Are You Ready to Run? Part IV

It’s time to move upstream today, as we continue our Ready to Run series. If you missed parts I through III, you can catch up here, here, and here.

Today we are moving upstream to address an area of the body most runners never think about. Standard #3 is all about creating a more efficient and powerful runner.c

The Thoracic Spine, or T-Spine for short, is the lynch-pin in creating better posture for your low back-the lumbar spine-and your neck-the cervical spine. The 12 vertebrae that compose your T-Spine have rib attachments and protect the bulk of your autonomic nervous system.

vertebral_column_color
T-Spine Segments=Purple

Some particularly nasty things happen to your spine when your thoracic segments are stiff and immobile. In the cervical spine, a stiff t-spine means your neck has to move more to make up for the lack of help your upper back should provide (when your head turns side to side or looks up, you spine should move from the top of your neck all the way down to your 4th thoracic vertebrae). That extra motion and work required of the neck leads to an overload of the joints, discs, and nerves in that region. Additionally, your tight t-spine makes it hard for your to bring your head and neck back over your shoulders in neutral alignment. For every 1 inch that your head sits forward from neutral, you add an additional 10 pounds of load to the cervical spine. The typical patient I see in the clinic stands with their head 2 to 3 inches ahead of their shoulders. Can you imagine carrying a 20 to 30-pound dumbbell on top of your head all day? You’re going to feel that at the end of the day.

Unfortunately, the problems don’t end there for the individual with a tight middle back. Downstream in your lumbar spine, a stiff t-spine will dump force directly through your lower back. The lumbar spine will try to blow off this force by either over-flexing (increasing load of the discs of the lumbar spine) or over-extending (increasing load on the joints-nerve root impingement, anyone?).

And it doesn’t stop there. If you can’t position your t-spine appropriately, you shut of the flow of power to your hips and shoulders. As the primary engines of your body, your hips and shoulders do most of the work to help you run efficiently. But if your middle back is stiff, your shoulders will drift forward into the dreaded rounded “hey bro, how much ya bench?”-position. Practice that for 7,000 to 10,000 steps per-day for a few weeks and you will become intimately aware of the location of your rotator cuff tendons.

Your hips won’t fare much better, as your rounded back position prevents you from ever fully straightening and extending your hips, leading the the dreaded “tight hip flexors” problem. That passive drag on your hips from a tight spine will burn through the duty cycles you had available in your hips when you were born, accelerating a degenerative process that was supposed to take 110 years and compressing it into less than half that time.

The Fix

The solution to the dreaded t-spine stiffness is simple. We’ll address how to fix this problem with two videos from our YouTube Channel.

First, you need a stratey to organize your spine into the proper position. This is what we call “The Bracing Strategy”. Click here to get step-by-step instruction.

If your spine posture still looks similar to the shape of an exaggerated “S” or like a “C”-the dreaded “pooping dog” position-you probably need to get to work of mobilizing an restoring some suppleness and mobility to your t-spine. This video will walk you through some of our favorite t-spine and chest wall mobility drills.

This is a standard worth fixing if you don’t own it already. Without good spine position, you are constantly compromising on best performance for your entire body.


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