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Running Checklist: Upper Body

Exercise is a great way to relieve tension, but if you're running with your shoulders next to your ears, not only are you missing out on some of running's benefits, you're compromising your form as well. When out for your next run, take some time to mentally go through this checklist to ensure your upper body is relaxed and your form is up to par.

  • Shoulders: Your shoulders should be away from your ears, and slightly back to open your chest. If you find them raised try this little exercise: inhale and actively raise your shoulders toward your ears, and with a big, percussive exhale, let them fall. Repeat two or three times and as needed during your run.
  • Elbows: Your elbows should be bent to 90 degrees. This means that you should not be hitting your shoulders or your thighs with your fists.

To see the rest of the checklist,


  • Hands: Your hands should be in a soft fist. A tense fist creates tense arms and wasted energy, as you recruit muscles that don't help your running. If you find your hands balled into fists, try this: lower your arms to your sides and open your palms wide for a few strides, give your arms a shake, then bring your hands back to running position. Hopefully they will be more relaxed.
  • Swing: Make sure your arms are not swinging past the mid-line of your body. Side to side motion in your arm swing steals energy away from your forward motion. Imagine holding a volleyball with your hands just above your belly button — that is as close to the center of your body as your arm swing should be.

Please share any tension-relieving tricks you use on your runs in the comments section below.

Join The Conversation
mamaspank mamaspank 8 years
The last few times I have checked into this blog, you have answered an exact question that has been on my mind. Thanks!
brownsuga928 brownsuga928 8 years
What a great excuse to wear earrings while exercising!
GlowingMoon GlowingMoon 8 years
Good tips.
telewyo telewyo 8 years
My shoulders would always sneak up towards my ears in spin class so my trainer suggested I wear long earrings for awhile. I picked lightweight feather ones and when I would tense up I noticed sooner and corrected it because the feathers would tickle my shoulders. I looked funny for a while (who exercises with long earrings?!) but it totally worked and now my form is better. I would think this technique would work for running long as they were super light earrings so they didn't bounce up and down and kill your ears.
yasume yasume 8 years
Good point!! I am a runner and have to always make sure to relax my shoulders. Currently, I am back in physical therapy because I have a neck injury(long history) that is aggravated when I run with my shoulders next to my ears.
michlny michlny 8 years
I will often shake out my hands and arms when I feel them getting too tense and helps me relax during a long run.
TidalWave TidalWave 8 years
I always slouch when I'm running, especially when I start getting tired. Seems like it takes so much effort to keep an upright posture
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