Efficient movement is one that allows you to activate your muscles as fast as possible. Why? Because running demands some pretty quick contact times (between .08 – .3 seconds every stride). If you can generate a forceful contraction rapidly during the stance phase, you’ll tap into some amazing efficiency. And tapping into those forceful contractions requires good “neuromuscular control”. This term gets throw around a LOT with abandon. A quick explanation here: Strength is nothing unless your body can control it. Our nervous system needs to “learn” to control our newfound strength and power. Said simply: better neuromuscular control, better economy.
To get more of your nervous system in the game, we need to recruit more muscle fibers to contract. And there are three ways that we can increase muscle fiber recruitment.
Sprint all the time. If you are in a drag race, you aren’t going to pull up in a Prius. You are going to borrow your neighbor’s Porsche. Who cares about economy, you want to win the checkered flag! Running as fast as you can isn’t really that efficient. It costs way more energy per distance than running slow. This increased energy cost comes from recruiting a LOT of muscle fibers at once. Sprinting is actually one of the best running- specific forms of strength training out there. Its not just for track-stars. I have my 800 meter, 5K, 10K, 13.1, 26.2 and even ultra runners doing sprints at various cycles during the year. But its hard, and that why we don’t do it every day!
Run Hills. No secret here. Running up hill requires we raise our body up against gravity more than running on flats. And the extra force per step it takes to conquer that hill comes from….you guessed it…..more muscles fibers being recruited each and every step. Hills are tried and true for years to improve running-specific strength. But again, these place a big training load on our body, and we can’t do them every day.
Lift weights. The cool thing about weights is that we can get a huge increase in the number of muscle fibers activated (there’s that catchy term again…..more neuromuscular recruitment!) without a big cardiovascular and connective tissue training stress. Lifting quite heavy and quite powerfully has been directly coorelated to running economy. And here again, you can’t do these daily either.
So the secret to improving your ability to activate more muscle fibers comes from, well, activating more muscle fibers. Take a look at your training plan and see how you can include 1 or 2 of these techniques into your own strategy each week. A little goes a long way here. Have fun, and watch as you achieve those running milestones.
Its always nice to get a shout out. Steve Magness is one of the “better thinkers” in the world of running, coaching, and athlete performance, and I respect his opinion highly. Apparently, Steve is nice enough to respect mine as well, and named Anatomy for Runners as one if his “Top 9 Though Provoking Books of 2013” – thanks Steve. If you live under a rock, and haven’t come across his amazing blog, I highly recommend checking it out: the Science of Running.
And while I’m at it, I’d like to say thanks to all of you who have purchased the book. I teach all over the country, and the number of clinicians and coaches who already have the book, and actually USE it daily on their teams and patients is, well, quite humbling. I know the little niche I operate in will never reach the status of the Harry Potter, but there are over 11,000 of you around the world reading this book over the past year. I hope its making you rethink the way you approach your training, and your patients, your teams, and ultimately producing better results. If you’d like to pick up a copy, click on the link on the right side of the page!
The work of a decade of my career, bound into the “take home version” for you.
Last week, I had the privilege of jumping on a plane and traveling to speak at the USA Track and Field National Conference in Indianapolis. It was a great melding of the minds, with the focus on “rebuilding” the athlete pool. I was asked to speak about injury and trying to reduce injury. My talk was titled: “Solving the mystery of running: practices for sustaining an injury free career.” Given that over half of runners get hurt every year, its a pretty important concept to take a step back and try to STOP this madness. In this presentation we talked about how and why mobility, stability, strength, and power are all unique traits that runners must have, and how these attributes directly transfer to gait. And most importantly, how to improve deficits you’ll find in your runners. So after a day of great discussion, meetings, and networking, I jumped on a plane back home to Bend, OR.
And nationals followed me back home!- This weekend is the USATF National Cross Country Club Championships. About a thousand runners are converging here in Bend to see which XC Club can take the cake. Local stud, Max King, has organized a challenging course for Saturday. On Friday, I’ll be hosting an all-star athlete panel Q&A featuring: Lauren Fleshman, Besty Flood, Mario Mendosa, Stephanie Howe, and Max King. If anyone wants to ask the best what makes them the best, and gain some scientific insight as to why and how these concepts may make sense for you, come on by – we’ll see you at 4 PM PST at the event expo. And on Saturday (raceday!), we’ll see you starting at 9 AM for the community run. The REP Lab tents will have fire pits, hot chocolate, a propane heater, and most importantly – we’ll be hosting a holiday cookie swap! -that’s right – bake some cookies, trade em out, and eat up. And yes, yours truly will be awarding bragging rights for the best cookie at nationals. Sugar cookies are cute, but don’t stand a chance. To all the potential bakers out there, I’ll give you a hint – don’t bother bringing an entry without chocolate if you really do want to win. And while you are munching, you’ll be cheering as MC’s Jesse Thomas and Matt Lieto calling the races from 10 until 2. And rumor has it there are some after-parties happening ’round town……come see us at the tent and we’ll give you the scoop.
