We all want to run as efficiently as possible. Regardless of your age, experience, or pace, increasing efficiency is beneficial for everyone. But what does that look like and how can it be done? It would be easy to conclude that minimizing all upper body movements would make for more efficient running. But the issue is a lot deeper than that. Simply put, all the muscles in your body will help with running. In order to most efficiently use all your muscles, they need to be loaded (lengthened) first in order to get the most out of them. Picture a slingshot, to get the most power out of it, you need to pull it back to unleash the elastic energy. Muscles work in a similar way. In order to get the most out of your hips and core, they need to be loaded through your upper body. So, running with minimal movement of your upper body is ultimately not the most efficient way to run.
This brings us to Erin’s story. She has completed several half marathons, 25k’s, and sprint triathlons. She doesn’t have pain or nagging issues which is great, but that doesn’t mean we can’t find something to improve! Here is video of her initially.
As you can see, there’s generally not a lot of motion in her upper body. At first glance it’s clear that she doesn’t waste energy with excessive arm and hip movements, which certainly isn’t a bad thing. But again, if we can get her using her upper body appropriately, it can enhance the power coming from her hips and lower core. There is a small asymmetry in her hips as well, with the left side slightly tighter than the right, which the next video also demonstrates.
When balancing on her left leg, her upper body doesn’t move quite as freely. This is also a good balance activity to restore symmetry.
Next we did power skips in order to improve knee drive and expand her arm swing forward.
Next, we did a cross over running drill. The goal of this is to force her hips and torso to rotate more, which will translate into greater recruitment of her core muscles.
Lastly, she ran with bricks overhead. This places more leverage on her lateral hips and core to strengthen them for the load-to-push-off transition.
After all this, here is the new and improved Erin!
After these drills, her form looks much more open. She is recruiting her core and hip muscles more effectively. Again, running is a whole body activity. The upper body works to provide leverage for the lower body. This requires movement, too much upper body movement can be indicative of deeper issues. Not enough upper body movement means the lower body is not getting the contribution it needs from above.
Erin has shown a good progression. With frequent attention in this area, she will make excellent gains in her form and efficiency. Great job Erin!