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Shoulders and Running

At the race this past weekend, thankfully Mario was there to take pictures so I could realize just how bad my running form is.  I mean, when you look at the pictures, my left shoulder swings back practically to the start line and it looks like I have something weighted in my left pocket that is forcing me to lean towards one side.  Then last night I went back to look at other race pictures.  The good news is, at least I can report this isn’t a new problem.  It goes back as far as my first race.  And I wonder why I get injured?  The thing that I noticed to be consistent in all of my pictures is my left shoulder really swings back and drops down.  So today I spent my afternoon trying to answer the question…

What can I do to help my shoulders stay in alignment when running?

As many runners already know, running isn’t just about your feet.  It’s about the movement of your entire body.  Your head and shoulders are just as important as your knees and hips.  When running, your shoulders should stay loose and relaxed.  If they start touching your earrings (or earlobes), they’ve probably crept up a little too high.  It is also just as important that they stay level with one another (this is where I fail).  No dipping from side to side.  If you aren’t sure what your shoulders are doing, you can have someone take pictures of you while running (this is what I made Mario do that this afternoon), or you can try this from

Stand in front of a mirror. Notice your hand position, arm position and shoulder position. Do they look the same on both sides or is one “off” a little bit? That is, does one hand show only the back of the hand while the other is showing the thumb and index fingers? Does one shoulder hang lower than the other? If so, these are definite indications that you are running inefficiently. Since the shoulders act as counterbalances to your hips and vice-versa, and since the body is a unit, correct shoulder and hip position have a direct correlation to proper running form.

If you happen to be a drooper like me, a few exercises you can do to help are arm circles, elbow curls, and overhead extensions.  This video does a pretty good job explaining why your shoulders are important when running and how to have proper shoulder placement.  It also includes a few shoulder stretches.

I watched a few videos of Ryan Hall’s running form and he is like a gazelle compared to me.  I had Mario take about 100 pictures of my running form today and I must say, I thought I was much more graceful than that.  But the important thing is to be aware of the problem, with hopes that I can correct it.  After looking at my crazy left shoulder, I went out for a nice slow run, really focusing on my shoulders, my arms, and my hips.  I hope one day I too can run like a gazelle.

This is my decent (not great) side

See how far back my shoulder is and how my body is twisting? Not cool. And be careful – I might elbow you!

Again, decent on this side


Maybe if I can fix this, I’ll stop wasting energy on bad form and can run faster!

Happy Trails and Happy Running,


11 Comments Post a comment
  1. EJD #

    wow, great observation! you were just talking to me the other day about how your other side was stronger too… i’ll have to evaluate my posture while running as well.

    July 2, 2012
    • That’s a great idea Emily! Being aware is super important. I just signed up for a chi running class this Saturday. I’m hoping that will teach me a thing or two. I’ll be happy to take some pics of your running one day if you want. And I have a few from the race that I can send you too =)

      July 2, 2012
  2. Being aware that things are out of whack is half the battle. You could try locking your fingers behind your back and running a few paces like this. It will really show you how much you compensate with your body for exaggerated shoulder action. Your arms should be relaxed and then your shoulders too.
    Each time I do this I am amazed and it helps to bring awareness to my form.

    July 2, 2012
    • Love the exercise of locking the fingers behind my back! Last night I ran around the house doing this and I could totally tell a difference. Thanks for sharing!

      July 3, 2012
  3. Good information here! We teach a lot of that to our athletes!

    July 3, 2012
  4. One thing you might want to consider is focusing on strengthening your core, especially your obliques via side planks. Having a strong core reduces our tendency to rotate our upper body and allows us to run more efficiently. This is especially true late in a race, when fatigue makes it more difficult to concentrate on holding good form.

    July 3, 2012
    • Thanks for the tip! I’m going to start working on this today. I am also going to a chi running class on Saturday so I hope this will also help with form.

      July 4, 2012
  5. youngandfreshlife #

    I have shoulder problems too. I tend to tighten up and then usually feel cramps in my shoulders–definitely need to work on my form!

    July 4, 2012
    • The good thing is that you are aware you are tensing up so now can focus more on relaxing. I’m taking a running form class on Saturday so if I learn any good tips, I’ll be sure to share them! 🙂

      July 5, 2012

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Running Form « Run Inspired.
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