Well, its that time of year again. The sun sinks below the horizon early, and with that my phone rings with reporters wanting to know what tips they should give to their readers about running successfully on a treadmill. Rather than risking this info getting watered down, I figured I’d give you the straight scoop.
Fact vs Fiction: A lot of coaches preach the message “you push yourself over the ground outside, and your pull yourself overground on a treadmill”…..this is 100% false. If you look at the fancy stuff we measure called “ground reactions forces” you’ll see very very similar patterns when running on either surface. The overall mechanics are very much the same.
Think about it as a different surface, not a different way to run: despite the fact that the treadmill is very similar to running over ground, there are some differences, and some are actually what qualify as “statistically significant.” But if you look at the clinical impact this has, and if you deal with this type of data every day like I do, the differences are really small. There is a difference in body mechanics running on grass, trail, asphalt, and concrete. But again, these differences are small. As long as you slowly adapt your mileage to treadmill, you’ll be OK. No one runs 100% of their miles on trail and then jumps 100% onto the road. This goes for transitioning miles to the treadmill. Allow a few weeks to transition your mileage over, and your body will adapt to these slight changes.
Run correctly on your treadmill: Here’s the most important one. Everyone has a friend who ran on their treadmill and then got hurt. Or maybe it was you. They “blame it on the treadmill” – what happened? First, you need time to acclimate (re-read previous paragraph). But most importantly, its not running on the treadmill that’s typically the issue. More often than not its running differently on the treadmill. Example. If running outside, you are free to make small fluctuations in speed. On the treadmill, the belt speed is held constant. So if you decide to try to slow down 1%, you can’t. As you get tired, your speed changes, but your cadence slows, which forces a longer stride than you are used to. Your body’s soft tissues are in a completely different position (longer) than you’ve trained them in your previous miles. This longer position can create strains on soft tissues and increase the lever arm on your joints and cause pain. But this really isn’t a treadmill issue – its a running form issue.
To incline or not to incline? We often hear to increase the incline on the treadmill to 1-2% to make up for the lack of wind resistance. Here’s the deal. Raising the incline slightly increases the physiological stress level compared to flat, and it doesn’t really change the loads much on the body. In fact, running with a slight incline is actually a bit “safer” for the body since it makes it tougher to over-stride. So no harm here.
What’s a safe way to run on the treadmill?
gradually increase the % of miles you are doing on the treadmill
run the same. Be honest with youself. Are you really running 6:45’s on the road? or are you really running 7:15’s? Aim to keep paces realistic. And aim to keep your stride pretty close to what you typically do. An easy way to do this is by counting your cadence (number of foot contacts per minute). Next time you are running 7 min pace, count your strides. If you are consistently hitting 88 per minute (single side), then aim to maintain the same cadence on the treadmill at 7 min pace. This way you avoid overstriding and the stresses it can place on your body.
Novices: don’t go crazy on speed work. Doing intervals makes you tired. Running faster than 800 meter pace on the treadmill can make it much more likely that you’ll run with compensated form. In general, I recommend tempo intervals on the treadmill, but speedwork is best done outside. If you must do speedwork on the treadmill, make sure your cadence is similar to what you’d maintain outside.
For those of you who like the fine print, feel free to read more below. And of note, all the information in this article pertains to steady state distance running. Sprint training on treadmills is a different concept entirely. My UVA lab group wrote one, and Irene Davis’ team wrote another. No matter on treadmill or outside – enjoy your run!
“Hello- this is Jay can I help you?” After a short sigh, I get a panicked summary of the past several months. A constant battle with shin splints and stress fractures. Not able to run. Rest isn’t helping. Oh and their biggest race of the season – IM Kona- is in 7 weeks. I wasn’t startled. I asked her what her goals were for race day and she said top 10 and a PR in the run. Fast forward through 7 weeks of targeted rehab,strength, and form work. Longest run up to Kona was only 9 miles. Results? She ran a 3:04 and got 10th.
How? It’s actually really simple. For years the triathlete mindset has been that strength and cross training is “something else” to fit in on top of your swim, bike, and run volume. Well, research and successful splits on race day are blowing this myth wide open. The truth? To perform at your limit, its essential to benchmark, and target, your mobility, stability, strength, and power. Instead of just improving your fitness, you can improve you. We didn’t just think outside the box, we threw the box away and re-engineered Linsey’s training in new way to meet her goal. A better you is a faster you.
