes, and opposite heel touching the frame. Keep practicing this until you can hold the RAD Roller or Helix in place for 20 cycles. 

Side Note: Have you thought about breathing? It's likely you’ve been focused on holding the RAD Roller in place and you forgot about breathing or maybe you even held your breath. So next, you’ll focus on breathing while the RAD Roller is still behind your low back. 

  1. Breathe in and out from your nose with the tongue touching the roof of your mouth behind your front teeth. Feel the air fill deep into your lungs, your stomach should expand easily, your chest and neck are relaxed, then exhale fully. Your abdominal muscles can work a little to force the air up and out but still keep the upper portion of your chest and shoulders relaxed. 

You should notice the RAD Roller is held in place easier on the inhale as air enters the lower lungs and then you have to focus to keep it in place as you exhale. Avoid letting the heels sneak away from the wall in order to keep the RAD Roller in place, which would create a backward lean and is equally destructive to your ability to run well. 

  1. (Optional) If you find this exercise too difficult and the RAD Roller keeps dropping we suggest integrating the routine on releasing the diaphragm with help of the RAD Centre and addressing any hip tightness with the end of the RAD Rod.(video?)

May benefit from understanding how SMR (Centre/abs, Roller, and/or Helix on the back) can aid in enhancing proprioception. Here’s a quick passage you can modify in case you agree. 

Another benefit to SMR is heightened proprioception. Proprioception is our ability to sense how and where we are moving our body; arms, legs, ankles, fingers, everything. Now imagine we can enhance that awareness so we sense even more how much weight is on one side of our foot versus the other, or how well our fingers are able to move and grip objects. With heightened proprioception comes more movement quality and success, and less incidence of injury.

Don’t know how deep you wanna go but another “science” portion that could back all this up is the powerful benefits associated with understanding interoception. 

https://www.psychologicalscience.org/observer/interoception-how-we-understand-our-bodys-inner-sensations

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5985305/ (I imagine when running, athletes can get emotional, stressed, etc…)

  1. Check for Understanding: “Now that you’ve felt what upright posture requires from your core and glutes, step away from the wall, set the tempo to 80-90rpm and run in place as before. Bend forward as before but this time engage the core to return back to the upright position you just practiced. Do you feel the muscles around your abs, low back and glutes working? Can you relax them on an inhale and take in a full breath? 

Avoid the temptation to hold the core in constant tension; you should be relaxed above the waist while running, only activating the core when feeling the upper body move out of alignment. These are minor corrections that take place thousands of times over a run. When you’re not tired, they happen automatically but we want you to have this ability under fatigue when it matters most.

Independent Practice:

Before your next run, integrate the RAD Roller into your pre-run routine. To instill this awareness you’ll need to practice it thousands of times. The good news is every run will allow you to practice it 80 to 100 times a minute. Conversely, if you are not aware of posture then you are at risk of reinforcing poor posture 80-100 times a minute. 

Set yourself up for success by doing at least 2 rounds of 20 cycles of the wall exercise, just enough to trigger the muscles. Then be sure to remember to use them throughout the run, especially when you get tired and notice you’ll be able to maintain a better pace or at least avoid slowing down as much.

Running (like breathing) can be done with little to no effort. But, when you are stressed or fatigued, you can benefit greatly from focusing on form and avoiding postural changes that zap energy. 

Many of us are attracted to running because it is a personal journey. Therefore, improvement is going to be determined by each runner. These improvements may be quantifiable by measuring speed, distance and heart rate or more subjective measures of simply “feeling better”. However you measure improvement, after a few weeks of integrating this exercise into a regular running routine, you’ll begin to see and feel a difference. One of the qualities that set elite runners apart from beginners is the ability to maintain form under fatigue.