Category Archives: run technique

Running Technique Economy

If there was a technique improvement that would enable you to run at the same heart rate but faster, would you want to know about it? Running economy, improving your technique, might help you improve your times. This might be it. It’s not new but you might not have heard about it. Here are some videos (a video playlist) that will inform you.

Three Endurance Technique Development Exercises for Runners

This excerpt is from the book, Developing Endurance. It’s published with permission of Human Kinetics. Purchase this book from Human Kinetics and help keep MyTriathlonTraining.com in online!

Arm Swings

The athlete sits on the floor with the legs extended straight in front of the body; the arms are bent at 90 degrees at the sides. The athlete begins swinging the arms forward and back slowly. She gradually increases the pace, focusing on pushing the elbows back and keeping the movement in the sagittal plane (forward and back). When the arms swing very quickly, the entire body may bounce up and down. If this happens, the athlete should focus on using core strength to maintain posture and limit any twisting or cross-body swinging.

Focus points: Developing a smooth arm swing forward and back with elbows bent and hands relaxed

Butt Kicks

This is a traditional track and field drill that emphasizes the rapid hamstring pull. The athlete should allow the hips and knees to flex in order to maintain the range of motion specific to the running stride. While running slowly forward, the athlete alternately lifts the ankle vertically by quickly pulling upward with the hamstring. He begins slowly at first. The athlete can gradually increase foot speed so that he is pulling the heels up very quickly and taking a greater number of steps while moving forward very slowly (fast feet, slow body). The arms must be coordinated with the legs during this drill. The drill can also be done stationary.

Focus points: Mid-foot striking, awareness of using the hamstring to pull the heel upward, maintenance of a high stride rate, practicing the arm swing

Bounding

The athlete begins by walking, running, or simply taking one or two running steps to build momentum. He pushes explosively off the ground with the back leg, driving the opposite knee up and forward to gain height and distance. The athlete keeps the heel of the driving knee under the hip, ready to land on the ball of the Continue reading

Triathlon Training Plan

Here’s what a lot of you are looking for, a basis from which you can build your own triathlon training plan. You probably have questions like; How long do I base train?, At what point do I start to taper before a race?, When should I add speed work? You’ll find many answers in Triathlon 101-2nd Edition, reprinted here by permission of Human Kenetics.

“Setting up your triathlon training calendar and log can be the two most important actions you take, perhaps more important than any swim intervals, long rides, or morning runs you do.

Your Triathlon Training Calendar
Your training calendar can be a preprinted calendar, a poster board, an appointment book, or a calendar software program that prints out customized monthly grids. Just make sure that you have enough room to write down your daily workouts. Your training calendar should also be on paper, as opposed to just on a computer screen. Although a software program is great for creating customized calendars, make sure it can print out monthly grids. You want your training calendar to be within plain sight, not hidden away somewhere on a computer hard drive. Dedicate a space for your calendar—someplace that you know you’ll see every day. Once you’ve chosen your calendar and picked a place to put it, it’s time to make the commitment and put pen to calendar (scary, huh?).

Work Your Way Back From Race Day
First, write your race goal on your training calendar. How much time does that give you to train properly? Again, take into account your current fitness level and skills. If you need to reassess your race goal and set your target on something more realistic, now is the time to do it.

Divide Your Calendar Into Phases
Although part II covers training in much more detail, you’ll need to know a little bit about what experts consider to be the optimal way to train. Training in phases or cycles has long been considered the best way to condition the body to the rigors of endurance exercise. Each phase has a specific objective, and the workouts fulfill that objective.

Coaches and fitness experts don’t always agree on the exact number of phases and objectives (largely because training differs among sports and elite athletes require more complex training plans). However, if you are a multisport novice or future triathlete looking for your first finish-line crossing, you should integrate some basic phases into your training calendar. Following is a brief description of each of these phases.

