Probably the Best Way to Use Your Arms

I said “probably” because I’m not 100% certain about any of my advice, but I can tell you from my own experience, and from watching lots of runners that I think my advice works.

You see people doing all kinds of different things with their arms. Some hold them quite low. Some hold them out from their body. And of course, many experts tell us that we should swing them only forward and back. As distance runners (meaning anything from 5k up to the marathon) we need to find a way of using them that helps us conserve energy, while aiding our forward locomotion.¬†Sprinters like Usain Bolt need to generate lots of power quickly over a short distance, so naturally they will swing their arms quite a bit. We shouldn’t do that.

Let’s start with getting our arm carriage correct. Stand with your proper posture (within yourself, eyes down and ahead 10 ft. or so) and let your arms hang relaxed against your sides. Don’t hold them out from your body at all. Then simply bend your arms at the elbow until your hands are right in front of you chest (nipples). This should feel relaxed. Too many people hold their arms out from their body, and over the course of a race, this adds to fatigue.

Now when we run, we should focus on sweeping our hands down in front of our chest–the left hand sweeps down over the left lung, and the right hand over the right lung. This is much more efficient than thinking of moving our whole arm forward and back. Watch the great Ethiopian runner, Bekele, demonstrate in this video:


Why I Race So Much

Racing can be stressful. Most people don’t sleep very well before their races, and they get nervous in the days leading up to them. I do too. I think I’m used to a certain level of stress in my life, and seek it out during my leisure time as well. The great thing about races is that, no matter how kinda cruddy you feel before the race, once you get going, and your blood is pumping and your body is moving, it starts feeling good. I also think it’s really fun.

While I think training is OK, I get a great deal of satisfaction seeing improvements in my performance during races. Since I race a lot, sometimes my PRs aren’t that big, but I still enjoy setting them. Any long runs or fast times during training are forgotten after a while, but racing PRs are recorded and offer almost tangible proof of your improvement.

More Crap Advice From “Experts”

So I was just on facebook, and saw this picture posted by a couple of running pages:



OK, first of all, we can see where his gaze is directed, and it’s not 30m directly in front of his head. His form looks good, and you can see that he certainly appears to be “within himself” looking down in front of him a few feet.

1, 3, and 4 are typical gobbledygook that never help anyone. However, I’ll be willing to bet that his cadence is pretty high because you can see that he won’t be heel striking in the next step.

And now we get to one of the biggest fallacies in running- “The arms must pump straight forward and back!” When viewed from the side, it does indeed look as though runners are only moving their arms forward and back, however, when viewed from the front, it’s apparent that something much different is happening. Before I give away the answer, look at this video from an earlier post of the great runners Bekele and Gebrselassie (he’s the one leading until the end). Since his form is so good, pay particular attention to Gebrselassie’s arms when you see them from the front. Do they merely move forward and back like a stiff robot, or is something else going on?

Late Night Post

So it’s the middle of the night and I had a shitty day. Didn’t get to run. Looking forward to doing a 13 miler tomorrow. Don’t know if I’ll get to sleep tonight, seeing as how my day was so shitty, and I’ll probably toss and turn. But I’m still going 13 tomorrow.

Since I last posted, I’ve done two half marathons and a full. I just keep running and running, and I don’t seem to get hurt. The great thing about all the running is that, no matter what sort of thing is making you anxious, or whatever you’re obsessing about or whatever, after you’ve been out running a while, that stuff just disappears.

Alright, so since I kind of figured out this running thing last April, here’s the list of races I’ve done:

4 marathons

3 half marathons

1 ten miler

2 5k races

And that’s on top of all the training miles I’ve done. My GPS watch thing gave me a congratulations message for going 1000 miles since March or February or something. I don’t remember. But anyway, it’s been quite a few miles.

My best times for the races are 21:15 for the 5k, 1:43 for the half, and 3:37 for the full marathon. So, not super amazing times, but not bad either. And remember, I don’t have any pain anywhere. So I think I kind of know what I’m talking about.

I hope anyone who reads this is still thinking about their posture. Not looking up and out, which draws the head up and out and throws your balance off. Instead, running within yourself, and directing your gaze down and in front of you 10-20 ft or so. This keeps your posture in line, and puts your body in a position that engages your important core muscles. VERY important in avoiding injury.

But it may be a good idea to go back a bit, and do some more rudimentary exercises to make sure the legs are working in an efficient manner. That’s tomorrow’s post.

Final run of the week

Today I ran 7.5 miles at a pace of 7:33 min/mile. That makes about 42 miles this week. Now I have to take 3 days off because of work again. I wanted to make sure I got at least 40 miles in before my days off, because I’m running a half and full marathon in September.

Today’s run was in this little number:Image

As you can see, there is not much cushioning in this shoe. According to the maker, this shoe weighs less than 3 oz. All of my runs this week have been in minimally cushioned shoes like these. Actually, just about all of my running, all of the time, is in minimal shoes.

So how do I get away with running in footwear like this without hurting myself? Is it because I have naturally great biomechanics? No. After my first 3 5k races and first half marathon, my left ankle hurt all the time and was pretty messed up. I eventually figured out what the problem was and came up with a simple exercise that helps get the legs aligned properly and working more efficiently. My ankle pain disappeared quickly and never returned.

That will be the subject of my next post. It will require some more thought and perhaps I will have to make a video to go along with it. Until then, I want to stress again the importance of running within yourself with a poised, balanced posture. It was my primary thought during today’s run.

Why another running blog?

Are you tired of hearing friends or co-workers who run going on about their latest marathon or how many miles they’ve gone this week? Do those 13.1 and 26.2 stickers that people put on their cars bug you? Maybe that stuff bothers you because you actually want to run but don’t have the confidence to try. Or perhaps you have tried and have found that you suck. Well, I’m going to show you how to not suck.

So why should you listen to me? Because I used to suck, but figured out how to actually run pretty well. In the space of a year, I worked on my form, overcame injury, have run 3 marathons and many other races, and lowered my 5k time from 29 to 21 minutes. I can run every day without hurting myself. I can also come back to running after taking several days off and not feel like I’m starting over from scratch.

I have a Youtube channel with the same name as this blog. My plan is to make videos to help further explain concepts discussed here. I’m going to post a link to a video from another channel today, partly to test and see if I can get links to work, but also to show a bit of what I hope to teach here. I don’t agree with everything in this video, but I think it’s a good starting point. And no, this is not a barefoot running blog.