Standard #3 – A Supple Thoracic Spine

Before kicking off with the third standard, I am putting it out there that I well and truly fell off the ‘Ready To Run’ wagon. There is a bit of stuff going on in my life, but as Kelly puts it, ‘no days off, no excuses’. I have signed up for a 100km trail run/walk with three mates in June and being only 10 weeks away, I am determine to put in the time required to be ready to run.  I am now officially back on the wagon and am committing to 30 days straight up, apparently that is the magic number that will help set/achieve your goals (Matt Cutts: Try something new for thirty days).

Q: Do you have a pliant, properly organised thoracic spine? 

“The 12 thoracic vertebrae of your middle back are not to be forgotten. While runners tend to think a lot about the muscles and joints from the lower back down through the feet, the thoracic spine, or T-spine, is crucial when it comes to being able to sustain a neutral position in your long-distance running.” (Ready to Run: Unlocking Your Potential to Run Naturally)

thoracic-spine1

After doing ok with the first two standards, it is time to get down to business. I am not an office worker and don’t spend hours on a computer, but I do know that my T-spine is tight. Reading this chapter has really highlighted the fact having a tight thoracic spine can mess up my whole system and someone that has struggled with lower back issues, especially when running long, I am starting to see the bigger picture. Also the fact that if I am running with my shoulders hunched forward and head jutting out over my faulty upper back position, I am bleeding away power.

Plan is to be more aware of how I sit and move throughout the day, being conscious of keeping a neutral spine and not hunching over when on the computer or reading. I will also be incorporating Kelly’s mobility exercises into my daily routine.

Key Motivation

“If the T-spine is tight and out of whack, then all the power that you have flowing from your hard-earned six-pack and taut flute muscles is going to get squeezed off. A tight thoracic spine gums up your posterior chai, and you can’t get your shoulders and head into a good, aligned position, which transmit strain into your neck and lower back. It can also mess your hip function, so stresses will seek and creep their way into the usual suspects: knees, ankles and feet. And the longer you go into a run, the more your form distintergrates and the uglier it gets.” (Ready to Run: Unlocking Your Potential to Run Naturally)

Other tips I got from the chapter

  • The modern runner is often the desk athlete and unless you vigilant about positions, that’s a big problem.
  • Pooping Dog position = a person (runner) slouched over a screen. After doing this for 40 – 50 hours a week, it can feel very normal and lead to a rounded upper back, with head jutting out in front, similar to the Hunchback of Notre Dame or our mate Monte Burns!
  • A tight thoracic spine can lead to issues such as neck pain, shoulder mobility problems, lower back pain and loss of power.
  • Having a properly organised upper spine and shoulders takes less energy. This means less energy needs to be expended by the muscles doing the work of keeping things stable and lifted.