If you think you have a good handle on how much time you need to devote to each phase after reading this section, plan your training calendar accordingly. If you’re super organized, you might even want to use color highlighters to block off phases, using a different color for each one. Don’t worry about writing down specific workouts; that comes later. For now, just get familiar with the phases, objectives, and estimated time frames.

Initiation Phase (Beginners Only)
Objective: Learn a new activity never or rarely performed before.
Estimated time: Depends on level of inexperience. If you are learning to swim the front crawl, this phase can take three months or more.

Base Phase
Objective: Create a foundation of training with gradual, safe adaptation to a physical activity.
Estimated time: Three to six months, depending on current conditioning, skills, and the distance for which you are training.

Speed and Technique Phase
Objective: Increase both the pace you can maintain and the efficiency of your exercise.
Estimated time: Three weeks to several months, depending on current conditioning and performance goals.

Race Simulation Phase
Objective: Boost race day confidence by completing workouts similar to what you will be doing in the event.
Estimated time: One to two months, depending on current conditioning and race goals.

Tapering Phase
Objective: Feel mentally and physically fresh for a race.
Estimated time: One to four weeks before your event, depending on the distance. Sprint-distance races usually only require a week of tapering.

Your Training Log
When you think of a journal or log, the first thought that might occur is sentimentality about the past. Part of the value of keeping such records is to remind you of your accomplishments, but keeping a record of your triathlon training and racing has more practical applications as well.

Training logs can help you avoid injuries and improve your performance. Maintaining an accurate log of your daily and weekly workouts is one of the best ways to keep on track. A log that chronicles the variables that affect your energy level and performance can help you achieve your triathlon goal.

You can purchase preprinted training logs. Some have motivating quotes and pictures and space for many variables. If you’re a computer geek, several workout log programs are available.

There’s no one way to keep a training log. Whatever you think are the most applicable variables are fine. Consider these variables for your own log:

• Hours slept. Current research suggests moderate sleep deprivation has little effect on performance during the adrenaline high of competition. Still, that ragged feeling during a three mile training jog might be the result of too little snooze time.

• Waking pulse. Record your beats per minute when you awake, preferably while you’re still in bed. An increase of more than three or four beats can signal overtraining.

• Distances and times. Tracking correct distances and workout times can keep you honest. It is also your most reliable measuring stick to check your progress.

• Time of day. Studies show that our energy levels fluctuate during the day. As long as all other variables remain the same, you can pinpoint your peak time of day for a workout.

• Intensity. Use descriptive terms or a scale of 1 to 10 (1 is very easy and 10 is extremely difficult). Monitoring intensity levels is a key in avoiding too many back-to-back killer workouts (or in avoiding that crippling disease couchus potatoeus).

• Feelings. Though many things can affect your mood, a change in mood is sometimes a precursor to sickness and an indication of overtraining. For example, irritability can be an early sign that you’re pushing yourself too hard.

• Injury flags. Pay close attention to any unusual pain, especially around the joints where most injuries occur. Note any such aches and pains in your log.

• Weight. Get on the scale in the morning, after you’ve relieved yourself. A 3 percent or more loss of body weight might mean you’ve lost too much fluid. Take an easy day or, better yet, a day off.

• Weather. If you are easily affected by heat, cold, humidity, or other weather variables, keep track of these conditions.

• Notes. Perhaps the best part about keeping a training log is flipping back to read about that special swim, ride, run, or race.”

Designing Your Own Training Week

With one sport, you can understand how which days to train hard.  The following is an excerpt printed with permission from Human Kinetics book, Run Strong, by Kevin Beck.  It covers running only but the concepts cross sport lines.  Understanding training rules of thumb will put you on the path to designing your own training patterns.

Based on my experience as an athlete and a coach, I believe that the most valuable tool for any self-coached runner is an outline to guide decisions regarding which workouts are appropriate. The various types of training, …

With one sport, you can understand how which days to train hard.  The following is an excerpt printed with permission from Human Kinetics book, Run Strong, by Kevin Beck.  It covers running only but the concepts cross sport lines.  Understanding training rules of thumb will put you on the path to designing your own training patterns.

