With running season well and truly in full swing, the MH team was in desperate need of some professional tips to get us across the finish line. We’ve definitely accepted that we’re not in the running for any world records any time soon, but staring down the barrel of the recent 21km Run Melbourne, and the upcoming 14km City 2 Surf and Blackmores running festival, it was time to get some professional help.
Enter sports scientist, lululemon Run Ambassador, and owner of The Balanaced Runner, Paul MacKinnon, our expert trainer and running saviour. Only 45 minutes spent with the running guru was enough to completely transform our entire running technique, all thanks to one simple cue; focus on your arm position.
Say what? Arm position… for running?
“The arms give you balance when running and if they are moving incorrectly, from the wrong source, they aren't helping you with your balance and therefore creating more work down the chain into the legs,” explained speed-demon MacKinnon.
Whilst only scratching the surface of the possible improvements to our personal running styles (we're the definition of extremely average), the advice given by MacKinnon had an immediate flow on effect, correcting a host of postural imbalances, from hip alignment through to foot strike position.
“Everyone has slightly different anatomy and therefore the angle at which the arms swing is going to be slightly different. It's important to find this unique line for each individual and then get them swinging from the gleno-humeral [shoulder] joint.”
Through an immediate correction made by MacKinnon, swinging my arms in a triangle shape, at 45 degrees to my shoulder, and adjusting my hand position, running felt effortless, an immediate improvement to my traditional, lopsided hobble.
So what should your hands be doing? MacKinnon explains; “The hand position can affect the ability for the arm to swing in the correct line and therefore is important but no more than the arm swing itself. If your hand is rotated inward so that your palms face down, you switch on/lengthen muscles in the arm restricting the ability to swing them in the correct line. Try and keep your palms slightly facing upwards so you can see them on your forward swing.”
Simply adjusting my hand position allowed my hips to level out, my stride to lengthen, and I finally ran with even foot strike.
“Restricted arm swing results in restricted stride. Rotation of shoulders means rotation of hips. And so on,” says MacKinnon of the flow on effects.
The most astonishing aspect of the arm-cue was the efficiency of my running. The hack reduced my steps by 20 per cent, and while the benefit of this may not seem obvious, this translates to 2km more spent in the air over a 10km run. Thanks to MacKinnon, I will literally be flying for 4km over my next 21km run… a pretty outrageous stat.
Given the surprisingly complex biomechanics of running, and the surprising discovery of how my hands affected my entire gait, bring on lesson #2. But for now, adjust your hands, because trust me… you’ll fly. Literally.