Already in September, with many peoples A races done for 2012, I am hearing the frequent comment from many athletes (particularly strong swim-bikers) that they are going to really work on their running for next season.
Usually a very good idea, but something to be combined with the appropriate strength and conditioning work to reduce risk of injury, and optimise performance gains.
No matter how good your form, and how you may or may not have been blessed with good biomechanics, there is one universal truth: Running is by far the harest on your body of all three triathlon disciplines!
In the vast majority of triathletes who get injured, do so due to issues related to running. It’s the repetitive impact, strain and load on the body that sets running apart from the other two triathlon disciplines.
So, before you embark on a training block of increased running now is the time to begin strengthening and preparing the key areas of your body, to become more resilient to the stresses of running, ready to take on and conquor the increased milage and intensity leading to your improved run splits next season.
Time spent now working on these five key areas of the body will save you from the frustration of injury and time spent at the Physio when you should be out enjoying the miles in training.
Glutes: The all important mucles that make up our bottom. These have a number of roles in providing strength, power and stability at the hip, and pelvis in all three planes of motion. Not only this, but they also play a large role in how the knee is controlled as the standing leg takes our body weight as we run.
A common dysfunction is to have Glutes which dont engage when they should, thus leading to tight hamstrings and lower back, poor pelvic posture, knee injuries and possibly even shin pain.
In my experience, if you had to choose one muscle group to work on as a runner, due to lack of time – it would be the Glute muscles!
Quads: As a muscle group, the Quadraceps are four different muscles that make up the bulk of the front of your thigh. Many runners are disporportionately strong and tight through their Quads. – particularly Rectus Femoris, which plays a large part in the forward motion of the swinging leg in running gait.
This tightness can cause postural problems and muscle imbalances which can affect the knees, hips, pelvis and lower back. So, keep stretching the fronts of your thighs.
Core: I like the following analogy – “Trying to generate force in any direction with a weak core, is like trying to fire a cannon from a canoe”.
What this means in terms of running, is that if we’re trying to generate force to run, we need a strong and stable base (core), so that the force goes where we want it.
Without this core strength, we see an increase in unwanted compensatory movements which can cause injury over time.
Hamstrings: These make up the muscles of the back of the thigh. The Hamstrings play an important role during a number of the different phases of running gait. However, we often see that they are weak in comparison to the Quads, their opposing muscle group.
Such weakness can affect muscle balance at the knee and cause potential injuries. As with the Glues, improving Hamstring strength will benefit you greatly as a runner.
Claves: No matter what your running style is like, your calves are always going to get worked hard. There is very little like the repetitive loading of running to prepare the calves for these demands.
It’s not surprising that in runners who suddenly increase their training load (volume, intensity or frequency), we often see calf or Achilles injuries, as it takes time to build up the calf strength.
Exercises such as single leg calf raises and jumping rope can help in terms of building the calfs up for running.