You’d be surprised by how much good running form can help you run faster. Let’s be honest. We all want to run faster, but most people dislike what that means. Sessions at the track appeal only to the most masochistic amongst us.
What if I told you that most runners can get faster without doing any extra work? You’d probably call me a liar or a snake-oil salesman. But you’d be wrong.
The solution to better and faster running is simple…FIX YOUR ARMS! In all seriousness, arm swing has a big impact on your speed. That’s it. Fix your running form, specifically, your arms and hands, and you’ll be faster. You can stop reading this post now.
Ok, maybe I should explain it a little more.
Efficient running form requires that you be relaxed, and it starts with your hands. This isn’t hockey. You don’t need to be ready to throw down at any minute, so relax those fists.
Imagine that you are holding potato chips between your thumb and index finger, and breaking those chips would ruin your day. Try to squeeze a potato chip and not break it. It doesn’t work so well. A soft touch goes a long way in relaxing your body all the way up to your neck.
Now that you have relaxed hands, let’s try not to go “Jersey Shore” and spend all day fist pumping. Your hand movement should not be straight forward and back. Your hands should move in an arch from your hip to below your nipple line.
The actual height can vary, depending on how hard you are running and the elbow angle (we’ll hit that next). The main point is that your hands should not extend forward. They should swing like a pendulum.
Because we already determined that you don’t need to be ready to fight, you don’t need to practice hammering with your hands, so let’s get rid of that next.
Before you take your first step, bend the elbows to 90 degrees or even a little tighter if that is more comfortable. Once you set the angle, keep it that way. There is no need to straighten your arm when running. That just interferes with the speed of the arm swing, which affects your steps per minute.
Your legs cannot go at a faster turnover rate than your arms can swing. If you don’t believe me, try it. If you do try it, please post a video of you doing it in the comments below for some good comedy.
Changing the elbow angle makes your arm swing cycle faster or slower, depending on whether you open your arm during your swing.
Now that you have a good elbow angle, and your arms are swinging, focus on how they are swinging. For best running form, swing them from the elbow, backwards and forwards.
When swinging from the hands, people tend to cross their hands over their body’s center line, causing the torso to slightly rotate left and right. That’s not efficient and will slow you down.
The torso rotation and cross-body swing makes you move left and right only a few inches with each step, but it adds up. Runners average between 1000 and 1500 steps per mile, so a few inches each step can mean running hundreds of feet more per race mile than necessary.
I don’t know about you, but the last thing I want to do is add extra distance to a marathon, especially if you are targeting a Boston Qualifying Time. That’s just crazy talk!
Following the four steps above will make you a more efficient runner and give you free speed. Will it cut an hour off of your marathon time or make you an Olympic-level miler? Maybe. Ok, probably not, but it can definitely save you minutes.
Even for a 10K, it can keep you from running an additional 300 meters. That’s over a minute saved for a fast runner with poor arm swing, and much more for us mortals.
In conclusion, before you start your next run, check your hands and work on your swing. Before you know it, people will mistake you for Shalane Flannigan.