If you’ve been to a physio lately for a running-related injury, or if you’ve been working on your running technique and core strength, you’ve probably been trying to keep your pelvis level. The idea that this is healthy and in fact important is widely accepted.
However many runners who work hard on this become frustrated with the lack of improvement in their injuries and start to feel that their running becomes a struggle. It no longer feels like it did in childhood– spontaneous and natural.
This is because keeping your hips perfectly level when you run interferes with your ability to shift your weight from leg to leg.
If there were a seat in running, like on a unicycle, then a level pelvis would make sense. The seat would support your weight and your legs would just go round. But since there is no seat in running, the legs have to alternate providing support for your whole body. This is exceedingly difficult to do if your body is not aligned over the weight-bearing foot at the critical moment in your gait called “mid-stance,” when you’re supporting up to 2.5 times your body weight.
Thus some side-to-side shifting is needed to get from one leg to the other, and this is done by a movement of your pelvis and spine. Your gluteus medius and your obliques are key muscles facilitating this action. When you do it well, your pelvis tilts and your spine bends just enough to shift your head and the weight of your abdominal organs over your standing foot.
This reduces the stress on your legs, which otherwise have to support and push an improperly balanced load. It especially relieves the burden on your IT (or iliotibial) bands, which tighten up in response to insufficient weight shift. Many runners with IT Band Syndrome find that mastering this movement pattern completely resolves their problem.
It also makes motion control and stability shoes as well as many orthotics unnecessary. This is because insufficient weight shift causes your lower legs to shift inwards, under your centre of gravity. Hence the classic knock-kneed gait and overpronation.
When you learn to shift your weight that crucial amount side to side, you shift your weight to the weight-bearing portions of your feet, allowing your arches and your knees to work properly and relieving the need for arch support.
In addition to all of that, mastering your weight shift allows you to use more of your body as part of your spring system. Your hips and torso can help collect and generate power for your stride, sharing the load with your legs. This makes you faster and also gives your running a smoother, more enjoyable feeling.
This lesson is just a start — a simple reintroduction of a movement you may have forgotten how to do or worked hard to stop yourself from doing. You may need other pieces of the puzzle to really feel like you’ve mastered it and it’s become a normal part of how you run.
But short as it is, it’s also a powerful reminder of the way you ran in childhood, before you were confined to a chair for too many years and coached to maintain a level pelvis. So, when you run after doing this lesson, you may find it helps you feel a little like a kid again.
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