Runners: Are You a Swinger or a Twister?

Running should be pretty straight forward – right? So why do so many runners suffer from injury? In my view one cause is how we runners use our legs – do you swing or twist?

I see many runners who twist their pelvis as they run in order to move the legs. This is not a very efficient way to move the legs and can cause quite a degree of unnecessary stress on the lower back. Why do they do this? This may sound strange but they have lost the sense of where their hips joints are located – that is – where their legs should swing. Do you swing your legs from the hip joints? Try this simple exercise.

1. Stand with your back to a wall with your only your shoulder blades and buttocks making contact. You will need to stand with your heels away from the wall. The distance depends on the tone in your gluteus maximus! The back of your head does not touch the wall and should be resting on top of your spine.

2. Allow yourself to stand tall (just think this, don’t do it) and appreciate the floor pushing back up. Be aware of the location of the hip, knee and ankle joint of your left leg. Note the hip joint is at the front and not the side of your pelvis.

3. Imagine a thread attached to your left knee and allow your leg to release from the hip and ankle joint and allow the thread to pull the knee forward.

4. Roll onto the ball of the left foot without taking the weight off it. Your pelvis should neither drop or lose contact with the wall – but don’t push back. If you have pulled forward or dropped the pelvis you are not releasing from the hip joint.

5. Hold this position for a few moments and be aware of the contact with the floor and wall. Focus on the support you are getting from the right foot and think from the sole up through your right leg, up your back, right to the top of your head.

6. Slowly let your knee come back so your left heel returns to the floor, and be aware of the responding push that comes as your shin bones straighten and push back up through your thigh bone. Repeat on the opposite side and when you are able to do this without swaying or losing contact with the wall, start to increase the speed until closer to walking speed.

This activity is very useful for running as it allows you to appreciate how to allow your legs to swing without undue movement of the pelvis. Your running technique will be much improved once you can master this.

Roy Palmer is a teacher of The Alexander Technique and has studied performance enhancement in sport for the last 10 years. In 2001 he published a book called ‘The Performance Paradox: Challenging the conventional methods of sports training and exercise’ and is currently working on a new project about The Zone. Click Running Technique for more information about his unique approach to training.