Based on my experience as an athlete and a coach, I believe that the most valuable tool for any self-coached runner is an outline to guide decisions regarding which workouts are appropriate. The various types of training, such as long runs, interval work, tempo runs, and so on, are all important and necessary for helping you improve as a runner. The key is classifying the various workouts and then scheduling them into your training consistently. Following a map–one that successful runners have used time and again–can ease the uncertainty and doubts that creep into every athlete’s mind. Following an outline that has led to success allows runners to train with greater focus and purpose, knowing their work will achieve long-term results. A workable training schedule brings workouts together to form a routine that addresses every relevant energy system necessary for top racing performance and continued improvement over time.

I cannot name one individual heroic workout that will take someone to the next level, but there are a few workouts that, when done consistently and repetitively as part of a training schedule, can lead to substantial progress for the majority of runners. The surprising thing for many runners is realizing that the training principles are the same for any distance you want to race. It doesn’t matter if the event is the mile, 5K, 10K, marathon, steeplechase, or cross country; the same training elements and concepts apply. As a coach, if I base an athlete’s training on the key elements, the athlete invariably maintains his or her health throughout the season, improves his or her race performances throughout the year, and competes well at specific goal races. It’s basic, it’s fairly brainless to follow, and most important, it works.

The following suggestions will help you fit each of the six elements into your training consistently within your standard training cycles. Some advanced athletes who recover quickly can address all six within a single week. Athletes who require more time between hard efforts to recover fully should consider fitting these within a two- or three-week cycle. You can also try a 10-day cycle if one week doesn’t work for you, but given that most people have schedules that revolve around a standard 7-day week, we tend to stick with 7, 14, or 21 days as the standard options.

For my athletes, I generally schedule two harder workouts every week, cycling through anaerobic-conditioning, aerobic-capacity, and anaerobic-capacity training. Once we’ve addressed each of these individually, we start the sequence of workouts over again; this allows us to elevate the athlete’s fitness level by concurrently working all of the energy systems necessary for distance running success. For athletes who recover especially quickly, I schedule a separate anaerobic-conditioning, aerobic-capacity, or anaerobic-capacity session each week, thereby allowing the athlete to address all energy systems within a single training week. For those who require additional recovery, a single session each week of one of these types of training is sufficient, allowing the athlete to address all relevant energy systems within a three-week period. Here’s the most effective route to incorporating the six elements in your program:

Step 1. Designate Your Recovery Day

Because most of the athletes I work with have families and careers, a recovery day is usually one on which they’d like to complete additional chores around the house, spend time with their families, or socialize. It may be a day to do little or nothing except read a book and relax. Others travel frequently for business and have a floating schedule; these runners need a day on which they can miss a run without feeling guilty. View the recovery day as a day to let your body and mind unwind and allow modern life to take priority over training. As an added benefit, it’ll keep you healthy, allow you to improve, and help keep you motivated.

Step 2. Determine Your Long-Run Day

This is pretty simple because most athletes do their weekly long run on either Saturday or Sunday. Whatever works for you is fine, as long as you do it consistently. I don’t have a hard and fast rule regarding spacing recovery days around the long run. In most cases, my athletes run a harder effort on Saturday, run long on Sunday, and run an easier day on Monday. This allows Saturday to be fairly hard and Sunday moderate while providing a recovery day following these back-to-back harder run days.

