Sprinters can’t do without them. Distance runners can go for miles before ever showing them off. And anyone who’s been living under a rock and doesn’t realize running is a competitive sport, has no clue what I’m talking about. I’m talking about Speed Hands. That oh so familiar extension of the hands, straightening the fingers and flattening the palm to create a single plane from wrist to finger tips. In becoming more fluid and aerodynamic, a runner increases the drive of the hands, which in turn increases turnover of the legs, picking up speed. With this intentional drive, there’s both a physical and mental change that says, “It’s go time.”

We’ll start with the obvious: What are Speed Hands, you ask?  Think jazz hands, but faster.  Put simply, they signify the transition from the long slow grind of the race behind you, into the much quicker, all out sprint that is between you and the finish, in the final moments of a race. Whether it’s 400 out or a mile out, we all begin our kicks on our own terms. But one thing is certain, there’s a change in form. Rhythm picks up, stride extends further, becoming more efficient, and the drive of your arms become much more intentional. It is within this pick up, that you may see a more rigid, out flexed pair of hands on any number of individuals. Your hands turn into blades, cutting through the air, becoming more fluid through the jet stream. Other characteristics include 90˚ elbows and light, yet powerful, tippy-toe strides. All gears working in unison, to obtain as much efficiency and power as possible.

Secondly, it’s a mentality. With the physical attributes displayed for everyone to see your intentions, you have committed to a faster gear that cannot be downshifted before you reach the tape (or your legs give out). Overall, it says, “I’m making a move and I’ve committed to whatever else may be thrown my way.” Anything that ensues may become an all out brawl for who reaches the tape first. In terms of a gauntlet, it may be thrust upon thy challenger with swift precision for ultimate effectiveness* (*results may vary). As a teammate of mine, Heather Kampf, so eloquently put:

I think Speed Hands is a state of mind, like putting on your ‘fast feet’, you’re preparing to go into a race, and be FAST. A lot of people think of Speed Hands being associated with sprinting, but no matter what event you do and how long it is, you still have to finish with a sprint. Everyone can use a pair of Speed Hands.

And like any other aspect of training, it must be practiced with precision and practiced often. Go ahead; try them out next time you’re doing 150’s on the track. Maybe dabble a bit on your fartlek if you’re not entirely certain that you’ll be comfortable with the immediate change. But certainly have them ready come next race. Because chances are, your competitors already utilize them, giving them the upper hand.