Going for a jog is far more complex than might meet the eye. Every motion—every single stride—is the product of a small orchestra conducted by your body. The bones, muscles, ligaments, and tendons work in unison to make the running movement happen fluidly and efficiently.
This is known as a kinetic chain, of which there are many throughout the body. Within the running kinetic chain, we find the ergonomics of running. Much like office ergonomics, where improper seating, seat height, and other factors can cause painful and damaging imbalances, imperfections in your running ergonomics can present up and down the kinetic chain in a variety of (not so pleasant) ways.
What Comprises the Running Kinetic Chain?
Generally speaking, the kinetic chain as it relates to running is comprised of a few key parts:
- Lower back
- Upper back
- Arms and shoulders
Of course, within each part of the kinetic chain lives a vast array of muscles, ligaments, tendons, and bones. Deploying this chain to run with good form is challenging. Acute pain and chronic conditions, such as runner’s knee, tendonitis, and even strains could be the result of a weak link in the kinetic chain.
Use These Tips to Keep the Kinetic Chain Humming
Imbalances can be slow in developing. Poor core strength, for example, or gait imperfections, might cause pain or injury further up or down the line. The lower back, knees, and ankles—it’s all connected. Here are a few ways to ensure better running ergonomics and a strong and healthy kinetic chain.
1. Create a Strong Base
Central to maintaining proper running form starts with … well … your center. Working on core and leg strength will translate to a better ability to keep the core engaged during each running movement. This helps maintain control and avoid the imbalances that can create weakness in the chain.
Exercises that help create a strong base:
- Abdominal planks
2. Stay Flexible
To run with good form means striding properly and engaging the hips and core. This makes flexibility incredibly important to maintaining proper running ergonomics. Indeed, strong flexibility makes for a strong kinetic chain.
Activities that contribute to better flexibility for running:
- “Opening up” the hips
- Consistent warm-up and cool-down routines
3. Move Intentionally
When you run, it is important to do so with information—to understand the mechanics involved. When you understand the mechanics, you can recognize bad habits and correct gait imbalances on the fly.
What to focus on for better movement:
- Head position
- Arm position and movement
- Foot strike point
Finally, Examine Your Form
Sometimes, monitoring and correcting gait imbalances requires more than the naked eye. Runners of all skill levels use the AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill™ with Stride Smart Gait Analytics to take a more precise look at all the elements of running ergonomics.
Using Stride Smart, therapists can use video monitoring to analyze and address gait imbalances on the fly. While the patient exercises, therapists can show them asymmetries and imbalances right then and there, allowing runners to self-correct. It is a highly effective and accessible way to address gait imbalances, ensure strong running ergonomics, and develop a rock-solid running kinetic chain.