Running Up-Side Down

I’ve been coaching runners on technique for a long time now, and something that has always fascinated me and often surprises those I coach, is the massive impact that adjusting your upper body has on your lower body when running.
When we walk, we swing our arms to help balance what our legs are doing and establish more stability and fluidity through our trunk. It makes sense then that anything we do with our arms when running will play a huge role in how our lower body moves.
Add to this the idea that running is such an ingrained and “natural” thing to do, so attempting to “FIX” what the runner’s legs or feet are doing can be quite difficult.
My approach is often to get the runner to tweak what they do with their shoulders, arms and even hands.

Before I say anymore, I want to be clear that changing a runner’s technique is not always a good idea. There are some incredible runners who are capable of doing amazing things, who also look like a cat in a blender when they run. When I coach technique, it is nearly always for people who have pain when running long, or those who are looking for a little more efficiency in the way they move. So… if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it!

Ok, so a unique thing that I have observed in the countless runners that I’ve worked with over the years is that there is most often a direct correlation between what their hands do, and their feet. Between what their elbows are doing, and their knees. And what their shoulders are doing and their hips.
While those paired joints are anatomically very similar in the way they are built, they also play a co-dependent role in running.
To give you an example of a tweak I might make, let’s take the runner who is quite stiff through their feet and ankles, and perhaps prone to calf tightness. More often than not, I see that person clenching their hands too tight, holding a water bottle or phone while they run or basically not allowing their wrists and hands to relax. Correcting the hand and wrist issue can surprisingly fix the lower leg issue straight away.
This same model applies to the person who lacks freedom in their hips when running. Exaggerating the arm swing at the shoulder can correlate in more movement at the hip and a more flowing stride.
Obviously these small changes need to selected according to a thorough assessment and real understanding of what “needs” to change. There is an endless number of other biomechanical factors to consider here, which is why getting advice from a professional is always the best bet. So I wouldn’t suggest overhauling every part of your running form, but you may like to play with this concept and see what comes out of it for you.

Run long,

Shaun Brewster.

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