It was last winter when a weightlifter type approached me as I worked out on the treadmill. I figured he wanted to change the TV channel or maybe attempt a pickup line. But no. He said, "You're not running with your arms in the correct position."
Oh really, I managed to reply. He explained that I was letting my forearms fall too low and recommended that I keep everything tighter to my body, approximately at a right angle. He said I would feel more activity in my biceps. And then he walked away.
I've since tried to heed his advice, although I catch myself getting lazy. So I was intrigued when I came across an article in an old copy of Vogue about the benefits of ergonomic grips.
The e3 Fitness Grips (e3 is for "energy, efficiency, equilibrium") look like the handles on ski poles, but without the poles. They promise to stabilize the shoulders and hips, encouraging more efficient muscle movement in arms and legs.
It takes me just a few exercises and a three-km run - with grips firmly but not too tightly in hand - to feel the difference.
Okay, I know what you're thinking: She's lost her grip. How can these thingamabobs change a person's stride, fire the core and improve balance (the list goes on: reduce repetitive strain injury, increase agility, improve golf strokes, etc.).
Biogrip Inc. founder Stephen Tamaribuchi is the first to say there's nothing magic about the patented grips, which he developed nearly 15 years ago. It all boils down to biomechanics. Holding the grips by placing the thumb on a top ledge and wrapping the fingers around the shaft positions the shoulder and hip girdles in correct alignment. "If you have structural stability, you'll use muscles like they're designed to be used rather than compensatory recruitment patterns," Mr. Tamaribuchi says by phone from Sacramento, Calif.
He instructs me to stand on one foot without the grips and asks me where I feel I'm loading my weight. The outside of my foot, I say. I hold the grips and he asks again. This time it's toward the inside, which of course is better for the body.
I do a bicep curl with a 10-pound weight, holding a grip in the other hand, and I feel my core working to keep me balanced. Best of all, I keep my arms at right angles when I run, swinging them fluidly.
The grips will not completely reprogram patterns that have been ingrained over years, but they can help build new - and correct - muscle memories.
Melissa Givelos, a chiropractor at Athlete's Care in Toronto, notes that many people hunch their shoulders when exercising, and agrees that the Fitness Grips inhibit this (she tested them briefly before commenting).
"As soon as you drop your shoulders and bring them back, you relieve tension in your neck and upper back," she explains, adding that she sees the grips as good running aids, but for different reasons. "I think it's the feedback," she says. "I don't know how much it does other than help with the awareness of your positioning."
I may only use the grips when I want to be cognizant of my form, but they have one other attribute: They make a pretty good (if not gripping) conversation starter at the gym. ($39.95 U.S., www.biogrip.com)
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