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Experts Talk: How to Become a Better Strength Runner for Triathlons
If you want to change your body, exercise. If you want to change your life, become a runner.
Running is an integral part of any triathlon event, but for some reason it’s not as focused as swimming and cycling. It could have something to do with the fact that no additional skills are required to run. While that may be true, what’s also true is that running requires focused training. It’s not just about putting on a pair of shoes and rushing to the finish line. It’s a test of your strength and endurance as an athlete.
Race training for triathlons is even more specialized. Think about it – running is the final component of a triathlon event. This comes after you have already completed swimming and cycling class and fatigue has started to set in.
Also, running on a fresh pair of legs from cycling is different from running on a new pair of legs. That’s why you need specialized training for triathlon runners.
The first thing triathletes need to focus on to improve their running strength is to increase their overall strength with certain training routines. It is advisable for triathletes to strengthen their muscles because a stronger and more powerful muscle is faster, more enduring and more resistant to injury.
What are you doing to get stronger? Add strength training to your running program. Exercises like squats, lunges, good mornings, and plyometric box training 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 to become better triathlon runners, triathletes need to be better pure runners. He says the most effective way for triathletes to become better pure runners is to focus on running during the off-season triathlon.
He recommends running a few races during the fall and winter seasons and running up to six times a week for practice. It would only be a matter of time before you would feel an improvement in your running that you can carry over to the next triathlon season.
Fitzgerald also believes that triathletes should work to become stronger cyclists. “I strongly suspect that strength on the bike is one of the keys to running well on the bike,” he says. To become more enduring cyclists, Fitzgerald recommends riding more, riding faster, or both.
Posture is important
Having the right posture can not only shave minutes off your running time, but also protect you from sports injuries. Coach Krista Schultz has some great tips for maintaining good running form.
According to Schultz, it’s important to keep your head in a neutral position. Visualize an apple or softball under your chin as if trying to squeeze it and look 15-20 feet in front of you at all times taking care not to drop your chin too low or raise it too high.
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 down to keep your core tight, and lift your ribcage, she recommends. Your body should lean slightly forward and you should land on your midfoot or heel and push off with your front foot. Finally, says Schultz, triathletes should aim to maintain a stride rate of 180 strides per minute.
Any triathlete knows that eating the right food is essential for peak performance. You need to follow a diet that not only provides you with energy, but also aids in recovery. Simple carbs combined with some protein are the best pre-race snack.
Plus, studies show that caffeine improves running performance, so be sure to gulp down that cup of coffee 30 minutes before your run.
Get off the beaten track
Runner and writer Brian Metzler strongly advises triathletes against running all their miles on the road. It’s boring and repetitive with the exact same walking pattern with every stride. Instead, he recommends running an extra 10-20 minutes on a smooth track where every step is different. It forces you to change weight, change direction, and use dozens of muscles that aren’t used otherwise.
Metzler also suggests hill workouts to build muscle strength and make some much-needed changes to your mundane running routine. Running on hills helps strengthen your leg muscles, while increasing your speed and endurance.
This workout will really come in handy when you’re tired from finishing your swimming and cycling lesson and struggling to finish the race.
Metzler recommends two types of hill workouts – short, fast reps (say 8 x 20 seconds) that immediately send you oxygen debt, or longer reps (8 x 200 meters) that start at a moderate pace, but which end up increasing in intensity because of the slope.
This off-season, work on building your running strength to become a superior runner and better triathlete. Show the world how it’s done!
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