Some might say that running is the least technical of the three disciplines in triathlon. Just as many people would argue that this could not be further from the truth! Running is the cause of most injuries that triathletes suffer. Running technique therefore is an important part of staying injury free. A few basic tips straight from the British Triathlon Coaching Manual (with a few tweaks from me) to help you remain injury free and improve your running performance include:
- Head – Should remain still and looking forward. You should not be looking at your feet, even when on rough terrain, but looking a few seconds ahead to where you want to go.
- Arms – Should be bent at the elbow to approximately a right angle and relaxed. The angle may change slightly as you run. The movement of the arms should be forwards and slightly across the body (but not crossing the mid-line) and backwards. Movements should be small, controlled and efficient.
- Trunk – Should be upright and relaxed with the hips forward.
- Shoulders – Should be relaxed and loose.
- Foot strike – Should be under the body (not forward of it which would produce unnecessary braking forces). This will encourage a forefoot or midfoot strike pattern. The foot should be pointing forwards as opposed to a ‘toe in’ or ‘toe out’ running style.
- Take-off – Push off quickly after the foot strike with the heel moving upwards under the buttocks.
- Stride length – Should be comfortable and in proportion to the body. Over striding will reduce efficiency by creating unnecessary braking forces.
- Cadence – Optimum cadence is around 180 strides per minute (90 strikes per foot per minute)
The above tips are guidelines only. Your running technique is very individual and has been ingrained in you since you took your first running steps. That is not to say that you cannot make changes to improve your technique or performance. When making changes to your running technique you must be very careful making only small changes over long periods of time. This will allow your body to positively adapt to the changes rather than causing injury.
Currently there is a big push towards a forefoot or midfoot strike pattern. There seem to be some benefits at least. Changing how you run, whether by technique training or a change in shoes (like running in shoes designed for a forefoot or midfoot strike pattern or designed to mimic barefoot running), will load your body in a very different way if you are habitually someone that has a heel strike landing pattern. Such a change in load on your body could result in injury if 1). You don’t train your body appropriately to cope with such a change, or 2). The changes you make are too drastic and/or your body does not have time to adapt positively to such changes.
Confused? I hope not! We can go into a lot more depth when it comes to running technique in future blogs. Tim (LFTC Coach)