Running tips for injury prevention II

Where to look when running?

This may seem obvious to many runners but correct head position has many performance benefits as well as helping to reduce injuries.

The head on average weighs 5-7 kg. This significant weight balanced on top of your body acts as a long lever arm and even slight changes in head tilt and head position dramatically affects run technique. Optimal head postion can:

Improve Power

  • Improved spinal alignment for power production,
  • Centre of mass re-location, bringing mass over leg to decrease over-striding (See here)

Improve Breathing

  • Opening airways
  • Maximising respiratory muscle function
The easiest way to identify which position your head is in during your runs is to have a friend observe you while fatigued during one of your runs or look through your past “fun run” photos. Where is your head tilted and positioned?

 

Possible head positions are:

Head too far backwards (Yellow runner) - many people believe this opens the airway and allows you to breathe easier. Try it now, it does the exact opposite! In fact when running and breathing through the mouth, a forward head position is a mechanism to improve respiratory muscle function. Tilting the head too far back also completely changes your spinal posture and effects running economy, leading to decreased running efficiency and a sore neck…

 

Head to far forwards (Red) – seen on fatigued runners particularly on the uphill section of a race. As stated above forward head position is a mechanism to improve respiratory muscle function but also has negative implications on running technique and efficiency if too tilted too far forwards and down (looking towards your feet!)

 

To optimise running efficiency and reduce the amount of oxygen required, a head position slightly down and forward is recommended (Green). The goal is to be looking approximately 10m ahead of you.

Why?

The head position of looking forward with a slight tilt down can be seen as an extension of the spine (blue line above). This is explained by this analogy: 

Think of the spine as a piece of spaghetti. If the spine is straight the power produced pushes the body as a whole straight rod rather than as a floppy bit of cooked spaghetti, giving greater return for the energy put into the system. (Often seen in runners as the Drive or A position - See picture above and below). Tilting the head too far forwards or backwards breaks this straight line.

This tip will tie in well with our last running hint (See here) to attempt to limit over-striding as the head moves the location of our centre of gravity. The heads ~6kg assists in the forward lean and economic running style of landing with our body-weight underneath us. It has the advantage of improving mouth breathing through improved muscle function and aligning the spine in a power translating position.

I hope this helps and as always if you have any questions don't hesitate to call or pop in store for more advice. 

We offer a 1 hour bio-mechanical assessment and video gait analysis with myself and our sports podiatrists for $89 (claimable on private health) 

We hope this helps you find your perfect fit!

 

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