Step 3. Determine Your Primary Workout Days

On primary workout days you run scheduled harder workouts. My athletes schedule primary workouts every Tuesday and Friday in the fall. In the spring, the longer-distance athletes maintain this schedule, while the middle-distance runners adopt a Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday schedule. Depending on the length of your workout cycle, combinations of hard days vary. A 7-day cycle might include primary workouts on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Runners on a 14-day cycle might designate Monday and Thursday as primary hard-workout days. On the other hand, some runners can only tolerate a single hard workout each week and are therefore on a 21-day cycle. Based on your particular goal event, rotate workouts in this order:

1. 200s, 300s, or 400s at faster than 5K race pace (anaerobic capacity)
2. 800- to 2,400-meter intervals at 5K to 10K race pace (aerobic capacity)
3. Tempo run of approximately 30 minutes at threshold pace (anaerobic conditioning)

On the fourth hard-effort day, start over again with the 200s, 300s, or 400s at faster than 5K pace and work your way through the lineup again. In this manner, you address all the relevant energy systems needed for top-level performance. The 800- to 2,400-meter intervals at 5K to 10K pace handle aerobic capacity, the tempo runs address anaerobic conditioning, and the 200s, 300s, or 400s at faster than 5K race pace develop anaerobic capacity (economy).

Most runners use a 14-day schedule of two primary, harder workouts each week during the two-week period. The question arises: There are four harder workout days and three primary workouts to do, so should I adjust the schedule? Rather than starting again with workout one on the fourth workout day, would there be a benefit to focusing on one area of fitness more than the other? I allow for the following slight variations based on the fact that most athletes see the greatest improvement in race times by giving increased focus to aerobic-capacity development.

Week 1: Aerobic-capacity workout, anaerobic-conditioning workout

Week 2: Aerobic-capacity workout, anaerobic-capacity workout

During the final four to eight weeks of the training year before the championship racing season, I make the following adjustments based on event focus:

1,500 meters. Each week perform an aerobic-capacity workout on one day and an anaerobic-capacity workout on another.

5K to 10K. During week one, perform an aerobic-capacity workout one day and an anaerobic conditioning workout the second harder day of that week. During week two perform an aerobic-capacity workout one day and an anaerobic-capacity workout the second harder day.

Marathon. Each week perform an aerobic-capacity workout on one day and an anaerobic-conditioning workout on another.

Step 4. Schedule Your Double Days

I generally schedule double days on the primary harder workout days of the week because I want the athlete’s hard days to be hard. Without exception, my top athletes do a minimum of two double days per week on Tuesdays and Fridays, the same days we schedule either the 200s, 300s, and 400s, the 800- to 2,400-meter intervals, or the tempo run. The more experienced athletes add double days on an additional two to four days per week as they see fit.

Step 5. Fill In Rest With Aerobic-Conditioning Runs

The remaining days should consist of runs varying in distance from 45 to 90 minutes. Whether you choose to do two-a-days and whether you keep to the shorter end of the 45- to 90-minute range or the longer end is as much a matter of preference and “recoverability” as it is a function of your chosen race distance.

To help illustrate the previous concepts in detail, tables 3.1 through 3.3 provide some sample training weeks using this program. These are not set in stone, but rather are intended to illustrate how to apply the training principles to the everyday training of fast competitive athletes who also happen to have careers and family obligations.

So that’s it. Designing a training plan is important yet simple. I’ve described the elements it should include and provided examples of runners across the race-distance spectrum who have used these elements to form training plans that have taken them to the top of their game. Now, it’s your turn. Reread this chapter along with the other information in this book, set clear goals, grab a pen and paper (or a mouse and computer), and go to it.

Five training phases for triathlon success

It’s not often I can do this but the following is an excerpt from an upcoming book (currently only available as a pre-order), Triathlon 101 (Human Kinetics, due out March, 2009). In this updated edition reprinted with permission from Human Kinetics, Triathlon 101, you’ll learn the five training phases for triathlon success.

“Training in phases, or cycles, has long been considered the best way to condition the body to the rigors of endurance exercise safely and effectively,” says Mora. “Each phase has a very specific High-Tech Cycling book coverobjective, and the workouts are thoughtfully designed to fulfill that objective.” Mora suggests beginners approach training in five phases:

Initiation phase.
Specifically for beginners, the initiation phase allows the body to learn a new activity never or rarely performed before. Depending on the level of experience, this phase could take up to three months. “This phase may try your patience because you’ll be learning at least one activity that you’ve never attempted before,” Mora notes. “It is a time for your body to adapt gradually to new activity and to overcome the inevitable discomforts that go with triathlon training.”

