Improve Run Form: Arm Swing & Core Stability

Improve Run Form: Arm Swing & Core Stability

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

Core Strength: Plank

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

Core Stablility: 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

Upper Body Strength: Push Ups

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

Upper Mobility: Arm Swings

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.

Conclusion

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.

Author:

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

London Marathon Turns Up the Heat with Hottest Weather On Record

London Marathon Turns Up the Heat with Hottest Weather On Record

You train for months. You plan your kit, your nutrition, your hydration plan. Then Mother Nature has other ideas and the weather turns ugly, testing all your preparation. This happened recently with the Boston Marathon. Runners bravely fought temperatures barely getting out of the 30◦’s F and heavy rain.

Conversely, the London Marathon recorded one of the hottest marathons with a predicted 24◦C (75◦ F). These sudden changes in weather can prove dangerous for the athletes, sending many to medic tents for treatment and dehydration. Having the proper gear and contingency plan is necessary to turn a possibly dangerous (and miserable) race into a success at the finish line.

One such issue that typically arises from increased heat is chafe and blisters. 2Toms® attended the London Marathon Expo and helped hundreds of runners find the best protection. SportShield® and BlisterShield® are top rated to protect skin from chafe and blisters before they start.

Sportshield is a roll-on liquid that creates a smooth, silky barrier between your skin and friction. It is waterproof, sweat proof and lasts 24 hrs! Long enough to get you through any race chafe-free.

BlisterShield is a powder formula that protects skin by preventing moisture from contacting the skin and reducing the friction that causes hot spots and blisters. It allows the skin to breathe and is comfortable for all 26.2 miles.

One runner saw the benefits of SportShield protection first hand:

Hello! I bought some of your anti chafe wipes on Saturday at the ExCel for the marathon on Sunday. I’ve always suffered horrendously with my inner thighs (I’m not ‘big’ by any means) destroying themselves and have spent a small fortune on various products claiming to work…all crap! On Sunday I ran 26.2miles without a single thought to any kind of chafing, it was incredible, absolutely incredible! Will be buying loads more in bulk for future runs now I know I can do it without the fear of destroying my thighs! So just a thank you really! Awesome awesome product! Kindest regards, Chris

2Toms will protect you during the most grueling of race conditions and help you get across the finish line chafe and blister free!

The London Marathon has additional tips on racing in the heat. Read their full article HERE.

Check out SportShield and BlisterShield for yourself!


You may also like:

Stop Toe Blisters Before Your Run

Hydrogel Products for Treating Skin Injuries

2Toms FootShield: The Reviews are in!

2Toms FootShield: The Reviews are in!

photo: Amy, livinglifetruth.com

2Toms FootShield:

Real World Athletes Put It To The Test

“Go Longer, Finish Stronger”, “Shield Yourself”,  “Products that keep people moving”. Medi-Dyne and 2Toms have had many mission statements when it comes to creating products for athletes. But none of these phrases are as important as what real life athletes are saying about our newest product, 2Toms FootShield. We partnered with BibRave and it’s team of BibRave Pros to see what runners, yogis, dancers, dads, moms and people just like you had to say. Read their rave reviews below!

” I’m extremely impressed with this product. My feet and toes are very impressed and are much happier with this experience. For someone who has struggled with blisters, excessive sweating/moisture in my feet, strong foot odor (the odor of effort) and athlete’s foot, to be able to prevent and keep all that away is remarkable. I think the product gives me more confidence when running/walking, makes me more surefooted, and helps me thrive better in my very active athletic lifestyle.” – Jeremy runninggrooveshark.com

FootShieldBlogPic_GrooveSharkBibRave

” I have put 2Toms FootShield to the test over the past month and this roll-on works as a perspiration barrier for my feet and helps keep them dry and odor free! FootShield has replaced my “baby powder therapy” by using a blend of natural antifungal, ingredients and moisturizers reduce and prevent sweaty feet, the growth of bacteria, athlete’s foot, blisters, and smelly shoes.” – Amy livinglifetruth.com

