Upper Body Strength
Saturday I got in an awesome 21 miler. The weather was great, my mind was right, and the only downer was learning that the marathon course is even hillier than I originally thought. Let’s just say that while running along the course, there were several signs that warned of the many steep slopes ahead. After running through one tunnel, I turned right and just stopped. You want me to run up that? I couldn’t believe this course is being promoted as flatter than the previous course, but nevertheless, this is not a PR course. Instead it is like an obstacle course, or at least that is how I like to think about it. I guess every race is different.
I didn’t get to do my easy miles yesterday because my leg wasn’t feeling right after Saturday. I just did weights and the elliptical instead. I was a little worried about my run today and if my leg would be okay, but once I got started, I felt great. I had to keep reminding myself to slow down but once I was headed back towards to house, this Eminem song came on and I just took off. I finished my run off at a 6:08 pace and that made me super excited. What made me even more excited was that I didn’t feel winded but instead felt in control of my running. I felt strong. That got me thinking about upper body strength…
When I first started running many years ago, I dedicated myself to running, maybe a few crunches and a pushup once in a while. Strength training was not on my list of things to do. Probably because a) I didn’t know what to do and b) I didn’t have any muscle anyway so I didn’t want to look like an idiot trying lifting weights. I’ve since gotten over that and do some sort of strength training at least twice a week. In addition to lots of one legged exercises, I focus on my back and shoulders. Those have been my weak areas for so long and I feel that if I can make them stronger, that will help my running form. Today, I could tell the difference because that 6:08 pace didn’t feel so bad. That was pretty fast for me so it was one of the encouraging runs. And then this is what I learned about upper body strength tonight (read these articles if you can) …
A stronger upper body can also improve your game. It’s a common misconception that building muscle and gaining strength will slow you down. In fact, a stronger upper body increases your sprint speed as a more powerful arm drive leads to faster leg and torso movement.
Arms are surprisingly important for running. The opposing effect they have on the stability of the trunk allows for efficient running. The leverage effect they have due to their maximal distance from the shoulder joint allows the potential for lots of force to be generated, even though the muscles are small in comparison to the leg muscles.
However, power and efficiency in the running stride comes through total body movement and communication. Tight shoulders, chest muscles and the upper back muscles can all significantly decrease running potential if they are not attended to on a regular basis.
Here is a great article from Running Times about upper body strength and flexibility as well as exercises to build strength. My very positive run today reminded me that running is more than just running. It’s strength, flexibility, and a willingness to commit to the cause day in and day out. I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s speed workout 🙂
Happy Trails and Happy Running,