Many distance runners, especially novices, complain of shoulder/neck pain and/or headaches as distances exceed 10 miles. Part of the problem can be how you carry your frame while running. Everyone has a different style, take a look around. Some people run on their toes, others on their heels. Some swing their arms and rotate their trunk, while others hold fairly still. However you run, don't try to make any major changes at this point in your training, if it’s working for you then go with it. There are some small suggestions that can help you stay relaxed, stay focused and take your mind off some of those negative thoughts that creep into your head.
Potato Chip Pinch: Imagine you are running while holding a potato chip between your thumb and middle finger. Some people tend to make a tight fist while running, and then the tension creeps up your arms and into your shoulders and neck. Keeping relaxed hands, will help you keep the arms loose and relaxed.
Shoulders Down: Check yourself; especially if you’re doing an outside run and its cold…don't we live in New England? Are your shoulders hunched up around your ears with your head forward? Try to relax your shoulders back and down, so that your arms are again light. This is where the majority of the neck soreness comes in – the upper trapezius. That’s the muscle on either side of your neck that connects the neck and shoulders…lots of tension here typically!
Jell-O Jaw: Again, especially in the cold weather, many people end up clenching their teeth and keep a very tight jaw. Try holding your tongue on the roof of your mouth and let your jaw be loose and wiggly…like Jell-O!
Pick something to regularly remind you to think about your hands, shoulders and jaw. Maybe every mile or so, every new song, every time you drink some water, have a Swedish fish, etc. Frequently check in. Focus on your tension state and that will also help you keep your mind focused while knocking down those miles. Good luck this weekend!