Base phase.
This phase creates a foundation of training with gradual, safe adaptation to a physical activity and consists mainly of long workouts done at a slow pace. According to Mora, the focus of this phase should be on gradual increases of the length of workouts of no more than 10 percent per week, a rule that is especially crucial for running and helps in avoiding common overtraining injuries. This phase can last from three to six months, depending on current conditioning, skills, and the distance being trained for.

Speed and technique phase.
This phase increases the pace you can maintain and the efficiency of your exercise. According to Mora, the speed and technique phase is for those who have already run a few races and would like to hone their skills. However, for those running a triathlon for the first time, Mora recommends dismissing any expectations of finishing in a certain time and instead focusing on simply finishing the race.

Race simulation phase.
This phase helps boost race-day confidence through completing workouts similar to those done on the day of the event. According to Mora, many first-time triathletes have questions about transitioning from one sport to the other and the transition’s effects on the body. Race training improves performance on race day and provides the confidence needed for race day. “Workouts known as bricks combine two sports in a single session and are instrumental to any racing success,” Mora explains. “If you complete workouts that simulate what you will be experiencing during a race, the shroud of mystery surrounding your upcoming first triathlon will soon begin to evaporate.”

Tapering phase.
Tapering involves a period of decreased activity in the days or weeks before an athletic event. According to Mora, tapering allows the body ample time to recover from the previous months of training and refresh the muscles in order to be primed for racing. “Although there is much debate about the ‘perfect’ tapering schedule, it really depends on how fast your body recovers from training, how long you’ve been training, and what you are training for,” Mora says. “And although there may be some disagreement about how to taper, experts do concur that you need to taper in order to perform your best.”

“Hailed as a must-read for triathlon rookies, Triathlon 101 covers all the steps necessary for triathlon training. The updated edition also offers new chapters on what to expect on race day, information on off-road triathlons, and information on recovering to compete again

Running technique

Kevin M. Beck has been a runner since 1984 and is currently a senior writer for Running Times magazine.

Beck has served as a distance running coach at various levels and is coached by two-time U.S. Olympic marathoner Pete Pfitzinger. He also helped coordinate a research study on exercise and diabetes at the University of California at San Francisco, where he was a diabetes researcher and exercise technician for the Mount Zion Medical Center.

He has written a book called, “Run Strong“. In part of it he talks about Perfecting Running Form. With permission of Human Kinetics, I quote part of it here.

“As a physical therapist, I am often asked how the body should look while running. There are many biomechanical interpretations of proper running form. Most physical therapists’ stand is that an athlete’s individual flexibility, strength, and joint mobility define his or her form, so there is no one correct answer; however, a runner’s knowledge of what constitutes basic proper form is important.

As detailed in chapter 1, running is broken into phases based on the positioning and movement of the foot:

  • Footstrike. The initial contact between the ground and the foot
  • Midstance. Composed of two subcomponents:
    • Foot-flat. Body completely over the stable foot contacting the ground
    • Heel rise. Beginning of the propulsion forward as the heel begins to leave the ground
  • Toe-off. Final propulsion and last contact between the foot and the ground
  • Swing-through phase. The leg swinging under the body getting into position for the next footstrike

To get a feel for optimal running form, try going through the following movements in slow motion while standing in front of a mirror. Balance on one leg and strike the ground approximately six inches (15 centimeters) in front of the body with the other foot, either at the heel or the midsole. Be sure to flex the knee of the moving leg 10 to 20 degrees and the hip 20 to 25 degrees and lean forward slightly at the trunk. As the body weight completely transfers to this foot, keep the knee bent, letting it cushion the joints at the foot-flat phase. The body continues to move forward, and the hip extends (straightens), the knee extends, and the heel lifts. This is followed by the toe-off phase. As the foot leaves the ground, the thigh swings backward maximally. The direction of the leg changes as the thigh drives forward, with the knee bending in the swing-through phase. Try this with each leg; a few rehearsals should give you a feel for the optimal relative positioning of each part of your body during an actual run.