100% focus during the race, 100% smiles after
When I saw Linsey 1:40 down with 1.5 miles to go, I knew she could pull through and make a move from 11th to 10th. She had strength and form nailed down solid. Not only did she make the pass, but she made it with over 20 seconds to spare. And I should note that she also maxed out on several of her strength exercises the same week as Ironman. Strong runners = fast (and happy) runners!
beautiful form, beautiful race course!
here’s how you start the day in Kona
My first, and likely only pic, in Triathlete. Doesn’t this pic look a bit like the “which one of these is not like the other one” song from Sesame Street? Yours truly hasn’t seen 6% body fat in a while…..From left to right: me, Linsey Corbin, Matt Lieto, Chris Lieto, and Elliot Bassett.
Linsey has beer, and it needs transport 1 mile down the road to Bike check on friday…..these are the type of circumstances at which I’m best. Taking resistance training to a whole new level. Ice cold Corbin’s! Get your Ice cold Corbins here!
I work with many athletes – and to be honest, I get just as much personal satisfaction seeing a person complete their first 10K as I do helping an elite earn a spot on the podium. I’m always humbled and honored when athletes seek out my help, and even more humbled when they put out some nice footage such like this as a way of saying thanks. I’m really just trying to do my job!
Well, professional triathlete Linsey Corbin is also trying to do her job with a stellar performance in Kona 2 weeks from today. Check out Day 2 on linseylucky13.com to learn what Linsey and I have been working on together.
Cycling is a balance act – you want to produce as much power as possible to make your bike move forward, while maintaining comfort, aerodynamics, handling, and safety. But quite often, we loose sight of the big picture in search of the “fastest looking position.” The most common question I get from time trialists and triathletes is, “Can you make me more aero?” Let’s tackle this issue head on using an example, and some science.
Several years ago, I did a fit on a medical resident; we’ll call him Bill. He was three years into his cycling career and was doing quite well at the district and state level. He came and saw me for a bike fit on his time trial bike. His goals were to podium at state and place top 10 at nationals, and also to eliminate his low back pain on the bike. I’ll spare you the details, but after his fitting, his back pain was 100% gone, he won state, and placed 4th at nationals in the 40K time trial. The next year, he stood on the podium at nationals. Bill was very happy.
Right after nationals, Bill graduated and began making more income and sought out the advice of a wind tunnel to squeak out a performance advantage. The folks in the wind tunnel were able to produce a 28% improvement in his drag coefficiency. This is a very, very large improvement in aerodynamics! Bill left and was excited to see how this new position would play out over the season.
Well, things didn’t play out so well. Bill called after several months of riding in his new position. His back pain returned. He hadn’t made the podium in a single time trial all season. And he wasn’t able to hit the same power output on his new time trial position that he could easily hit on his road bike. Guess what we did? We adjusted his fit exactly back to where it was when we last worked together. Bill made the podium in his next race, and the next, and the next, and won nationals. Bill was happy again.
What happened? Bill hit the tipping point. Sure, he was more aerodynamic, but aerodynamics don’t make you ride fast; producing power does. Let’s back this up with some data:
The chief obstacle you have below 11 mph is the rolling resistance of your tires. At slow speeds, nothing matters more than tires and pressure.
When your average speed is above 25 mph we should begin to have talks on aerodynamics, and when your average speed is above 27 mph we really need to address aerodynamics. But for most riders, you’ll gain more speed by producing more power over your entire race distance rather than aiming to adopt a sleek, aerodynamic position.
Comfort matters. For most competitive cyclists, it’s likely you’re signing up events that 40K or longer. Those of you doing Ironman distance events are spending 5+ hours on the bike. Don’t try to replicate the overly aggressive position of a Tour de France time trailer (whose TT is quite short) just because you think it looks cool. You’ll end up so uncomfortable in your aerobars that you won’t be able to stay in them for long.
Power comes from your hips, not your knees. If I told you that you had a muscle in your body that had the best leverage of any other muscle, and was more resistant to fatigue, wouldn’t you want to tap into that muscle? You do have that muscle; it’s called your gluteus maximus. Strong quads are nice, but a proper position on the bike optimizes your glut to drive the pedals.
