We’ve all seen runners at every race (and I’m completely guilty of this as well), carrying water bottles, iPods, cell phones and other gadgets. When you head out for a long run, it’s necessary to carry some kind of nutrition with you and many of us enjoy listening to tunes while we workout.
However, a recent article in the Washington Post suggests that may not be a good idea. In fact, holding objects while running can actually harm your form. Why? Good running starts in the hands. According to Ben Opipari, a former track coach, it’s relatively easy to see the difference between holding an object while running and not:
“To see how this happens, pretend to grip a bottle and move your arms as you would while running. Even without the bottle, your forearm muscles contract. Or try running with your fists clenched. That tension in your hands creeps to your forearms, then your upper arms. This makes shoulder rotation more difficult, which inhibits your leg drive. To become more relaxed, hold a saltine cracker between your thumb and forefinger, and try not to break it while running. It’s easy to see how even an empty water bottle or an iPod could have a detrimental effect on your gait.”
Jonathan Cane, founder of City Coach Multisport in New York City, can easily spot a runner holding on to something: One arm will move less and thus creates an asymmetric movement. In short, you don’t have proper form if you can’t move both your arms. They are more important than you think in proper running technique.
Luckily, for those out on a run lasting one hour or less, you don’t need water. Your body’s natural hydration should work properly and you don’t need to drink until post-exercise. However, if you’re training for a half marathon or longer, you need to run more than an hour at least once per week. If this is the case, you’re better off wearing a small hydration belt that doesn’t weigh much to leave your arms free or better yet, loop the course and come back to a water bottle you’ve left at a particular spot.