Tense/Stiff Shoulders and Neck when Running

Random question - but I have noticed that my shoulders and neck are getting increasingly tense when I run. I have recently started increasing my mileage in preparation to start my marathon training schedule next month, and have noticed that by the end of my long runs, my arms, shoulders and neck are aching almost as much as my legs! I know I hold my hands in a fist when I'm running as it's been pointed out to me before, however it's so natural to me to run like that, I don't even know I'm doing it.I try not too, but then I think I concentrate on what my hands and arms to doing so much that I tense myself up even more!

I wondered if anyone had any tips or hints to keep my upper body more relaxed during a run as, the way I'm going at the moment, it'll be my upper body hampering my marathon training rather than my legs!



  • Loosen up. Improving upper body pose is quite important, as you're aware of. Wear loose fitting clothes, such as a vest. Also I use the treadmill at the gym, which have mirrors and run without a top, observing my movment, such as arms, shoulder positions, body roll, breathing, etc. I can improve my technique and run.

  • Hi Kirsty

    Forget your speed for a little while and run slower.                                                     Concentrate only on running in a relaxed manner.                                                    Don't hunch up your shoulders'. Deliberately let your shoulders' drop if they rise. Concentrate on holding your arms' more loosely.                                               Ideally elbows at 90 degrees or slightly lower. Since you are going longer let your     arms swing a little over your abdomen.                                                                Keep your wrists limp.You may find it useful to pinch your thumb and middle finger on each hand to keep your hands from forming a fist.   

    Actually by running as tensely as you do you are slowing yourself down because your whole body will be tense. Once you actually feel you are running more relaxed you will find that your speed gets a natural boost. Don't be afraid to slow right down until you can achieve that cool easy running style, (of course you know you can run faster!).

    Best of luck with your marathon training.




  • My first thought was that you might just need to work on some upper body strength, and the back in particular. 

  • I get exactly this too! My physio suggested a few stretches to do before/after that have made a real difference for me. Kind of hard to explain but I'm sure you would find something if you googled neck/back stretches.
  • I don't know about you but if I keep my hands low, I find I hunch my shoulders. If I lift my hands by bending the elbow then my shoulders drop to compensate and balance. Itry to keep my head up and look ahead too, it's a heavy thing and better sat on the spine than lolling forward and putting extra strain on the muscles in the neck and upper back.
  • Thanks so much for the replies - I am doing a 10 mile run tomorrow morning so will try to take it slower and stretch out my neck and shoulders before I go and see if that helps. I am naturally small and slim so upper body strength isn't something I have any of - I presume incorporating some push ups or light weights etc into my training would be beneficial then? I am planning on introducing some core exercises as well.

  • There are lots of videos demonstrating stretches and basic exercises on the US site (www.runnersworld.com) that you can do at home, might be able to find something useful for yourself. For weights you could use 400g tins of beans if you dont have mini dumbells or a resistance band.

  • I've got a very small build, but do some gym work on my chest/shoulders. Does help, but during running, I make sure my chest/shoulders are loose, arms free and when going uphill, lean forward to avoid stiches. For normal level running, as said by Mr Puffy, keep the spine/back straight , looks better, letting the ribs expand and giving lungs space to work.

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