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Running causing head/neck/jaw etc tension.. Answers?

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Aug 2016
1:49pm, 19 Aug 2016
1924 posts
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I am a very very novice runner and am doing my first 10km on Sunday. I have done quite a lot of mileage this week but my legs have (mostly) dealt with it fine. My upper body however is complaining..I am very prone to upper body tension anyhow but I am in enough pain to take painkillers today. I have a knee issue which is less painful than my jaw and shoulder today!

Post race I will need to look at running style etc, I am doing a yoga class later but could really do with any suggestions people have for helping me to be more relaxed during the event as I am sure it doesn't actually help my running!
Aug 2016
2:33pm, 19 Aug 2016
40263 posts
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No expert, I, but might be worth looking at how core exercises [stomach, lower back etc.] might improve stability.
Aug 2016
3:20pm, 19 Aug 2016
9119 posts
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I'm no expert either - but many runners neglect their upper body strength (myself included!). Yoga will help but core exercises will help too - and Pilates. In terms of trying to keep your upper body relaxed, we once tried carrying a Pringle in each hand during a speed session at the club! The aim was (obviously) to keep the Pringle intact during a sprint. It did help focus the mind :)
Aug 2016
5:45pm, 19 Aug 2016
565 posts
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I think that Swittle and AL are on the right track. If your core is not strong then it is not giving you stability, and it is possible your upper body is trying to take over that role but it is not designed to do that and so leads to tension in that area as a way of trying to keep yourself from rocking from side to side of backwards and forth, that should be the function of the strong. I'm with AL on Pilates, it has strengthened my core noticeably.

On the question of running style, use your arms. Swing them forwards and backwards. Straight forwards, not across your chest, otherwise you'll waste effort. You know how when you run or walk, the opposite arm and leg go forward (or backward) in unison? They are linked. The swing forwards will give you some momentum, and the back swing encourages you to use the opposite leg to provide power to drive you off the ground forwards, so remember to drive that elbow backwards and upwards.

With all that arm movement, you will need some upper body strength to avoid fatigue to enable you to continue using your leg strength. Keeping relaxed avoids wasting any strength on tension, and allows more power to be transmitted to the legs. Keep up the yoga, it will benefit you, just be patience.

I can't give you a quick fix in time for your 10km on Sunday, other than using mental techniques such as AL's to try and keep yourself relaxed.

Good luck.
Aug 2016
5:46pm, 19 Aug 2016
566 posts
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Sorry, that got a bit long.
Aug 2016
6:26pm, 19 Aug 2016
40266 posts
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A very informative response, Flatlander.
Aug 2016
7:24pm, 19 Aug 2016
15376 posts
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While you're running your 10k, keep monitoring your body. (Maybe use each Km marker as a prompt.) Are my shoulders getting hunched? Consciously relax them, down and back. Am I clenching my jaw in some way? Smile (I know, sounds daft, but it helps.) Is my sternum 'leading the way' or am I in some way 'shouldering' my way forward? (Imagine someone pulling you from your waistband.)

Good luck!
Aug 2016
8:42pm, 19 Aug 2016
12060 posts
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Is it actually your running causing it? Just in case the problems running are the symptom, not the root?

To answer the question though, try running with your arms loose, if you feel the shoulders tight. Do you run with your hands up like you are about to box someone? If so, consciously drop your shoulders and shake your arms out.

This might be controversial, but at our level I would say that most of the time the arms don't need to be doing much. Just stop them getting in the way ;-). To take up Flatlander's point, the amount of people I see swinging their arms right across their body! Don't do it! (I'm not immune from it myself - and I think women tend to be worse than men for this.) And when you do need to drive with the arms eg up a hill or in your sprint finish, as Flatlander and Sharkie have raised, it's not the swing forward that's the most important, it's the drive back. Don't push, pull :-).
Aug 2016
8:53pm, 19 Aug 2016
1926 posts
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Thank you all, I am doing some core work. Will keep an eye on my arms.

It's def worse since I have been running more, swimming caused it too, I tend to be quite tense..hence the yoga!

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Maintained by Tomsmum
I am a very very novice runner and am doing my first 10km on Sunday. I have done quite a lot of mile...

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