Arms con­trol: A way to bet­ter biome­chan­ics

BRoM HoBAN | cEN­TRAL TExAs RUN­NING

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS BRIEFING -

If you’re like most run­ners, you run to the ex­clu­sion of other forms of ex­er­cise — even ones that can en­hance your run­ning abil­ity. Do that long enough and you may de­velop biome­chan­i­cal in­ef­fi­cien­cies that af­fect your stride. To com­pen­sate, many run­ners be­gin over­strid­ing, which is a lead­ing cause of in­juries, said Paul Car­rozza, the owner of RunTex.

All this may­hem is eas­ily pre­ventable, though, if you in­clude reg­u­lar drills in your work­outs.

“Your body uses push-pull me­chan­ics to run, but it’s got to stay in proper bal­ance,” said Car­rozza, who also coaches Austin run­ners.

“Af­ter years of run­ning, your back and your ham­strings get tight. Per­son­ally, I found I was us­ing my up­per body more and more to help ‘pull’ my­self along, in­stead of push­ing from my hips. I’ve al­ways been a big be­liever in per­form­ing run­ning drills — spe­cific ex­er­cises to ad­dress the run­ning gait, but I re­cently dis­cov­ered a new one that has re­ally helped re­store proper biome­chan­ics.”

Car­rozza found that by us­ing run­ning drills that didn’t in­volve the arms, he could teach run­ners to em­pha­size ef­fi­cient strid­ing and avoid over­strid­ing.

“By tak­ing your arms out of the pic­ture, you’re forced to fo­cus on your legs,” he said. That causes you to push off bet­ter. As a re­sult, your hips get stronger, and you’ll be able to open up your stride, but not over­stride.”

At a re­cent work­out on the Texas School for the Deaf track, Car­rozza took his train­ing group through the paces. Af­ter an easy one-or two-mile warmup run to the track, the “arm­less” drills be­gan. Run­ners cir­cled the 400-me­ter track, first with hands on hips, then with hands on head, and fi­nally, with hands clasped be­hind their backs.

Sounds easy, but it’s fairly tax­ing if you’re not used to it. And it does in­deed force you to fo­cus on a more ef­fi­cient stride — one that em­pha­sizes push­ing off with the mid-or fore­foot rather than land­ing on your heels.

“You can re­ally see how you fo­cus on just your legs to power you for­ward,” said Jeff Dai­ley, a 61-year-old Austin run­ner who’s com­pet­i­tive within his age group. “I’ve been do­ing the arm­less drills for a num­ber of months now, and I feel that it’s en­hanced my (run­ning) ef­fi­ciency.”

Car­rozza mixes in more tra­di­tional drills as well, in­clud­ing:

Run­ning side­ways, which helps de­velop the in­ner and outer thigh mus­cles.

High heel kicks, which calls for run­ners to kick their heels up to their back­sides as they run. This drill takes the ham­string mus­cles through a full range of mo­tion and helps with the nat­u­ral fol­lowthrough of the stride.

Skip­ping, to help de­velop the hip flex­ors, which draw the knee back as you push off the ground.

Run­ning back­ward, which im­proves bal­ance and works the mus­cle groups in op­po­si­tion to the ones you nor­mally use when run­ning for­ward.

“I be­lieve that by do­ing rou­tine drill work for run­ning, you can de­velop greater ef­fi­ciency that leads to faster times.” Car­rozza said. “You’ll see some im­me­di­ate gains and con­tinue to see ben­e­fits over time.”

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