I’m not a mechanic, and I know way less than I should about cars, but I do know that every once in a while, the service guy or gal will tell me that my tires need to be balanced – makes sense to me, sorta. Making sure that your tires are centered correctly can ease the wear and tear of time. What I find fascinating about the process is that for a car that weighs thousands of pounds, the adjustment is a little tiny weight on the rim of the wheel.
I’ve been watching runners in my neighborhood. I’m happy to say that I see a lot of them, more than I have in the past – maybe the population IS taking this whole obesity thing seriously. But there is something I have noticed with several recreational runners – many of them carry their music in their hand. Now, carrying music in your hand in and of itself is not be a bad thing – on longer runs I will often carry my hydration in my hand – but what I see in these runners is running with an over exaggerated compensation due to the extra weight they are carrying on one side or the other. While one arm swings properly, bent at the elbow at 90°, never going too far forward or backward, the other swings wildly. This swing then ripples out and affects gait and rhythm, causing this weird, almost Igor “Walk this Way” the Assistant type stride.
Inevitably, this will cause injuries because the runner’s body is attempting to compensate for this imbalance.
There are a few things one can do to make sure this doesn’t happen (or at least keep the effects to a minimum).
- Ditch the music. There is something to be said about running with nature and environment as your soundtrack. It also gives you a better chance to listen to your feet (are they pounding the ground too hard? are they scuffling along and dragging?). But that’s a pretty hardcore step for some. Music is a great motivator – I discovered that on Sunday when Psy’s Gangnam Style actually quickened my pace up some tough hills.
- Alternate hands. When I run with hydration, I tend to take a hand held water bottle. I like it better than the belts (but some people swear by the belts – personal preference). 20 ounces of water can be quite heavy over the course of 5 – 20 miles and your bicep will eventually tire. That is why I will alternate hands every mile. At first, this is very uncomfortable for your unfavored arm, but eventually you will get used to it. By alternating which hand you are holding your music or water bottle, you avoid the fatigue that leads to the flailing arm.
- Bring it closer to your center of gravity. The further out you hold something, the more weight it exerts on your arm. By bringing your arms closer to your torso and keeping the elbow bent at 90°, you decrease the effects of carrying a music player or hydration, A better solution to carrying your music however, is to carry it on either your waist, bicep or head. There are several choices out there to attach your music player to your body – hip clips, hatphones, armbands (my personal preference).
When we suffer injuries from running, more often than not, they are due to little things we could have done differently; little tiny ripples that over time gain strength from repeated use before ultimately crashing down on us like an injury tsunami. Maintaining good form throughout a run will go a long way in keeping you injury free.