Running is not just about your legs. Having run for many years now, I have some idea of what proper form should look like. And it’s not:
Clenched fists and tiny dino arms! RAWR!
I was apparently trying to pass for T-Rex at the Scotland 10K last month – or so the pictures that landed in my inbox last week suggest. (Never mind the slack-jawed, “I will effing eat you” facial expression which corroborates this theory.)
Seriously though…shame on me. This is bad form. Arms should not come across the body like that. I know we all do it when we get tired, but there are many reasons to avoid it:
– It’s inefficient. You are running forward, not from side to side. So, duh, your arms should move primarily forward and backward, not from side to side.
– It saps your power. When running fast, driving your elbows back helps you harness your upper body and core strength. Stronger runner, faster runner.
– It breeds tension. First your hands tense up. Then your shoulders and neck. Next thing you know, you’re a shruggy, crampy disaster and your hands and arms are a useless mess.
– It collapses your chest. Keeping your forearms closer to parallel forces you to square your shoulders and open up your chest. This is helpful for your lungs, especially when you’re huffing and puffing through a hard pace.
– It looks really dumb. Seriously. And running is all about looking cool, right?
There are occasional exceptions: when running down a steep hill or on a gnarly trail, for instance, some lateral arm motion can help you keep your balance. But generally, if you catch your arms straying across your belly button or your clenched fists meandering up toward your collarbone, it’s time to relax and correct. I usually do this by swinging my arms down by my sides like limp noodles for several strides, allowing all of the tension to flow out of my arms and hands, and then resetting things.
Of course this is all easier said than done. It’s completely natural to tense up and head in to T-Rex territory when you’re exhausted. These race pics are definitely a wake-up call that I need to continue to work on this!
And here’s a bonus: when you’re struggling and hating every step of a tough workout or race, concentrating on your form is a great way to take your mind off of the pain!
Today’s EAT: Was not very exciting. Ravenous from team practice, I inhaled a TJ’s buffalo burger with some avocado and cheese leftover from yesterday’s glorious nachos. It was good, I think. My tastebuds didn’t get too much time with it as I practically shoved it down my gullet.
Today’s DRINK: I had planned to stick to aqua tonight, but then the hubs suggested opening a bottle of wine. Okay, twist my arm! La Ferme Julien, a French Rose:
I had high hopes because of the cute little goat on the label, but it’s actually not all that great, sadly. Oh well, ya lose some.
Today’s RUN: CPTC tempo night was the shortest tempo workout I’ve done with the team so far! We did 2 X 2 miles at 10K pace with about a half mile recovery between them. The workout followed the course of the 4-mile race I’m doing on Sunday, so it was fun to think about that as I was running along!
I wasn’t sure how hard to run today, because of said race. I didn’t want to bag the workout entirely; it was a short workout, and the race is a short race, so doing both should be feasible. I settled for hanging back at something slower than 10K pace but faster than half-marathon pace. I felt great the entire time – I was definitely pushing a bit out of my comfort zone, but was relaxed and strong throughout.
First 2 miles – 14:50, 7:25 pace
Second 2 miles – 14:28, 7:14 pace (had the benefit of a big downhill there!)
Total with warm up, cool down and recovery – ~8 miles
And after ruminating on this arm-form issue all day, you’d better believe I was working on driving my elbows straight back and keeping my chest nice and open!
Today’s QUESTION: Do you ever find yourself channeling your inner Tyrannosaur while running? Any tips on improving form? Who wants to work on this with me?