Running Off The Bike
Some of the people who read this blog aren’t triathletes but for those who are, you will most probably have had this situation at some point when you have run off the bike!
You’re 2/3rds of the way through your triathlon run. Running off the bike you feel amazing. Your nutrition strategy’s going to plan, your pace and heart rate are where you want them… Then out of nowhere you begin to get those aches of tightness and the early warning pangs of cramp in your thighs.
Cramp can be hell!
You start to think: “Perhaps I pushed it too hard on the bike. Maybe that’s why my legs are wrecked…”
Maybe that is the case. We’re all different. However one thing is constant, and that’s the fact that cycling is a Quad dominant exercise, no matter how well set-up your bike is.
If your individual running style also happens to be excessively Quad and Hip Flexor dominant (which is the case with most triathletes due to the volume of time spent on the bike in training – and subsequent neuromuscular pattern development), then you will be running in such a way which predominantly uses the very same muscle groups which you have blitzed on the bike… Definitely a recipe for early fatigue, or worse, injury.
Ideally you should be looking to get your Hamstrings and Glutes to engage as you run, helping you to maintain a smooth and efficient pick-up with the legs and a good posture, rather than relying on the Quads and Hip Flexors to pull the leg through from stride to stride.
By using your Hamstrings and Glutes effectively as you run, you offload the strain on the Hip Flexors and Quads which are already heavily fatigued from working hard on the bike. This means that you’ll be sharing the load across multiple sets of muscle groups, delaying the onset of fatigue. This allows you to run faster for longer, the holy grail!
Aim to flow and get those hamstrings pulling through and back
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT!
The only way you’re going to be able to change the way you run is through specific practice. You need the new, hamstring active running style to be second nature for it to work for you under race conditions, under fatigue
Just as with swimming technique, running technique is a skill that is there to be mastered. And just like swimming, you don’t simply need to be doing the right drills, you need to be doing the right drills correctly! With repetition the movements become easier, the newly used muscles get more active and stronger and you become more efficient.
Once you’ve become comfortable the basics of the correct running technique. I find that getting triathletes to do a number of mini-brick sessions (purely technique focused runs) during the week has an awesome effect on thier ability to hold great form off the bike.
Running Technique Mini-Brick Session:
This isn’t as bad as it sounds!
It is simply 10 x 100m at race pace (not necessarily sprinting!) with a walk back recovery, immediately once you finish your bike session of the day – whatever that happens to be.
The key is that the runs are all focussed on reinforcing good running form using the Hamstrings and Glutes.
This is purely a session to reinforce the neural pathways of the new improved technique once the body is in a state of bike induced fatigue. No need for it to be a hard mini-session, think quality not quantity.
Send us a message or leave a comment and let us know if you have any questions! We all have our own thoughts on the matter, and we all have something different that suits us.
See what’s up next week for our #RunFormFriday tip! For more in depth understanding on how to put this into practise, get in touch and we’ll see how we can help!
There’s a funny phenomenon in endurance sports that I like to call “becoming a one-speed athlete.” It happens to runners, cyclists and triathletes whose training becomes so focused on sustained efforts at race intensity that their ability to work at higher intensity levels disapears! Their low end capabilities also become nullified because of the idea that the athlete needs to perform at “race” speed, or work hard. The one-speed athlete phenomenon presents itself most notably when endurance athletes do shorter races and feel annoyed by proving unable to go any faster over the shorter distance than they intend to go over the longer. A great, gaping hole in their fitness is revealed for all to see.
A recent example involves Ryan Hall, the brilliant young American distance runner who set a new American debut marathon record of 2:08:24 in London. That’s 4:53 per mile. A few months later, while in the thick of training for the U.S. Olympic team trials marathon, Hall ran the U.S. Outdoor Track and Field Championships 10,000 meters, finishing seventh with a time of 28:51. That’s 4:38 per mile, or just marginally faster than the pace he was capable of sustaining for another 20 miles. That’s the one-speed athlete phenomenon for you.
The problem with becoming a one-speed athlete is that it hinders performance in long-distance races as well as in shorter ones. Here’s how: Recent research has shown that rating of perceived exertion (RPE)—not heart rate or blood-lactate level or any other physiological factor—is the best predictor of fatigue during exercise. In maximal efforts over any distance, the athlete’s RPE increases linearly throughout the event, consistently reaching a level 6/7, or “hard”, rating after 20 percent of the distance has been covered and peaking at a level 10, or “maximal”, rating when the finish line is within sight. (The only exceptions to this pattern are beginners who are inexperienced in how the body feels and as a result lose the effect that makes RPE such a reliable fatigue predictor in experienced athletes).
Athletes improve by training in ways that make a pace that once felt hard at the 20-percent mark of a given race distance seem slightly easier in the next race—thus enabling the athlete to sustain a faster pace while working at the same RPE. This change occurs as a natural result of everything you do in a sensible training program. For example, simply increasing the amount of basic aerobic training you do will increase your aerobic capacity and efficiency, enabling you to race faster with equal perceived effort. But there are also specific things you can do to exploit the relationship between RPE and fatigue to your benefit. One of these things is performing hard workouts at pace levels exceeding your race pace so your race pace feels easier. When you cut back on such training too much in the pursuit of peak performance at long distances, your brain will hit the panic button when you try to race faster at shorter distances, causing your RPE to spike and therefore limiting your pace perhaps more than necessary. Hence the one-speed phenomenon. But your performance at longer distances also will be negatively affected by too much training specialization at your race pace. Exposing your body to fatigue in prolonged efforts at faster paces will result in nervous system changes that push back the wall of fatigue in your long-distance peak race.
Long, slow rides and race-pace rides of course have their place in the bike training of long-distance athletes, but these workouts need to be supplemented with others that expose your body to fatigue at slightly higher intensities.
Don’t become a one-speed cyclist. Incorporate faster/harder workouts into your training for long-distance races and reap the benefits on race day.
Long, slow rides/runs and race-pace rides certainly have their place in the training of long-distance athletes, but these workouts need to be supplemented with others that expose your body to fatigue at slightly higher intensities.