I have been avoiding running for the last few weeks as breathing deeply whilst I ran through the woods was bringing on hayfever symptoms - not great when you do close contact work! Next year I will have my herbal remedy made up in advance but this year I just opted for long, brisk walks instead as I didn't want to miss out on the beautiful displays of wild flowers.
Today I noted that the pollen count was low and with the day off I decided to go for a morning run; a gentle run a bit, walk a bit to see how my irritable Achilles was doing whilst covering enough distance to see the bluebells in four nearby woods. As I ran I wanted to keep my upper body relaxed and rotating easily, and my posture optimal. This helps to distribute the effort more evenly rather than over-working certain muscle groups. I aimed for a running pace where I could still keep up a conversation if I had a companion. What worked for me:
- Checking what my neck was up to. When I am putting in effort my chin tends to go forwards, causing my neck to go into cervical lordosis. Stick your chin forward and experiment with rotating your torso whilst looking forward; now bring your chin back to a neutral, relaxed position and repeat the movement. Which one feels easier? For me, neutral gives more movement so I use various visualisations to help bring me into that position, for instance imagining being lifted gently by the scruff of my neck, or my spine expanding upwards as if being pumped up with air like a bike tire. Others like to visualise a helium balloon supporting them from the crown of the head. Bringing my neck into this position also helps improve my centre of gravity as well as effortlessly bringing my shoulders back and opening my chest; have a go and see what you notice. Make a note too of what the back of your neck feels like when the chin is forward compared to neutral - you may notice that the spine disappears into a steep sided valley when the chin is forward!
- Shortening my stride so that my centre of gravity is over my footstrike - this is less effortful than over-striding so I am less likely to stick my chin forward!
- Ensuring that my palms are turned in to face my sides. I find this opens my shoulders and frees up my rotation compared to palms down towards the ground.
- Visualising that my elbows are connected by a band to my ribs so that as my elbows move back my ribs follow and I get more torso counter-rotation which helps make me more energy efficient compared to if just my shoulders are moving whilst my torso stays put.