If you want to change your body, exercise. If you want to change your life, become a runner.
Running is an essential part of any triathlon event, but for some reason it doesn’t get as much attention as swimming and cycling. It might have something to do with the fact that running doesn’t require any additional skills. While that may be true, it’s also true that running requires specific training. It’s not just about putting on a pair of shoes and running to the finish line. It’s a test of your strength and endurance as an athlete.
Running training for triathlons is even more specialized. Think about it – running is the last ingredient in a triathlon event. It comes after you’ve already completed the swim and bike course and the fatigue has set in.
Also, running on a pair of legs that has just ridden a bike is different from running on a fresh pair of legs. That’s why you need special training for triathlon runners.
The first thing triathletes need to focus on to improve their strength while running is to increase their overall strength with some training routines. Triathletes are advised to strengthen their muscles because a stronger and more powerful muscle is faster, has more endurance and is more resistant to injury.
What are you doing to get stronger? Add strength training to your running routine. Exercises such as squats, lunges, good mornings and plyometric boxing are highly recommended to increase the power and strength of your leg muscles and therefore your ability to run longer.
Become better pure runners
Coach and published author Matt Fitzgerald, writing for Active.com, says that in order to become better triathlon runners, triathletes have to be better straight runners. He says the most effective way for triathletes to become better pure runners is to focus on running during the triathlon off-season.
He recommends doing a few races and running up to six times a week during the fall and winter seasons to train for them. It’s only a matter of time before you see an improvement in your running that you can carry over to the next triathlon season.
Fitzgerald agrees that triathletes should work to become stronger cyclists. “I strongly suspect that strength on the bike is one of the keys to being a good off-bike runner,” he says. To become tougher cyclists, Fitzgerald recommends riding more, riding faster, or both.
Posture is important
Proper posture can not only shave a few minutes off your running time, but also protect you from sports injuries. Coach Krista Schultz gives valuable tips for good running form.
According to Schultz, it’s important to keep your head in a neutral position. Visualize an apple or soft ball under your chin as if trying to clench it and look 15 to 20 feet forward at a time, being careful not to drop your chin too low or too high bring.
Your neck should be relaxed and your shoulders relaxed and open, as should your arms. Maintain a neutral pelvis, pull your belly button in and under to keep your core nice and toned, and lift your chest, she recommends. Your body should be slightly tilted forward and you should land on your midfoot or heel and push off with your forefoot. Finally, Schultz says triathletes should aim to maintain a cadence of 180 steps per minute.
Every triathlete knows that proper nutrition is essential for peak performance. You need to follow a diet that not only gives you energy but also aids in recovery. Simple carbs combined with some protein are the best pre-run snack.
Studies also show that caffeine improves running performance, so don’t forget to have that cup of coffee 30 minutes before your run.
Get off the beaten path
Runner and author Brian Metzler strongly advises triathletes against running all of their miles on the road. It’s boring and repetitive with the exact same gait pattern for every step. Instead, he recommends running 10 to 20 minutes longer on a soft trail where every step is different. It forces you to shift weight and change direction and use dozens of muscles that would otherwise go unused.
Metzler also suggests hill training to build muscle strength and add some much-needed variety to your everyday running routine. Running uphill helps strengthen your leg muscles while increasing your speed and endurance.
This workout is really handy when you are tired from completing your swim and bike course and are struggling to finish the race.
Metzler recommends two types of mountain training — short and fast reps (eg, 8 x 20 seconds) that send you immediately into oxygen debt, or longer reps (8 x 200 meters) that start at a moderate pace but eventually increase in intensity increase because of the incline.
This off-season, work on building your running power to become a superior runner and a better triathlete. Show the world how it’s done!
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