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Tension free running

There are not many sports where the ability to hold tension is an assest. Runners tend to accumulate tension in the jaw, neck, and shoulders, as the fast-twitch muscles in these areas respond quickly to stress by rapidly contracting. Tight or hunched shoulders not only hinder relaxed running form by jarring the arm swing, but sap vital energy and inhibit deep breathing. Yoga tackle tension through stretching, breathing and relaxation exercises.

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The shoulder

Double shoulder rolls exercise will help you prevent your arms swinging freely especially for those with poor posture or hours spent hunched over a desk.

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The hands

To experience how clenching your fists affects arm swing stand up, make 90 degree shape with your arms and clench your fists tightly. Now swing your arms as if running. Notice how this immediately restricts your arm movement and tightens the muscles of your shoulders and upper back. Repeat. This time soften your hands, letting your first finger rest lightly on your thumb. Relax your hands. Imaging you are holding potato chips between your finger and thumb and their still there at the end of your run.

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Four reasons to strengthen your core

As a triathlete and runner we want the mid section to be stable as possible in order to allow the legs and arms move freely.

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Here is four reasons why you should strengthen your core.

  1. To run taller - envisage your core as a corset - like structure that wraps around your torso holding your body erect. If your body’s core is weak your spine will collapse and curve, creating rounded shoulders and poor overall posture.

  2. To run faster (and tackle hills) - gluteus maximus is often omitted from core training sessions, but this thick buttock muscle helps drive your body forwards. Sprinters rely on glute max more than endurance runners, but a good level of strength in your buttocks - and the entire core - will benefit all runners by allowing the legs to generate more force and speed. The extra power supplied by a strong glute max is especially useful in short sprints or when tackling hills and adds to overall resilience.

  3. To limit unnecessary rotation - a key function of the core , especially the internal and external obliques at the side of your waist, is to minimise upper body rotation in running. This means that your body is moving in an efficient forwards - only motion or sagittal plane rather than swaying from side to side. Restraining this movement creates a more economic stride and saves precious energy for the run.

  4. To prevent injury - a weak core can cause numerous problems in runners, and triathlon, from irrtating your pelvic muscles to stressing your knee joints or causing nagginig lower backache. This is especially the case for runners with sedentary desk jobs who may already have muscular weaknesses in the abdominals and glutes. Of course a strong core is only part of the story with injury prevention, a whole body strengthening and stretching routine is the ideal preventative solution.

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