Spring Fever Checklist: Upper Body Tuning

Before we know it, the Spring running season will be here and those of us who have been chased inside by the cold will venture back into real world training, all squinty and happy.  Our forward-looking Spring Fever Checklist series will give you some things to think about between now and then.  

We’re kicking off the Checklist with a post about Upper Body Training for two reasons: (1) the upper body is both important and often neglected as part of a runner’s form and (2) now is a great time to do something about it.

We’ve talked about it before.  Running with poor form makes you feel less comfortable, fatigue more quickly, and cover less ground.  Now obviously, your lower body is the business end of running, but there are also plenty of upper body pitfalls that can rob you of your speed for no good reason.

While the season is in a lull, take this opportunity to really dial in on strong form so you’ve laid the groundwork to perform at your best later in the year.  Use those big gym mirrors to your advantage or, if you’re really ambitions, ask a buddy to video you as you run.  That outside perspective can really open your eyes.

Here are four things to keep in mind as you fine tune your form for the coming thaw.  Stay tuned for more tips to help you keep sharp as the weather turns.

Neck and Shoulders.  Poor form in this area usually has more to do with fatigue setting in that anything else — we start out strong and deteriorate as we run.  Don’t carry tension in your neck and shoulders.  Relax, breathe deep, and don’t let your shoulders begin to creep up towards your ears.

Hands.  This is another one of those weird tension things.  By itself, having your hands tensed up isn’t that harmful, but tense hands can lead to tense arms, which leads to tense everything else.  Think of it as a symptom of a larger problem.  Keep them loose by wiggling your fingers from time to time and the rest of you should follow suit.

Elbows.  Do you whack yourself as you run?  If you find yourself more than lightly brushing your hips as you run, you’ll want to give some attention to what you’re doing with your arms.  They should be bent about 90 degrees at the elbows and stay generally in line with your body, which brings us to…

Your midline.  Imagine a line drawn vertically right down the center of your body.  Heck, draw one if you have to.  Now remember that there’s nothing productive happening by letting your hands or feet cross over that line as you run.  Keep yourself centered by not allowing your limbs to criss-cross your midpoint and you’ll be well ahead of the game when it comes to your form.

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