How to Run a Marathon

Run with your arms

Run with your arms

Most people do not give much thought about the motion of their arms during a run. Proper use of the arms can increase one’s pace anywhere from five to 20 seconds per mile. This is one topic where even experienced runners may not be taking full advantage.

Used properly, your arms can help generate more speed. Correct use will help you get to the top of the hill faster and keep you balanced while increasing the tempo on the downhills.

Try this out on your next run after you are warmed up and running at a decent clip: drop your arms and do not swing them at all. If you do this for one half-mile, you should feel your legs working harder than normal. When you return to swinging your arms, you should be able to feel a slight lift of the knees with each stride. By knowing this, you can increase the motion of your legs even further by perfecting your form.

In order to use your arms effectively, it is important to begin with proper hand position. As an experiment, clench your hands into a fist while standing. Now closely examine the effect that has on your arms. Feel how your forearms tighten up. This contraction travels to your upper arms, shoulders and back. This is one of the big keys to running successfully: keep your hands relaxed. It’s difficult to carry tension in your arms if your hands are completely relaxed.

 

The arms are the key to good running form. To gain a better understanding of what good form is, let’s examine what you want to avoid. Many people not only swing their arms back and forth, but they also swing them side to side. This common mistake can lead you to turn at the waist. It really doesn't have much benefit in driving the legs any faster, but it does help consume a lot of energy. Not only that it is a reason for running injuries. Your body is designed to go forward in a smooth motion. When people use the side to side arm motion, they introduce a rotation in the hip. Yes, this can generate speed but at a cost. This is less efficient. More energy is used to generate that speed. Over rotating, the hips can be a source for many hip injuries. This doesn't happen overnight, so many runners never make the connection to their form and their injury.
Therefore, the rule is to make sure your arms do not cross the centerline of your body.

 

Most people do not give much thought on the motion of their arms during a run. Proper use of the arms can increase one's pace anywhere from 5 to 20 seconds per mile. This is one topic where even some advance runners may not be taking full advantage.

Used properly, your arms can help you generate more speed. Their proper use will help you get to the top of the hill faster. On the downhills, they help with the balance and increase the tempo.

To see how important how use of the arms can be on your next run after you are fully warmed up and running at a decent clip just drop your arms and do not swing them at all. If you do this for a half mile or so you should feel that your legs are doing more work than normal. When you go back to swing your arms, you should be able to discern a slight lift of the knees on each stride. Using this knowledge, we can increase the motion of the legs even further by perfecting your form.

To use your arms correctly we must start with proper positioning of the hands. As an experiment, in a standing position, clench your hands into a fist. Now closely examine the effect this has on your arms. Feel how the forearms tighten up. This tightening goes all the way up to your upper arms and shoulders. If you clench and relax your fist, you can even feel some tightness in your back.

So this is one of the big keys to running successfully. Keep your hands relaxed. It is pretty difficult to carry tension in your arms if your hands are completely relaxed.

I was taught this trick by Olympian Ed Mendoza. Ed was slightly more active with his arms than other runners. Where most good runners, even the elite ones keep their upper body fairly quiet. The arms usually swing in cadence with the legs.
ED would generate a little bit of extra leverage. Making sure the arms never got close to the center line he would unhinge his arms and let the arm swing further toward his hip. This created a longer arc to the arms. The upward swing causes a slight knee lift. So if your horizontal movement is at say 6 min mile pace and you add this army swing you will create and additional millimeter or two knee lift, which results in the covering extra ground without using too much additional energy being spent.
There is an exercise that can help with this form. Take two 5 pound weight. The type which are flat and goes on barbells. While stand stationary, slowly move your arms in a running type cadence. You will find very quickly that it is better to make sure your arms straighter than how you normally carry them. Slowly start unhinging your elbow more and more. The goal is to be able to drop your arms down to your hips then bring them back up to your shoulders. This is an over exaggeration. You will want what feels comfortable in your natural gait.

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