Finding your preferred stride as a runner is something you can work on with the MapMyRun app, but it’s easy to fall into bad habits that may negatively impact our running posture. “There are small things that, done over and over again, could be problematic,” says chiropractor Mark Rocca. “The hard thing with habitual running styles is those little habits and movements can lead to problems, and the corrective strategy is to start addressing that if it’s easy.”
RUNNING WITH IMBALANCES
If you run with a phone, bottle or keys always tightly gripped in one hand, you could be creating an imbalance. “A couple of years ago, I had an ultra-runner come in with some hip issues, and [she] had a twisting movement happening,” says Rocca. “She had this massive GPS watch she was wearing, and I realized she was changing her gait to accommodate the watch. When we took it off, her stride went back to normal. So yes, holding a phone or wearing a big watch can absolutely change the way you run — and the longer your run, the more those small little things become a much bigger deal.”
If you feel like your phone, watch or water bottle is cramping your style, there are hundreds of simple swaps: A hydration pack or running vest can hold all of your accessories and snacks while leaving your hands free, an armband holder for your phone can help alleviate that stress — or leave your phone at home and run with connected shoes. “A watch can even go on a hydration pack strap so you’re not wearing it!” Rocca adds.
WEARING ANYTHING TOO TIGHT
Whether it’s your bottle-holding belt, a sports bra or the top of your tights, if something is too tight in your midsection and restricting your ability to take full, deep breaths of air, you’re not going to run in top form. Women who wear ultra-compressive sports bras and heart rate straps that sit directly under the elastic of a sports bra to create a double-band effect may deal with this.
But it’s not a women-only issue: Men can be wearing a hydration pack that causes shoulder tension. If you’re feeling sore shoulders post-run after wearing a running pack or tight sports bra, it might be time to make a change. Lastly, anything on the waist — belts for holding hydration and snacks can be cinched too tight or compression tights might be cutting into your waist. If you’re feeling like it’s hard to expand your belly all the way in your current running kit, or in more drastic situations, you’re finding you’re having digestion and bloating issues, your too-tight gear might be to blame.
RUNNING WITH CLENCHED HANDS
If you feel like you’re always in a Rocky montage when you run, ready to box someone at a moment’s notice, you might be clenching hands too tightly. This alone isn’t a huge problem, but if you’re feeling a tightness in your shoulders and neck during or after a run, your hands may be to blame. Try picturing yourself holding an egg or a potato chip gently cupped in your palm when you run in order to stay a little bit looser.
THE BOTTOM LINE
If you’re new to running, starting with optimal habits that promote a balanced posture and stride is a good idea, but if you’re someone who’s been holding your phone in your right hand while running for years and haven’t had any injuries or imbalances, you’re probably fine.
“Running with your phone in one hand is such little load that you’ll get used to it,” says Greg Lehman, a physiotherapist, chiropractor and strength and conditioning specialist. “Almost all of the load comes from running itself, and anything else you do is going to be small percentage points of loading. So if it’s not bothering you now, don’t worry about it.” Lehman notes that if you are dealing with any kind of nagging injuries, though, it’s worth trying to change something in how you run. And putting your phone in a pack is an easy way to do that!