Runners’ legs get all the attention. But if you neglect your upper body, you’re missing out on an opportunity to become a faster, more efficient runner. “Working your arms, shoulders and back increases muscle strength and promotes good posture, which improves breathing and arm swing,” says Krista Schultz, exercise physiologist and coach. And arm swing is the X factor in running well: It drives your body forward and helps maintain cadence and rhythm. Schultz developed this routine to strengthen and improve range of motion in your upper body. Do two sets of exercises 1 through 3 first to warm up. Then do two sets of exercises 4 and 5. Do the entire routine two or three times per week.
To do: Lie on a foam roller lengthwise so that your neck and upper back are supported by the roller. Bend your elbows and bring them into your body, forming a “W” with your arms, palms facing up. Extend your arms up so they rise above your head, then bring them back down, elbows close to your body. Do 10 to 20 reps.
2. PRONE FLY
To do: Drape yourself over a stability ball; support yourself by placing your hands on the floor in front of you. Lift your torso while raising your arms out to your sides and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Return to the starting position. Do 10 to 20 reps.
3. EXTERNAL ROTATION
To do: Hold a resistance band with both hands, about 30 centimetres apart, palms up. While keeping your shoulders back and your elbows pinned to your sides, stretch the band out with both hands. Return to starting position. Do 10 to 20 reps.
To do: Start in an elevated plank position: palms pressing into the floor, in line with your shoulders. Bend both elbows and lower down until your chest hovers above the floor. Do 10 to 20. To make it easier, drop to your knees or elevate your hands on a box.
5. PLANK CHANGE-UPS
To do: From an elevated plank, bend your left elbow, and lower down so your left forearm is on the floor. Do the same on your right so you’re now supported by both forearms. Straighten your left arm, then your right. That’s one rep; do 10 to 20.