As a runner, I often notice the tightness in my legs, and I know the risk of overuse injuries in the lower body. I don’t always think about the impact running has on the upper body. But, if you are a runner, you are also at risk for overuse injury in the upper body. You can also experience tightness in the upper back, shoulders, biceps and chest. It is important to incorporate movement to stretch and strengthen the upper body in addition to the lower body.
If your upper body is feeling tight just reading this, keep reading to learn how to do a few of my favorite exercises to improve your posture. These will also reduce tightness in your upper body.
5 Yoga Poses To Improve Your Posture
If you read my last article, 10 Recovery Stretches for Runners, you’ve seen this stretch before. It is a great one for posture and recovery, so I’m sharing it again.
The reason I like this stretch so much is because you can do it almost anywhere at any time, seated or standing. You will often see me doing this when I’m at the office.
To do this simple shoulder stretch, you can sit or stand, but I prefer to stand. Once you’re set in your favorite stance, clasp your hands at the base of your spine, squeezing your shoulder blades together. Look forward, or look up to the sky, taking a deep breath in as you stretch. Continue breathing in and out through the nose, feeling the space in your lungs, chest and belly expand and contract.
Stretch for at least 30 seconds, and I encourage you to try 3-5 rounds of the stretch.
This one is fantastic for letting your spine lengthen, with gravity doing most of the work. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, and reach towards the floor. Make sure you are connecting your torso to your thighs, and bending your legs as much as you need to make this happen. Important Tip: Hunching over and trying to touch your toes is not going to help your posture, and it can actually hurt you!
Stay here for as long as you like. You can also try grabbing your big toes with your index and middle finger, or grabbing opposite elbows and swinging your arms slowly side to side.
Downward Facing Dog
This is another stretch where gravity does work, and it touches the entire back side of your body, all the way from the soles of your feet to the top of your head.
Come down to your mat, and get into tabletop, knees under the hips, wrists under the shoulders. Reach your behind towards your ankles, similar to a child’s pose. Then tuck your toes, lift your hips as if a harness were pulling you to the sky, and straighten your legs (but remember to keep a slight bend). Reach the heels towards the mat, but always remember that they do not have to touch the ground! Listen to your body, and make sure you aren’t getting hurt! Look between your ankles, and hold again for as long as you’d like. I like to shake my head no and nod yes to get a little extra movement.
Posture is not just about flexion and extension, but making sure you move your spine in all the directions it is intended to move. If you want to learn more about how the spine moves, check out my article Every Day Stretches For Runners.
One important spinal movement is twisting. A twist is a great way to help with your posture, and a supine twist is one of my favorites. Lie on your back and tuck your knees in towards your chest. Give yourself a little hug, and then drop your knees over to one side. To get an even deeper stretch, I like to bring my arms out into a “T.” You can look over your shoulder (the one on the opposite side of your legs). A pillow or bolster under your legs can make the stretch more comfortable too. Lie here until you are ready to switch, lifting your top leg and then your bottom leg back to center. Don’t forget to give yourself a hug on the way to the other side, and then repeat.
Good Morning Stretch
To complete a quick posture routine, I like to end with a good morning stretch, adding a side bend. This is a great one to do early in the day, opening your body and creating space for the day!
To do this one, lie on your back and reach your arms towards the sky. Stretch all the way from the tips of your toes to your fingertips. Take a few deep breaths, and then reach your arms and legs over to one side, feeling a stretch through the entire side body. Continue breathing, hold until you are ready to go back to center, and then repeat on the other side.
Focusing on your posture, even for a few minutes a day can not only help you feel better, but it can ensure that your body is balanced, reduce the risk of injury and the dreaded text neck look. Set a timer, and get yourself stretching!