Use your arms to help you run uphill

Lots of runners approach hills with dread but by using your arms you can learn to enjoy the uphill struggle

Think of your arm technique for 100 steps and you will feel stronger, says Mary Jennings.  Photograph: Eric Luke

Think of your arm technique for 100 steps and you will feel stronger, says Mary Jennings. Photograph: Eric Luke

 

This week we introduce more simple Chirunning techniques to help make your running feel easier. We show you hill technique and some extra tips for what to do with your arms when you run. We also experiment with breaking up our run with exercises along the route.

Some wonderful tips from Chirunning will make running easier, on the flat and on hills, by concentrating on your arms.

What do you do with your arms when you run? Ideally your arms, your wrists and your shoulders should be nice and relaxed. Imagine you are elbowing someone behind you at waist height. Focus on pushing the arm behind you, and it will come back naturally. Notice how using your arms gives you more strength and speed. Try it out this week. If your legs are tired, let that be the reminder to run with your arms. Think of your arm technique for 100 steps and you will feel stronger and fresher.

Using your arms on the flat is beneficial, but you really rely on your arms when running uphill. It’s the only time along your run when you cannot use gravity to help move forward. If you can use your arms, it reduces the effort your legs need to put in. Lots of runners approach hills with dread. Even the sight of the hill approaching makes them feel out of breath. If you can learn to enjoy hills, and get comfortable with them, it is superb for your fitness.

Here are a few tips for uphill running, but also watch the video in your homework email, in which I explain the technique in more detail:

nTake small little steps, as if you are walking up stairs.

nKeep your lower legs relaxed; don’t bounce on your toes or you will overwork your calves.

nAlmost imagine you are not allowed to use your legs. Keep them underneath you, or picture them being behind you. Instead, feel as if you are being pulled up the hill by a string that is coming out from your chest up the hill, as if you are on an escalator.

nLook up to where you are going. Try not to look down – as you know by now, that will make you lose your posture, and make your breathing more difficult.

nThe

final component that will make all the difference is your arms. Going uphill we need to use our arms for power. Drive the arms upwards to the extent that you feel you are nearly boxing your cheeks with your fists.

It may sound complicated, but try each tip individually, look at the videos to see exactly how it is done, and if you get stuck I have a link in your training plan to simple steps for your hill running. Remember three things: small little steps, look up to where you are going, and use your arms.

The good news is that downhill is much less complicated. You just need to relax and let your body fall down the hill. I use downhill as a good excuse to relax my arms and shoulders and let my body shake out. Imagine you are a rag doll. Gravity will take you down the hill. Think of your posture and then let the body fall forward.

You will feel the tension in your core, which we discussed in earlier weeks. You will feel as if your legs are just keeping up with your body. Lead with the upper body and the rest will follow. Stay relaxed, and gravity will do the work for you.

It’s up to you now to experiment with the technique. There is no point trying to attempt this on a race day if you have not practised it in training. When you are out this week, pay special attention to the hill technique and you will be pleasantly surprised how quickly the hill will disappear behind you.

I hope you enjoyed the variety in the speed in last week’s Fartlek run. When we go for a run, most of us attempt to run nonstop until we get back home. This week, we are also going to play around with that approach and stop along the route to do some exercises as well as experiment with different speeds. The addition of the exercises along the run really makes it a very different type of workout. This variety in a run will be a big change for many of you but one that will challenge your body in many different ways.

There are lots of new things to try out in Week 6. I wish you the best of luck.

Get Running: Stay on Track is designed for people who can squeeze a 30- to 40-minute run into their busy life three times a week, but who need a kickstart to get going and support when they run out of excuses.

Sign up to this, or to any of our running courses, at irishtimes.com/getrunning. You can also keep up with us on facebook.com/irishtimesrunning, @IrishTimesRun and email us at fitness@irishtimes.com. The next online Q&A session with Mary Jennings will be on Monday, November 3rd.

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