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.
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Why do Blisters happen?
Blisters are typically caused by the rubbing or friction between your skin and your sock or your shoe. A few things make you more susceptible to blisters, sweaty feet or wet feet from the rain, small shoes, tying your shoes too tight, or even having shoes that are too big that allow your foot too much movement.
How do I prevent them?
1) make sure you are running in properly fitted shoes. Go to your local run store and have them help you find the right shoe and fit for you. Go in the afternoon because that is when your foot is at its biggest and typically when you run your feet expand.
2) While you are at the run store buy RUN SPECIFIC socks like Injinji or Balega, they have moisture wicking properties that will help keep your feet dry and are shaped so that the sock doesn’t bunch up or rub your foot awkwardly.
3) Apply 2 TOMS Blister Shield or Sport Shield all over your foot and especially between your toes. Always lubricate your toes and feet with anti-blister, anti chafe products.
I have a blister, now what?
If you already have a blister forming, you can put moleskin or 2Toms Skin on Skin Dressing kit over your blister areas to prevent further rubbing. Even duct tape will work. If you have calluses DON’T remove them. They might be ugly, but they form for a reason. They protect you from blisters.
If you already have a full blister, try to just leave it alone. The skin is protective, it will eventually burst and drain by itself. HOWEVER, if you are like me and can’t stand not to pop it, do it the right way. Drain it while leaving the skin intact. Use a sterilized needle and pierce the blister around its edges, again you are trying to leave the skin intact. Press the fluid out and put some Neosporin on it and cover with a band-aid or moleskin.
Meghan is a USA Track & Field coach and a RRCA (Road Runners of America) certified distance coach. She is a certified personal trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine and a level 3 USA Cycling Coach. She has over 12 years of experience teaching spin classes, weight-lifting, and group exercise. Meghan is also experienced runner, ultrarunner, and triathlete competing, winning, and placing in 5Ks, 10Ks, half-marathons, marathons, ultra distances, and triathlons. She also holds multiple state Powerlifting records. Learn more about Meghan www.trainwithmeghan.com
Medi-Dyne is proud to have Meghan as an Athlete Ambassador.
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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!
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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
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“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
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.