FootShieldBlogPic_livinglifetruth_BibRave

“I had some athletes foot going on my feet prior to starting out with 2Toms FootShield. I have started to use FootShield before every run, and the athletes foot had cleared up.  At one point, I forgot to apply my FootShield on for a couple of days in a row, and it came back.  Can’t let that happen again.  I got back to my routine right away after I realized it was coming back.” – Mark daddydidyouwin.wordpress.com


“I learned from trying it out that it’s great for applying before a run or workout, as well as after. I like rolling it onto my feet before I put on my flip flops. It keeps my feet drier in the crazy Florida humidity. I toss FootShield into my post-run recovery bag so that I can put some on my feet when I take off my running shoes. It feels refreshing on my tired feet. Bottom line is, FootShield is a product you will want to check out for yourself. 2Toms makes the highest quality products for endurance athletes and it shows.” – Shannon girlsgotsole.com

FootShieldBlogPic_GirlsGotSoleBibRave

We’re thrilled to hear so many runners are loving drier feet, fresh fragrance, natural oils and antifungal treatment of FootShield! Happy feet make for happy runners! Give FootShield a try today.

6 Things the Happiest Runners Don’t Do

6 Things the Happiest Runners Don’t Do

Are you a happy runner?

Lately, I haven’t been. And I’ve been trying to figure out how to get my love for the run back.

I’ve read a lot of running books, thousands of blog posts about running, training books, and I’ve listened to hours of podcasts and I’ve seen all the running movies. After all of that, I’ve picked up on a few things that I do that runners who seem the happiest don’t do. Here they are:

1. Think Too Much

Happy runners just go on their run. They don’t think about what time it is in the morning. They don’t worry if they’ve created the right playlist. They don’t care if they match their outfit. They just go running.

 

2. Schedule Runs

The happiest runners go when they have the time. Running is their hobby. And who schedules hobbies? Sure, they may have a habit of running early in the morning or late at night, but it’s not written down on their calendar. They throw on their shoes and go when they feel like they just gotta go for a run. Have you ever noticed how when you schedule something, it becomes just another item on a to-do list? Should running be more like homework or a hobby?

 

3. Use Social Media Mileage Apps

The happiest runners don’t upload their milea

ge because they don’t need feedback on their run. They don’t need other people to tell them how badass they are because they got up at 4:30 a.m. and ran 20 miles on a Tuesday. Just doing it is enough.

 

4. Stare at their Watch

Happy runners don’t wear GPS watches.

 

Me (red skirt) and a group of running buddies during 2012's Virtual Run for Sherry.

Me (red skirt) and a group of running buddies

5. Race All the Time

A lot of runners race (even happy ones). And they have a ton of fun racing (myself included), but the happiest runners don’t need to race. They run for the love of running. They just run because it clears their mind. Or they want to be out in nature. Or it helps them think better.

 

 

 

6. Run for Fitness

This was the reason I started running and now that I’ve achieved my goal, I’m left feeling a little empty. For me, the point of running was to burn more calories. But that’s not the point. The happiest runners get out there because they love the feeling they get from running.

What do you think? What else don’t happy runners do?

A Workout Tip Coffee-Drinkers Will Love

A Workout Tip Coffee-Drinkers Will Love

Jillian Michaels said on her podcast recently that caffeine can help boost your athletic performance. Although, I should note that she doesn’t like the idea of getting your caffeine from coffee, but rather a supplement that also contains antioxidants and that helps slow the absorption of the caffeine in your system.

In the book, The Metabolic Effect Diet, the authors suggest that, for some people, a cup of coffee a half an hour before a workout can help improve workouts.

"Coffee" (c) 2005 by Timothy Boyd, under a CC Attributions: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en

“Coffee” (c) 2005 by Timothy Boyd, under a CC Attributions: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en

I will find any reason to have a cup of coffee during the day, so I wanted to know more.

