Running Hands

I went for a long walk in a park yesterday, I was handwatching.

A slightly running-geek one today!

I was thinking about the wrist joint when running. Hands are the part of a body furthest from the sole (taking the route through your body of course!). Number 3 on WHEN THIS RUNNER TRIED THESE 7 TIPS SHE COULDN’T BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENED and other clickbait is generally to try to touchdown* further forwards on your foot when running, aiming for the midfoot/ball of foot. I’ve always thought this quite a backwards way of trying to run better, rather I like to start from the premise that by exploring and refining possibilities of movement in a whole body above the sole, then a foot will touchdown through the appropriate surface for that particular step.

I wonder if it would be possible to achieve great running techniques through careful and playful exploration of the hand and wrist joint?

The theory: In dance I find that the hands are a kind of fractal expression of what is going on the rest of the whole dancing person, and vice versa. For example a lack of projection through my hands probably means I’m not fully imagining, sensing and creating a full expansion through the whole of me. Likewise tense hands often mirror tension elsewhere in body or mind, and so on. So, my first assumption is that there isn’t one right position for the hands, just as there isn’t one correct form to run in, rather hands and running will reflect one another. It’s not always good to look at athletes for sustainable and efficient movement principles, they often have different goals than the rest of us, but observe, imagine, or enact the differences between the hands of a sprinter, a marathon runner and a trail runner picking their way over uneven ground.

Enough theory, time to practise.

Exploration 1: rotation. Bring your arm close to your side, elbow bent. Relax your wrist and begin to rotate it, observing what happens to your floppy hand as you do so. You might notice your hand moving upwards and downwards, perhaps a curling and uncurling of your fingers. Now try the same thing while softly shaking your hand up and down, what happens? Where is the biggest shake, where the smallest? Now try it holding your smartphone. Only kidding. 

Exploration 2: opening and closing. You may well have done this kind of thing before; tense your fist, doesn’t need to be really hard, and swiftly release all the tension in your hand, but don’t collapse your wrist. Where do you arrive to? What is touching what? Does a little up and down shake change anything or reinforce the place you arrived at? How long could you maintain these hands?

Now imagine you are slipping through air at speed, what kind of hand do you need for that? Maybe more extension throughout? Perhaps the underneath surface of your little finger becomes more present? How long before these ninja hands start to tire? For me it’s measured in seconds.

*(“toe/heel strike” in the language of someone who has never softly danced barefoot down a mountain path, or something equally romantic. I prefer “touchdown”, imagining both of touching feathers and making each step a little victory).