Whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been running forever, it’s easy to feel like it’s all legs. After all, your legs hurt the most during your run and feel the most sore after usually. So, it may be a natural assumption that running form comes from your legs.
It is important to realize that your upper body has a lot to do with your running form. And keeping your upper body strong and in correct running form can reduce the impact and pain your legs feel during or after a run.
In addition, a strong upper body while you run will reduce your risk of injury.
In this article, we’ve got a few different exercise that are going to break down your upper body moves when you run, and how to use that information to improve your running form.
What Does Your Upper Body Need To Do?
Your upper body is responsible for two things when you run. First, your upper body keeps you upright.
The major leg muscles – the glutes, hamstrings and the quads – cannot work properly when you are running hunched over.
And it’s your upper body that will keep you upright and allow those lower body muscles to fire properly and efficiently.
Second, your upper body helps fight the rotation that your body naturally wants to incorporate when you run.
We see this most in our arm swing. The main idea: your arms should never cross your mid-line when you run. How do we fight this natural tendency? We user upper body strength to keep things moving in a forward-backward direction, instead of side-to-side.
Exercise 1: Plank Position
Strength work is helpful in improving run form because it exaggerates the positions we use while running.
To start, find a straight arm plank on your hands. Right away you can feel how much control your core has over your entire upper body.
From there, start to lift up one hand and then the other, and feel how dramatically your body wants to rock back and forth.
You can even try a one-arm plank by extending one of your arms out in front of you.
Notice how easily the torso wants to rotate when you make even the slightest movement. And we can combat this by holding our core tighter.
This principle is going to translate directly into upright run form.
Exercise 2: Breaking Down the Arm Swing
As we said above, your arms should not be crossing your mid-line when you run. Crossing your arms too far over takes power away from your legs and diminishes the effectiveness of otherwise proper run form.
In fact, your arm swing is going to take place largely behind you. To begin this exercise, stand with your feet hips’ width apart, and just practice driving your elbow straight back. Your hand will actually cross behind your pocket line.
Be sure that your elbow is not extending out to the side, and that your should isn’t rounding forward.
From there, bring your arm up in front of you. Notice if you arm wants to cross that center line and adjust it outward if it does.
Next, start running in place and practicing your arm swing with only one arm. Rest the other hand on your stomach and exaggerate your leg movement as you run in place and swing only one arm.
After 30 seconds swinging one arm, switch and swing the other for 30 seconds. Again, be sure your arm isn’t crossing that center line.
Next, try 30 seconds with both arms swinging. Focus on perfecting your arm swing form for 30 seconds and get used to what that feels like.
Exercise 3: Hand-Release Push up
Now we’re going to combine the above two ideas: core strength and arm swing.
To begin, start back in the same plank we did earlier, with your hands right below your shoulders.
From there, rock forward about an inch over your hands, and lower yourself slowly all the way to the ground. As you do this, drive your elbows back just like you did in the arm swing drill.
Once you’re all the way down and laying on your stomach, release your hands off the ground. To do this you’ll need to engage your shoulder blades and back muscles, which is great training to keep you upright when running.
Next, press back up to your starting plank position, lifting your chest up off the ground first, and rolling up from there.
For an added challenge, try to press the whole body up in one piece instead of rolling up chest-first.
To exaggerate the arm swing aspect, lower down slowly taking about 3 seconds or so, and then come up quicly.
Try 3 or 4 rounds of 10 hand-release push ups for this drill.
Exercise 4: Upper Body Mobility
Strength is a huge component of upper body as it relates to run form, but mobility is just as important.
Increasing your range of motion will only improve your arm swing. To do this, add some arm circles to your warm-up.
Start with your arms out to yoru sides, making small backwards circles and gradually increase the size of the circle until they are as big as they can be.
After 10 or 15 of those, switch directions and swing your arms in forward circles.
Next, bend over at your hips just a little bit with your knees bent, keeping your spine straight. Start to swing your arms open and close, crossing them over your torso and then opening them as far as they can go behind you.
Again, try 10-15 of these swings to increase your range of motion.
Work these drills into your half marathon training plan, 10K training plan, 5K training plan or whatever distance goal you may have.
Notice how the plank and strength work translates to your running, and how encouraging proper upright posture and arm swing makes your legs that much more useful.