But wait. Isn’t coffee dehydrating? That is a myth, according to Nancy Clark, M.S., R.D., who wrote an article, “The Facts About Caffeine and Athletic Performance,” for Active.com. So that’s good. But how does it help improve a workout?

In her article, she says there have been a lot of good studies on this topic, and that most of them conclude that caffeine helps improve athletic performance, and even makes the effort seem easier.

“The average improvement in performance is about 12 percent,” she writes, “with more benefits noticed during endurance exercise than with shorter exercise (eight to 20 minutes) and a negligible amount for sprinters.”

She also said more benefits have been noticed in athletes that rarely drink coffee. Darn.

By the way, coffee and caffeine react differently for everyone. Definitely experiment with caffeine in training, not on race morning. And use common sense when it comes to caffeine consumption, advises Clark. More caffeine is not better. Remember: If you choose to get your caffeine from coffee, steer clear of specialty coffees (i.e. lattes).

So, how much caffeine should you take if you want to enhance your workout?

“A moderate caffeine intake is considered to be 250 mg/day. In research studies, the amount of caffeine that enhances performance ranges from 1.5 to 4 mg/pound body weight (3 to 9 mg/kg) taken one hour before exercise. For a 150-pound person, this comes to about 225 to 600 mg.” (There’s about 200 mg of caffeine in a 16-ounce cup of Starbucks coffee, for reference.)

Let me know if you use caffeine in your workout? How has it helped you?

4 Tips Wilson Kipsang Does Not Need

"Lilesa, Biwott, Kebede, Mutai, Kipsang & Abshero" (C) 2013 Julian Mason, Under a Creative Commons Attribution License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en

“Lilesa, Biwott, Kebede, Mutai, Kipsang & Abshero” (C) 2013 Julian Mason, Under a Creative Commons Attribution License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en

 

You aren’t going to beat Wilson Kipsang unless you can run faster than a 4:42 per mile pace for 26.2 miles. That’s what he had to do to achieve his World Record-breaking time of 2:03:23 at the Berlin Marathon on Sept. 29.

Just think: Not only did he set a PR (Personal Record), he set a PR for the entire world.

Of course, no one is satisfied with their PR for long. After the race, Kipsang told reporters that he thinks he still has the potential to run a faster marathon. “Anything under 2:03:23,” he said.

Right.

But you don’t have to be an elite runner from Kenya to achieve a PR. Anyone who has ever participated in a race has thought about setting a personal best.

Training for a personal best takes dedication and hard work…and a good coach doesn’t hurt. But, beyond that, here are 4 practical tips from top athletes and coaches to help you set your next PR:

“Often people see a great achievement and impulsively want to achieve the same goal. There are no short cuts. Give yourself the opportunity to be successful. Do this by putting in the time and earning it.” – Gail Kattouf, champion duathlete from “Achieving Personal Best: Gail Kattouf on CityCoach.org”

“Believing you can do something can help you achieve lofty goals that you once thought were almost unachievable. Set your sights on seemingly impossible personal records and then mercilessly work toward them.  There are people who think they can and people who think they can’t.  Both are right.” – Jason Fitzgerald, running coach (Strength Running) and author from “Breaking Mental Barriers: How to Run Dramatically Faster”

“If you’re looking to run a personal best, racing every weekend isn’t the recipe for success. The reality is that personal bests are often the result of many weeks and months of quality training.” – Matt Forsman, running coach from “Run Less for Your Personal Best Race”

“Decide you really want it: Visualize achieving success while you’re training. You have to really want it on race day. There is nothing stronger than an intense will, so make sure you focus on that passionate drive to achieve your goal.” – Scott Jurek, 7-time winner of the Western States 100-mile trail run from “The Long Run: Push to Achieve a Personal Record”

If all else fails, pick a fast course. Check out this guide to “The 6 Best U.S. Marathons to Set a Personal Record.”