There's a little hotel around the corner from our house which seems to accommodate mostly high-school athletes. During the winter months I often see young Japanese guys and girls, dressed in their school sports uniforms, exercising and running in small groups around our neighborhood. I love seeing the girls run, because their short and fluid strides somehow look so graceful. In fact, if it wasn't for their graceful strides and postures, I may not have picked up on a very interesting observation - some of the girls run with sticks!
Sticks, you say? Yes, short sticks that look like relay batons, or drum sticks. The first time I saw one of the female athletes running with sticks in her hands, I had to do a double-take and turn back to see if I had seen correctly. And even then, I wondered at first if maybe she was also a music student trying to save time by practicing visual drum beats while getting her mandatory run workout completed. That seemed a little far-fetched, so I scratched that idea and put the whole thing out my mind - until, I saw more of the female athletes running with sticks. That's it, I thought, I need to find out what those sticks are about.
A little bit of google searching led me to two websites, the first of which was:
Former Marine Corps ROTC student, Shawn Hussey, designs and crafts mostly walking and hiking sticks, but he also makes running sticks, which according to his website, "can assist in the balance of your running." Okay, so now we are getting somewhere - running sticks may assist with balance, thus, also help to improve running form.
|A sample of Shawn's work|
Remember Anna's post a while back, about running form and arm swing? (You can check it out here, if you want a recap: http://gotheextramilewithwoot.blogspot.com/2012/10/running-form-arm-swing.html)
In her post, Anna talked about how a good arm swing involves bending the elbows at about 90 degrees, with the hands held high and in a relaxed state, and then swinging the arms forward so that they lightly graze the bottom of the rib cage.
|This girl looks like she has a good arm swing - but for some runners, like myself, keeping the arms in a controlled and straight-forward swinging motion does not come naturally.|
The second website I came across, which was referred to me by Shawn Hussey, is:
|These look more like javelins than sticks, but what do I know!|
The owner of this website proposes an interesting theory: he suggests that, because our Primitive Ancestors (PA) ran barefoot, and with some type of stick or spear in hand, modern-day runners can simulate the way in which our PAs ran and enjoy a much more perfect form of running. Here's a short excerpt from the website: "When you 'run with sticks,' the running sticks counterbalance your weight forward, toward the toes and off the heels. That is the correct way to run."
I can't say I agree with all the information presented on run-with-sticks website, but by all means, take a look and arrive at your own conclusions. What I will say though, is that running sticks seem like they may be a practical tool to use on training runs if you are looking to improve your arm swing and overall form. And if the Japanese girls I have seen running with sticks are proof that they might work, then I'm convinced.
(By the way, if you do consider trying to run with sticks, I'm sure a couple of sticks picked up on "one of our trail runs" will suffice)