In addition, increasing your upper body’s range of motion will allow proper arm swing to feel more natural when you run.
Remember, your core strength and arm swing will help your body’s overall run form, so work hard to make them as correct as possible.
Holly Martin is a San Francisco-based running coach and personal trainer. With a 20+ year background in dance, Holly brings a strong focus on technique and mobility to all of her coachings. Currently, she coaches online with The Run Experience, an online training community that specializes in preparing runners for a 30-day running challenge, half marathon running plans, workouts and more. She trains clients at Midline Training and Nfinite Strength. Connect with her to learn more about how to train for long distance running and other advanced training tips.
You may also like:
Seasonal Safety Tips for Runners
Road Running Etiquette
How To Prevent Blisters While Running
All of us try to take care of our skin on a daily basis. We follow daily routines such as putting on lotion, wear protective clothing and minimize exposure to the sun in order to maintain healthy skin. Healthy skin should be free of blemishes and slightly moist. The two divisions of the skin are the epidermis and dermis. Whereas the epidermis is the outermost layer first shield against cuts, blemishes, and injuries. The dermis is the layer below the epidermis that contains pain receptors and hair follicles.
When the epidermis is injured due to burns, blisters, chafing, or stings; bacteria can enter, creating discomfort, swelling and pain.
Function and Benefits Hydrogel for wound healing
On a molecular level, hydrogels are three-dimensional networks of hydrophilic polymers. Depending on the type of hydrogel, they contain varying percentages of water, but do not altogether dissolve in water.
Hydrogels are permeable to water vapor, gases and small protein molecules, and protects from bacteria. The cooling element of the dressing provides a moist environment at the surface of the wound and this has been found to reduce pain in wounds. When pain is reduced, quality of life is improved (Hampton, 2004; Collins and Heron 2005).
2Toms® Skin on Skin® hydrogel is two-sided, colorless, transparent hydrogel formed around a supporting blue polyethylene matrix and contain approximately 90% water with the remaining 10% consisting of a mesh support. The skin’s properties for healing are enhanced by locking in moisture through the hydrogel’s skin-like properties.
The Skin on Skin hydrogel moistens the wound and slightly and temporarily drops the temperature of the wound (Moody, 2006) thereby soothing painful tissues. The temperature then climbs to an optimum condition to promote wound healing.
Hydrogel may be placed directly onto the surface of an exudating wound and held in place with tape or a bandage, as appropriate. If additional absorbency is required, an absorbent pad may be placed immediately over the dressing.
Hydrogel can be cut to the shape of the wound if required. This ensures that the peri-wound area does not become macerated. Hydrogel also helps with pain reduction (Collins and Heron 2005; Hampton, 2004)
The cushioning effect protects the area from any further discomfort and minimizes additional rubbing or irritation on sensitive areas.
List of Benefits
- reduces wound pain by cooling inflamed tissue and bathing nerve endings
- dynamically responds to the wound environment to treat the underlying causes of pain
- removing devitalized tissue by donating moisture to dry wounds and absorbing exudate from wet wounds
- pain is managed throughout wear time – not just at dressing change
- gentle even on the most fragile skin
- effective under compression therapy
Benefits of hydrogel vs traditional bandages
In summary, hydrogel products are made from pure water to cool and soothe on contact. The moist comfortable barrier encourages healing while protecting injured skin. Hydrogel pads help protect against pressure, friction and blisters, and are highly absorbent, more than ordinary plasters.
- Soothing and cooling and moisturizing
- Provides instant relief
- Protects and cushions
Hydrogel vs Hydrocolloid
Hydrogel has flexible & thicker layer which helps to absorb forces released on skin.
- Pain relief
- Advanced Moisture management
- Variety of indications: Insect Bites, Wound healing, Blister protection
2Toms Skin-On-Skin Dressing Kit and Skin-On-Skin gel pads offer relief from skin irritations such as blisters, chafing, burns, insect stings and other superficial skin injuries.* Learn more about these products here.
*Always consult a physician prior to administering self treatment.
