Fascial specialist, Melissa Putt, can practically guarantee a personal best at your next race. You just have to sit up straighter.
What if interval training were only part of the equation for optimizing speed?
This could mean fewer 800 meter repeats at the high school track. It stands to reason that if your head is carried forward of your neck and shoulders (as most desk job professionals do), the weight of the head is transferred literally as dead weight to the working muscles below. And it is held there with fascial tension. In fact, a forward-of-the-shoulders head posture can be equivalent to carrying an extra 42 pounds of weight! Runners diet to get as lean as possible to optimize a MaxVo2, rest adequately, moderate carbohydrate consumption, speed train, interval train, hill train, but still many carry a sloppy head posture that acts like lead cargo.
Running efficiency is very much about how the body is aligned with each and every heel strike. The better joints align and muscles are recruited for impact, the more effortless the run will be. Should a runner be coiled tight from head to toe, it is more difficult for the body to absorb the impact and spring back with potential energy. The runner should aim for fluidity and optimal shock absorption in order to transfer the impact of the running stride into propulsion. This alignment and efficiency starts at the head and with healthy fascia.
How do you run with your head?
Day jobs keep us in postures that lengthen and weaken muscles at the front of the neck, and shorten and tighten muscles at the back of the neck. The fascial tissue surrounds all these muscles and shrink wraps around them holding them in a cast-like position. Because the brain always wants to level the eyes to the horizon, this imbalance of long weak neck muscles and short, tight posterior neck muscles causes the head to glide forward of the shoulders and the chin to jut up to level the eyes. To compensate for the head load, the shoulders tighten in the front and the top, and the back of the shoulder girdle weakens. That is why so many athletes at some time or another experience the discomfort of rotator cuff injuries.
For every one inch forward of the shoulders the head gains ten pounds! And running impact is equivalent to four times the body weight. Essentially a forward head by one inch adds 40 pounds of weight on heel strike. Your working muscles have to condition to carry this cargo. So stop dieting to increase lean body mass and get the head on straight instead! Getting the neck and shoulders aligned and the fascial casing fluid and pliable is the best possible way to enhance speed and running efficiency.
To test for forward head posture, have a profile picture from both left and right side taken in front of a plum line. Then draw a straight line down the centre. From ear lobe down to heel bone, how far forward are the shoulders and head of the hips and feet? To correct this forward head posture and release the neck fascial tension, add these following neck exercises post-workout. The repetitions and time under tension are what are needed to affect the fascial restrictions that hold the neck muscles.
Supine Neck Curl:
Lay on your back on the floor. Allow the chin to first gut up, then draw the chin down and lengthen the posterior neck. Hesitate into the position. Lastly curl the head and neck off the floor. Take 10 seconds to complete the routine. Repeat 6-12 times.
Lay on the floor with legs straight. Connect as much of the spine to the floor as possible. Inhale and draw the chin down towards the adams apple. Hold the load for 15seconds. Repeat 6-12x.
Shoulder grip stretch:
Stand with feet firmly planted. Reach one arm over the head and the other behind the back. Attempt to grasp hands. If able tug the top arm down and the bottom arm up. Hold 60 seconds. If unable to touch join the hands with a towel and add the tension up and down.
Melissa Putt is myofascial posture and alignment specialist with certification in Somatherapy and Fascial Therapy. She is a former elite runner and still runs a 20 minute 5k in local road races. For more information, visit HealthyHabits.ca
Photo credit: Flickr/TimNorris