Hands are more than a mere detail; holding your hands correctly when you run affects your entire body. Much in our lives depends on skilled actions of our hands, every part of our bodies is woven into those actions so we can be powerful, gentle, and precise in fulfilling our intentions. This isn’t something we shut off when we start to run, it’s always there. It means that what you do with your hands determines how your arms, shoulders, head, back, core, hips, and legs move, and vice versa.
The classic advice for distance runners to run with your hands in soft fists — some say it’s as if you’re holding a potato chip (or crisp, if you prefer) in each hand — is not going to do much for you. To find out why, get two crisps and give it a try. Not too nice, is it? Aside from getting your hands oily and salty, it actually requires a lot of tension to run without either crushing them into bits or letting them slip out of your hands. That tension does not help your running. This bit of advice will effectively help you hold your hands in a way that looks right from the outside rather than working right from the inside.
About a year ago I filmed a video about your hands and how they affect your arms and from there your upper body, core/pelvis, and legs. I never shared it because there’s a lot of distracting background noise and eight minutes is probably more than the average runner combing YouTube for advice will want to spend on just their hands. However, as I’ve been working with my Core Action training camp participants some questions have come up that sent me back to that video and I’ve decided to share it at last, flaws and all. Here it is:
The key with your hands as with everything else in your running form — and in fact everything you ever want to learn in your life — is not to obsess about getting it right, but try it many different ways and see what works best for you. In this case, be sure to try the experiment of turning your lower arms like I do and see if you can allow your hands to be utterly passive so you can find a hand position that’s regulated by your tendons via your wrist position and gravity.
Give it a try and leave a comment letting me know how it goes!
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Jae Gruenke, GCFP, is a running technique expert and Feldenkrais Practitioner. Known as a “running form guru,” she is the Founder and CEO of The Balanced Runner™ in New York City and The Balanced Runner UK. She has helped runners from beginner to Olympian improve their form to become pain-free, economical, and fast.