Guest Blogger Eric Jorgensen

Here’s the thing: We runners can often neglect a massive chunk of the 639 muscles in our bodies, and there is one group of muscles that might hold to key to making us better runners, and they’re not in our legs.

I try my best to round out my fitness with resistance training, yet I am still guilty ofEJ BLOG muscle neglect. It started my freshman year of high school (1999). You see, something huge happened that year; something that would alter the course of fitness history—Fight Club premiered. That was the first time a lot of the world noticed Brad Pitt’s famous physique and his ridiculous abs. That was also the time men of every age started doing crunches until they vomited, because did you SEE Brad Pitt??

My freshman year of high school, I was super guilty of abs obsession. I’d wake up—abs. Weights class at school—abs. Practice—abs. Bed time—abs. This is not at all how to develop Brad Pitt abs, but what did I know? Today, I would say because of Fight Club and the following abs insanity, my core is proportionally stronger than the rest of my body. For a runner, that’s actually not a terrible thing.

During The 2011 San Francisco Marathon, my core maintained good posture. My shoulders did not—I had neglected them in training, specifically my posterior shoulder muscles, and during the marathon my shoulders fatigued and slouched forward. This made me feel more tired, and then I started feeling pain in my shoulders and neck. This needed to be fixed.

Luckily for me there is a genius in my midst—a man named Wayne Jackson. Wayne is a trainer at my gym whom I consult every couple months. He trained me while I was heavy into triathlons, and helped shave 10 minutes off my P.R through Crossfit and pretty difficult combination moves. One of Wayne’s greatest training accomplishments, to me, at least, is he took a very good marathon runner and helped him qualify for the Boston Marathon. (Note: this person is definitely not me). Two of Wayne’s points of emphasis were: increased hill capacity by pushing and pulling a weighted sled (aka: The Prowler); and second, developing stronger scapular muscles for better posture and running form.

Yeah, Wayne, but is that what Brad Pitt did?… He probably did? Oh. OK, cool. I didn’t need that info 12 years ago, anyway.

Wayne says if you strengthen these muscles (The trapezius, teres minor and major, and latissimus dorsi if we’re being jargony), your body will pull your shoulders back and keep your torso aligned. The benefits to this are obvious: less back and shoulder pain, easier breathing, and better running form that lasts longer. I can testify. Since consulting Wayne and exercising my scapular muscles more, my posture has stayed stronger and I’ve felt fresher cruising up and down hills. This should suit me well on the San Francisco course.

If you have a weight set or a gym membership, there are plenty of ways to exercise these muscles. However, the upper back and scapular muscles are tougher to hit without weights, but there are options.

I can unequivocally say exercising my scapular muscles has made me a more confident runner. It’s very possible you’ll feel the same way.

Eric Jorgensen is a magazine editor and blogger from the Kansas City-metro area who spends large chunks of time in Los Angeles. He once had a Coca-Cola commercial made about him for being one of the craziest college basketball fans in the country, which he still is (Rock Chalk). He has run a road race in full hipster garb, and has yet to drown during a triathlon. His first marathon was the 2011 San Francisco Marathon, which he live-tweeted. If you’re interested in training with Eric, have any SF Marathon questions, or like friending random people on Facebook, add him on Facebook. He also Tweets, so there’s that.