I have been told that I am too upright and should have a forward lean when running so gravity helps me. I try but the front of my legs get very tired and my knees start aching, especially uphill. Can you give me any advice?”
Running Fitness Magazine, November 2014
The coaching cue of having a ‘forward lean when running’ is often used but in my experience can sometimes lead to confusion. For some of us, trying to ‘lean forwards’ when running can lead to us bending forwards at the waist when in reality the goal is a slight lean from the ankles, keeping the rest of the body straight (which takes a fair amount of trunk strength).
Bending forwards at the waist can cause the hips to become less efficient at driving the leg back behind and can lead to overuse of the thighs, which is why you may be getting tired legs and aching knees. It is also worth remembering that there is no one best way to run and even among elite runners we see some more upright than others, so don’t worry too much if the runner next to you has a slightly different running posture.
A more useful cue in my opinion is to check that your pelvis is not dipping downwards too much when you run, causing excessive arching in your lower back. If you imagine you have headlights on the front of your hips, try moving them from ‘dipped beam’ (pelvis dipped down) to ‘full beam’ (pelvis lifted slightly) and at the same time lift the chest. This subtle change in position may help you feel like you are running taller and lighter. If you have problems doing this when you run, try performing the tilt whilst kneeling on the floor. You may well feel a stretch sensation up the thigh and across the hip of the knee on the ground as you move from ‘dipped’ to ‘full’. Look out also for more of a stretch in one thigh than the other.
As always, take things slowly, listen to your body and let me know how it goes!
Matt Phillips is the in-house Running Injury Specialist for UK magazine Running Fitness. Buy your copy today in all good magazine outlets, e.g. WHSmiths.