That takes care of proper lower-body mechanics, but what should the rest of the body do during this movement? The following list describes upper-body movements and how they coordinate with lower-body movements.

  • Maintain an upright body position while relaxing the shoulders and face. Less tension in these areas helps promote more relaxed, free-flowing movement throughout the body as a whole.
  • Hold the sternum high. This allows the chest to expand and increases lung ventilation.
  • Swing the arms from the shoulder joint forward and backward, maintaining a relatively fixed elbow bend at 90 degrees. The shoulder is a pendulum; allowing the arms to passively swing as a result of momentum imparted by gravity rather than actively “flailing” or pumping them minimizes energy wasted through excessive body movements.
  • Synchronize the arms with the legs, mimicking the same rhythm. The arms are used for balance, momentum, and to assist with forward propulsion.
  • Engage the trunk muscles with a slight lean forward to help support the upper body over a moving lower body. Think of a long spine and visualize space between each lumbar vertebra.
  • Rotate the pelvis slightly forward. If you put your hands on your hips, under your fingers is the portion of the iliac crest called the ASIS (anterior superior iliac spine). These points of the hip move slightly forward as the leg swings through and prepares for the footstrike. This hip drive provides propulsion and forward momentum while wasting little energy.
  • Let the knee drive the leg forward with the footstrike about six inches (15 centimeters) in front of the body. The feet stay under the hips and the hips under the trunk, which helps maintain the body’s center of balance.
  • Transfer your body weight evenly from one foot to another, making sure only one foot is on the ground at a time. If both feet are on the ground at the same time, you may not be propelling yourself forward efficiently during the toe-off phase.
  • During toe-off and in the beginning of the swing-through phase, the leg must go past the front-to-back midline and behind the opposite leg. This creates propulsion.

Strong supporting muscles help you maintain efficient running form. When these muscles fatigue, your form deteriorates. Being aware of your running form and consciously trying to maintain form during the latter stages of a run are important means of preventing injuries. Of course, conditioning can help you avoid muscle fatigue and the muscles’ failure to function. However, muscles will fatigue, especially in long events such as the half-marathon and marathon, so it’s important to think about maintaining proper form. Although it is difficult to think of your form for the duration of a long race, reminding yourself of the basics when you start to fatigue centers your focus on the running motion and helps you optimize your performance. The visualization exercise at the end of the chapter emphasizes conscious awareness of proper head-to-toe form. Conditioning and form drills, detailed in chapters 1, 4, 5, and 6 will strengthen your body and enable you to put this visualization process into practice.”

Remember to check out the running videos also.

Core training for triathlon: Part 1

In the last 3 years in particular, I have been working on my core strength and stretching. It helped my back problems, rehab after back surgery, swimming and stability. The core is the connector between your upper and lower body and should be thought of as a vital link for triathlon.

When you run, you swing your arms to counter to your leg movement. In the middle is the core. If you get out of your saddle while cycling, your hands grasp the handlebars while feet are in the pedals. The middle link is the core. The link between your stroke and your kick while swimming is your core.

As I increased my core strength, I noticed simple functional things in daily life also got easier like bending over, getting up and good posture. These make so much more of a difference now than when I was 18 years old.

Hopefully, you can see that core strength can be important to daily life as well as triathlon.

I used little else besides a physio ball,my body weight and the occasional medicine ball. There are a number of books available but from the ones I have read, I recommend these two:

1: Complete Book of Core Training
2: The Core Performance

“The Core Performance” has many exercises I do and it has training regimens for several different levels of athletes. I view the “Complete Book of Core Training” as successfully trying to be just that. It has many many pages of different core exercises with different variations to try.

Don’t forget to check out the short videos on Resources/Core page as well.