Running Tips: Arms That Talk to Legs

I've had nothing for the blog recently but pictures + music so I thought I'd change it up + talk about something that has kinda consumed my life recently: running. Most of this can be contributed to working at Fleet Feet + being around runners + their gear all the time. Nonetheless, running more has been a good thing + I've had to do it cautiously (rebounding from chronic runners knee + some IT problems).

Every once + awhile I'll be sharing a tip or two on running that has helped me in the past + most definitely in the present. The goal is to keep it simple + readable + hopefully not too boring. So here goes the first one:

1. Your Legs Do What Your Arms Tell Them To

Sounds kinda weird but it's true. When running, your legs tend to follow your running form, so if you swing your arms across your chest when running, your legs will tend to follow them. All this really means is you could be wasting some energy if you haven't really worked on your "running form." If you've run for several years (geeze or even several months) I'd especially advise you to invest some time in working on your form. If you reach out when you run, you may tend to have a very wide stride. If you pump your arms quickly, like a sprinter, you're legs will move quickly.

In short, you want to be running in a straight line, the straightest most efficient line possible, so if you are crossing your arms your legs will tend to cross as well, hindering your goal. When I ran cross country in high school a coach pointed out to me in the last mile of races I'd flare out my arms to the side. It was a visible representation that I had no gas left in the tank, but over time I realized I'd been wasting the gas in the tank before even getting to mile three. Kind of the equivalent of stepping on the gas really hard and not having enough to get home. My running form suffered and so did that "straight line" of getting to the finish line.

Don't worry, if you are new to running, "running form" might sound foreign to you. The more you do it, the better you get at it, kind of like playing an instrument or riding a bike. Here a couple "running form" exercises that are simple that can really help. Try them after a run + do them slowly. Focus on what your body is doing (sounds simple, but often hard to do). Watch your arms + legs or even better have someone watch them for you.

1. Strides - get on an open field or track. Run at a moderate pace stretching your arms out as far as they can go. Work on keeping your arms straight. Look down if you need to. But focus on your arms + legs, not your speed. These can be good to do barefoot as a cool down on an open field (if you're up to it) - do 10-15 repetitions.

2. High Knees - often used as a "dynamic" stretch, high knees allow you to really see the exaggerated motion of your arms + legs. It also strengthens the calfs + quads. You may be familiar with them. Check out Asafa Powell doing them. Do for 20-30 meters and repeat. Remember, form not speed.

3. The Skip - Fellas, don't be afraid of this one. It's basically what it says + very similar to the high knees drill. Check out Asafa again doing them. Again, much easier to watch him than for me to explain. Again try for 20 meters and repeat. Try and rest for about 30 seconds to a minute between each repetition.

So feel free to contribute to the discussion. These are just a few things that have helped me personally. What's helped you run better? Add it in the comment section.



Dana Enzor said...

Wow! I'm not much of a runner, but this is very informative. Thanks!!

amy hathaway said...

After we chatted on Sunday, I tried to not have my arms cross in front of my chest during my run yesterday morning. It felt weird and takes focus, but I think my legs were doing as you said, staying more in line with my shoulders and not coming together as much in the center. I'll keep working on it!

Revolu said...

sweetness! thanks for the inspiration in for the post too. i needed something to get me writing again.