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.

 

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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?

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.”

13 Rules of Running

Occasionally, I see a runner on the wrong side of the road and I am tempted to pull over and lecture them on why they should be running against traffic,  not with it. Seems like common sense to me, but not everyone knows  the basic running rules, especially if they are new to running.

Here are 13 rules of running for when you’re out on the road or trail:

  1. Run against traffic. This is the best way to ensure cars see you—and you can see them. If a car comes from behind you, you may not know until it is too late.
  2. Stop at stop signs and make sure oncoming traffic stops before you cross. It’s the same as in a car. You never know. The driver could be distracted and miss the sign altogether.
  3. Don’t make a sudden u-turn during an out-and-back route. Stop, make sure oncoming traffic passes (or other runners, cyclists, etc.), then make your u-turn. A great tip from the Road Runners Club of America article “Etiquette for Runners.”
  4. Obey stop lights and cross walk signals, and be alert when crossing. Again, some drivers don’t think to look for pedestrians—especially before turning. Making eye contact with the driver is a good way to ensure you are seen.
  5. Don’t run down the middle of the trail (or the road), advises the RRCA article.
  6. Don’t wear head phones, and keep your head on a swivel (be aware of your surroundings). If you absolutely must run with music, at the very least, only use one earbud and keep the volume low so you can hear car noise, voices or animals (loose dogs, deer hooves, etc.).
  7. When running on a blind curve, try to get off of the road as much as possible and stay alert.
  8. If running in a group, don’t run more than two abreast. “Don’t be a road or trail hog,” the RRCA says.
  9. Choose your road-running route wisely. Try not to run on busy roads, or curvy roads with lots of blind turns, roads under construction or poorly maintained roads.
  10. Always carry identification, either a driver’s license or something like RoadID, a few dollars and your cell phone.
  11. Remember to tell someone where you are going and when you think you’ll be back, and try to run with a buddy.
  12. When running with a jogging stroller, use the safety strap. Use the safety strap even when you’re stopped and have the brake on. You don’t want your child accidentally rolling into traffic or down a hill off the side of the trail.
  13. When passing other runners, always give them a shout-out, “On your left!” before you pass. Say it loud—they may be wearing head phones.

For even more “rules to run by,” see Running Etiquette in the 2Toms Knowledge Base.

What is a Recovery Run?

Have you ever heard a runner say they went for a recovery run? What does that mean? How can you “recover” on a run? Should you incorporate recovery runs in your training?

Trail Runner445x270Many everyday runners think recovery runs are used to aid muscle recovery in the legs, and that these runs will increase blood flow and clear away lactic acid. But experts say that there is no evidence to support any of this.

“In short, recovery runs do not enhance recovery,” writes running author and expert Matt Fitzgerald in the Active.com article “A Fresh Perspective on Recovery Runs.”

“The real benefit of recovery runs is that they allow you to find the optimal balance between the two factors that have the greatest effect on your fitness and performance: training stress and running volume.”

Recovery workouts, he says, are performed in a fatigued state, which boosts runners’ fitness. The benefit of pre-fatigued, or recovery, runs occurs when your brain is forced out of its “normal recruitment patterns,” it has to find “neuromuscular ‘shortcuts’” in order to run more efficiently.

“Pre-fatigued running is sort of like a flash flood that forces you to alter your normal morning commute route,” writes Fitzgerald. “The detour seems a setback at first, but in searching for an alternative way to reach the office, you might find a faster way–or at least a way that’s faster under conditions that negatively affect your normal route.”

Basically, a recovery run is one where you are running on tired legs in order to “train” your brain and body to become a more efficient runner. Many elite coaches use recovery runs. In fact, if you read the “Hansons Marathon Method” book, you’ll see that their training plans are built on a very similar concept. Click the link to read more about the Hansons’ way of training in Runner’s World.

Fitzgerald’s tips for using recovery runs in training:

• You only need to do recovery runs if you run four times per week or more. (Runners who run three times a week should follow every key workout with a rest day.)

• If you run five times per week, one run should be a recovery run, and if you run six times every week, two of those runs should be recovery runs.

• Recovery runs are usually not needed during base training/moderate workouts.

• “A recovery run can be as long and fast as you want,” says Fitzgerald, “provided it does not affect your performance in your next scheduled key workout.”

• Experiment to find the best recovery run formula for you, he advises. And, he says, “Don’t be too proud to run very slowly in your recovery runs, as Kenya’s runners are famous for doing.”

• Click the link to read all of his tips in the full Recovery Run article at Active.com.

Tips to Care For Your Feet

Whether you are a runner, walker, hiker or even a triathlete, your feet probably need some love! They do a lot for us, including absorbing most of the impact created when they hit the ground. What are some ways you can care for your poor runner (walker/hiker) feet?

Hal Higdon, championship runner and a writer for Runner’s World, offers some ideas in “Care for Your Feet” on RunnersWorld.com:

Make sure you have shoes that fit well: “Bad shoe fit can cause a multitude of problems for your feet, everything from numbness and burning to blisters and painful calluses,” says Rick Braver, D.P.M., a podiatrist in Englewood, N.J., in the article.

Wear quality socks: Bad, wet or cotton socks can cause blisters. (Click here to read more about how to find the best socks for running and to prevent blisters in the 2Toms Knowledge section.) Dave Zimmer, owner of Fleet Feet Sports in Chicago, says in the Runner’s World article that he always points his running customers toward socks made with acrylic materials. “Fit is as important in socks as it is in shoes,” says Zimmer. Get socks with moisture-wicking technology.

Moisturize your feet: Lots of runners, walkers and hikers get dry, cracked feet. “The solution,” Higdon writes, is to “use a moisturizer such as Neutrogena foot cream every day. Rub it into the skin until your feet feel soft and smooth.” Stephanie Marlatt Droege, D.P.M., a podiatrist from La Porte, Ind., says in the article that the best time to apply moisturizer to your feet is immediately after a bath or shower: “Applying moisturizer at that time will help retain some of the water from your shower,” she says.

Keep feet dry: Some athletes suffer from feet that are too sweaty, resulting in athlete’s foot or fungal problems. This is when good, quality moisture-wicking socks becomes extra important. If you run through the water a lot, invest in a good pair of waterproof trail-running shoes.  Or use 2Toms BlisterShield to help keep your feet dry when running/walking/hiking!  It creates that waterproof barrier for you!

Massage: Love your feet! Higdon writes, “A weekly massage will do wonders for your feet (not to mention your outlook), and it will be most effective if you guide the therapist to the problem spots.” But you can also massage your feet yourself. Or you can use a wooden foot roller. Higdon says, “Rolling two or three golf balls or even a rolling pin under your feet also works well.” Reflexology is also a good option. Find a reflexologist near you at www.reflexology.org/.

Strength train your feet: “Many injuries are directly related to weak feet,” says John Pagliano, D.P.M., in the article. The Long Beach, California-based podiatrist and author of several books on running injuries says, “If the muscles are weak, they will not move the foot into its proper running position. The foot flops around instead of pointing straight ahead. Also, the stronger your foot and leg muscles are, the faster they can propel you forward.” Higdon lists these foot exercises: toe rises, heel drops, towel pulls, toe grabs and alphabet practice. Click here to go to the article and see how to do each exercise. Try to do them 2-3 times per week.