RELAX. It’s a word I often repeat to myself as I’m running. Shake it loose and RELAX. I should probably remind myself of it even when I’m not running, since I tend to hold tension in my shoulders without noticing it on a regular basis. That’s why this week’s barefoot running tip is RELAX your shoulders.
I came across a funny, but actually really practical, story while reading Barefoot Running Step by Step. Barefoot Ken Bob talked about a marathon in which he ran.
“In the first few miles of the 1999 San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon, I saw the words ‘Relax Shoulders’ printed on the back of a runner’s t-shirt. Sure enough, mine weren’t, so I relaxed them. Then five or ten minutes later, I saw ‘Relax Shoulders’ on another runner’s shirt. It was interesting how these folks kept appearing just when I needed a reminder to relax my shoulders.
“Ten years later, after I held one of my Runny Barefoot Workshops in San Diego with Coach Austin “Ozzie” Gontang, I told him the story at lunch. ‘That was our group,’ he said.
“Tensing the shoulders is common while running, yet it doesn’t do you a bit of good, said Ozzie. In fact, it creates excess tension and wrecks your form. That’s why his group figured ‘Relax Shoulders’ was the most concise and important message they could convey to runners during the marathon.”
Pretty clever, right?
The other part of the tip this week is connected to your shoulders. It’s what to do with your arms. (For some reason that makes me think of awkward pre-teens in the movies who practice their first kiss with a pillow and worry about what they’re supposed to do with their hands. Completely random, I know. Forgive me.)
So back to your arms. Let them swing vertically, not crossing the midline of your body. There are a couple reasons for this:
- Vertical arm swing will encourage a fast leg cadence. Your whole body is working together to get you moving.
- You don’t want to waste energy moving your body from side to side with your arm movements. Remember–you want to move forward, not to the left and right. A vertical arm swing will help to reduce excessive torso sway.
You might be wondering after two weeks of barefoot running tips when I’m ever going to talk about the feet! It’s because truly good barefoot running form starts from the head and works it’s way down. The whole body is connected and you have to treat your form from a holistic perspective. You can’t just decide to start landing on your mid-foot or fore-front and think it’s all good. Start from the top and your feet will work themselves out naturally. But don’t worry–I will get to the feet, knees, legs, etc. very soon!
How is your barefoot running technique coming?
- Lose the Shoes & Keep Your Head Up
- Lose the Shoes & RELAX Your Shoulders
- Lose the Shoes & Bend Your Knees
- The All-Important Barefoot Running Landing
- Lose the Shoes & Feel Like You’re Falling
- Conserve Energy When Running Barefoot
- Training Plan for a Barefoot 5K