Welcome to summer! More specifically, Summer in Texas. It’s hot. It’s humid. It’s downright miserable some days. With heat indexes reaching 110, it’s not hard to imagine the amount of sweat being produced in the Lone Star State. ::bleh:: Now add exercise, sports leagues, outdoor activities and it becomes a breeding ground for smelly clothes and gear. One of my goals this summer was to figure out how NOT to throw away my favorite pair of yoga pants, volleyball kneepads or gym bag due to lingering odors. What I discovered is that, like Bill Nye The Science Guy says, “It’s Science!” I learned about fabrics and their functions. I learned about sweat. I learned that not all odor treatments are created equal. Let’s dive in!
I started my journey with trying to understand just what makes certain items smell more than others. Why do my somewhat-new yoga pants smell more than my favorite 90’s band t-shirt? (Gavin Rossdale for life!) For this answer I dove into the world of textiles. The dictionary defines textiles as a type of cloth or woven fabric. My yoga pants, gym bag and volleyball kneepads are one textile, while my concert shirt is a different type. Athletic fabrics are typically a blend of polymer fibers, which are designed to pull sweat away from your body and evaporate from the material quickly. However, the only thing that evaporates out of the material is the H2O component of sweat. The rest of what makes up sweat, salts and urea, is left behind. Ick! How clean do you think your stuff is now?
Cotton is the opposite. Cotton is a natural fiber that has a hollow core called a lumen that draws in H2O through its tiny tubes like a straw. It’s called capillary action. And that’s the structure of cotton, now for the chemistry behind all of this.
– Bill Nye, The Science Guy
Cotton fibers are 99 percent cellulose, which is a long chain of connected glucose molecules with a slightly negative charge. If you were paying attention in high school chemistry class, you’d remember that H2O has a positive charge. (Don’t worry, here is the bonus point question!) What happens when you get a negative charge near a positive charge? BOOM! Attraction! Water stays attached to the cotton fiber, weighing down your t-shirt and taking forever to dry. Ugh! Did you know that cotton can absorb up to 27 times its weight of water! That’s a lot of sweat to be weighing you down.
The structure of cotton fiber.
So now that we know the absorption properties of different fabrics, what causes the smell? That question comes down to sweat. Sweat is composed “of 99 percent water and small bits of carbs, salt, protein and urea” provided by glands. Sweat itself does not smell. The odor comes from bacteria breaking down secretions from the apocrine glands which provide the salts, protein and urea. Bacteria feeds on the secretions in sweat and creates a by-product which is the cause of the smell or what is called body odor.
So I wonder – if I can’t stop from sweating (Thank you, biology!) and I can’t prevent my clothing and gear from absorbing sweat, what can I do? I can remove the feeding bacteria from the materials. Hello, laundry day! But not so fast…
I know you’ve wandered up and down the laundry aisle again and again sniffing “mountain breeze”, “island getaway” or even “fresh linen” and thinking “hmm, I’d prefer fresh linen over b.o. any day!” But you might be only adding to the odor problem if you are trying to tackle your stinky athletic apparel and gear with a common detergent or treatment. The majority of popular laundry detergents and fabric sprays only remove or mask the odor on a natural fiber, like cotton or linen.
But when it comes to polymer-based fabrics or materials you need a formula that will penetrate the fiber to release the salts, urea and carbs. This will remove the bacteria buffet and the odor with it! Specially formulated sports detergents break down the chemical bond in the fiber, allowing it to enter the fiber, attach to the nasty gunk, and exit the fiber with the stinky stuff; leaving behind a fresh, clean poly fiber to take on your next sweat sesh!
An extreme magnification of fabric threads releasing bacteria
I came across a great stink stopper at my local running store. How convenient! 2Toms® StinkFree Shoe & Gear Spray™ tackles my gym bag, kneepads, yoga mat and more. 2Toms® StinkFree® Sports Detergent is perfect for that load of athletic wear. My yoga pants have never been fresher and I even use it for my bath towels and bed linens. (Bet you didn’t know those were wicking too!) What’s better, is that StinkFree® is exactly that! It frees my sportswear and gear of stink, not masking it with “tropical getaway” fragrance. The only smell that I will be sporting this summer is the smell of awesome! Trust me, it smells better than last weeks’ hot yoga class.
Check out 2Toms® StinkFree® line here.
Learn more about fabrics and “the science behind stink” at the links below.