During the last few months the main focus of my running has been time on my feet. Which in laymans terms is getting out and running and doing a lot of it, so with no intervals or pacing to really focus on I have had the opportunity to really study other runners in real time.
As I came across my fellow pavement plodders from various vantage points, such as head on, from behind or adjacent as they pass on the other side of the road I became more aware of how many ways people choose to use (or not use as sometimes is the case) their arms.
The basic technique of the arms is to ensure they move back and forth in equal measure with equal force without crossing the body’s midline, by doing this the following advantages can be gained; balance, rhythm and forward momentum. The purpose of each is below:
- By an arm counter balancing the movement of the opposite leg we create smooth equal strides and force production, giving us a better overall stability (balance). If our arms are wild the legs will have to counter act these forces, if their movement is non existent it could lead to overly long strides and low cadence with more vertical life.
- The speed and force of the arms can dictate the speed and force of the legs, so finding and maintaining a rhythm that a) represents the cadence ( Leg turnover) you are trying to achieve and b) the force required from your legs,are both more easily achieved when the appropriate arm swing is utilised.
- The arms as mentioned above contribute to speed and force production, so when the arms move forward and back smoothly then they create a continuous forward momentum but if our arms move across our body side to side, then that is the direction our speed and force will be directed.
Deviation from a smooth equal arm action can lead to the misuse of neighbouring muscle groups. I have grouped (for visualising purposes) as follows:
The handbag Carriers: this group (male and females) are identified by the characteristic of moving only one arm while the other is pinned to their side, some times holding a drinks bottle or phone. With this technique the opposite leg has to work harder possible leading to an over stride on that side, such over reaching can strain the hamstrings.
The escaped lunatics: this group run with both arms motionless by their side or tucked to the side as if wearing a straight jacket. This leaves the legs working without the arms aiding in force production. This can lead to the calfs being overly utilised to produce forward momentum making them very sore and putting the Achilles at risk.
The rock a-by babies: this group move their arms across the body as if rocking a baby to sleep. Momentum such as this causes the legs to criss cross back and forth putting the knees at risk.
Through a video analysis of your running technique, we can see in slow motion how you run and what aspects of your current technique can be tweaked in order to make you a more efficient runner, and ultimately a more effective runner.