Relax your abdominal muscles when you run. Yes, that’s right, relax them.

As I was running with a friend this morning, she shared that she was concerned about how her feet were landing and her lack of a forward lean, both important aspects of running form. However, after watching her run for a bit, I asked her if her if she was contracting her abdominal muscles. She replied that she was.

The reason I asked her about her abs rather than directly answering her concerns was that if your spine and torso can’t move properly it will not help to make modifications elsewhere. First the spine, then the torso (including the abs), the pelvic and shoulder girdle, and then the arms and legs.

If your spine and torso aren’t able to move naturally, as is the case when you run with tight abdominals, any changes you make in your form will have to be counteracted somewhere else in your body. For example, if your abdominals are contracted when you run, this pulls the pelvis upward (tilts it back, or retroverts, to be specific), pulls the rib cage downward, and creates a center of tension in your body. Your spine will not be able to move freely, nor will your hips. All of this then impacts the forward lean and, to a lesser extent, footfall.

This is why I’m often reluctant to giving running ‘tips’, but would rather help someone to rebuild their form. You can’t separate the legs from the body (nor would you want to, I suspect), and as western humans, most of us have been out of balance, posturally speaking, for so long that we essentially need to relearn how to run.

For a great example of beautiful running form, head out to the soccer fields one Saturday morning and watch the younger children run. They don’t have to think about their running form because it hasn’t gotten out of balance yet. For adults, we have to relearn the form we were born with.

But first, we have to relax our abdominals.

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