To get aerodynamic, most riders opt for a low, forward position to get their trunk down and out of the wind. This creates two issues. First, it compromises power by shifting emphasis from muscles in your hips (very fatigue resistant) to your knees (fatigue quicker). Poor compromise. Second, I’ve personally been in the wind tunnel with athletes and it is possible to get excellent drag numbers while maintaining a very powerful pedal stroke. This gets complex and very individualized, but good bike fitters can not only help you look better to the wind, but look better to the clock
Today, we’ve got a smattering of amazing educational opportunities to announce:
This Thursday in Bend, OR @ 7:30 at the Westside Clinic:Athletes – Please join Jay Dicharry PT (REP Biomechanics Lab Director) Matt Lieto (Pro Triathlete) and Keats McDougal (Ironman Canada & Tahoe Director) for a night of Mobility and Multi-sport discussion. Jay will provide the latest research on mobility and best practices for multisport athletes. We’ll answer the most common questions: What does stretching do for the body? When should you stretch? How long? What’s the difference between dynamic warm-up and stretching? And how does soft tissue work play into this whole discussion? Next, Matt will discuss his training plans and and upcoming race prep considerations. Matt will show you how the lessons he’s learned along the way can help you prepare better for your next event. Finally, Matt will lead a Q and A with Keats. They’ll provide an overview and considerations of these two challenging courses. It will help you prep for this year’s race, or feed your stoke for next year! Stick around after for a question and answer session with our panel. And yes, we’ll have beer. Cost: free. No brainer!
This weekend in Boulder Colorado (7/13-7/14):Calling all healthcare professionals – are you tired of getting your information on running mechanics from the mainstream media? Would you be interested in a immersive weekend of education that is based around hundreds of peer-reviewed articles, hands on clinical assessment, and gait cues? We’ll construct a framework of what we know about running mechanics and their effect on performance and economy. And more importantly, we’ll show you how this information applies not just to the masses, but to your individual patients. In short, this is all the stuff you wish they had told you in Med school, PT program, or ATC curriculum. There are still a few spots left. See here for details.
August 23-24th in San Jose:Tri-athletes and would-be coaches– are you looking to get your Level 1 certification? Then join us for the USA Triathlon coaching clinic. Two days packed full of essential knowledge to help you and your athletes succeed.
Sept 21st and 22nd in Bay Area:Running Coaches – this one is all for you. We are going to delve into the truth behind running mechanics, screening strategies for your team, the impact of strength training to improve performance, discuss the role of footwear, and more. Andrew Allden chairs this event – he’s brought in a knock out panel each and every time – Learn to think outside the box to take your team to the next level @ this USATF Level 3 Coaching Seminar. More info here
Yea, I know – blogging and tweeting is supposed to make us all smarter. But you know what really makes us smarter? talking face to face. See you soon!
There’s a good chance that you heard a friend say ” I sprain my ankles all the time”….or maybe you are the one saying this! Why do some people sprain, and then keep spraining their ankles over and over? Well, we recently published a study examining just this. This study was first-authored by one of our former grad students, Lisa Chinn, PhD, as part of her dissertation at the University of Virginia. While Lisa has moved on to a faculty position @ Kent State, she spearheaded this project. So, I thought I’d play “7 Questions with Dr. Chinn.”
I’ll briefly set the stage here. People with chronic ankle instability sprain, and keep spraining their ankles. There has been lots of attention paid to this area of research lately, because lots of sprains can cause lots of long term problems, and lead to lots of down time in training. Most of the research comparing the folks who keep spraining their ankles is done comparing walking and running barefoot. Yes, I know the barefoot movement is strong, but let’s face it – most people are wearing shoes, and despite what you’d like to think, barefoot gait is quite different than your gait in shoes (and it’s NOT just rearfoot vs forefoot folks….) Given the following, we thought that we’d examine the different ways people walk and run when they have healthy ankles, “single-sprain” ankles, or “chronic ankle instability” ankles. This got slightly technical at times, but I tried to summarize things towards the end. Since about 30-60% of you will have this issue, let’s ask Dr Chinn some Q’s:
1. What is chronic ankle instability, and how does this differ from people who have only had one sprain?
Chronic ankle instability (CAI), interestingly enough, is a very difficult (sometimes frustrating) syndrome to define. There is an ongoing discussion for a common description of CAI; however as of now, there is not a universally accepted definition. Some researchers rely purely on subjective reporting of symptoms by patients, while others, require some type of mechanical dysfunction to be present at the ankle joint, while still others desire a history of multiple ankle sprains. And of course, there are some who use any combination of the three. The majority of researchers (myself included) will described CAI as the long-term feelings of your ankle giving way or weakness following an initial ankle sprain. This can occur as a result of a single ankle sprain or from an accumulation of multiple sprains. Many subjects/patients claim to “tweak” their ankles all the time. It is estimated that about 30-60% of individuals that sustain an initial lateral ankle sprain will develop CAI.
There is a group of individuals who sprain their ankle once and who do not go on to develop CAI; researchers are currently using the term “coper” to describe these individuals. Research is relatively new on this population. What about them results in a full recovery from their ankle sprain? Was the sprain different or was something regarding their rehabilitation different? Are there other characteristics of these individuals that reduce their feeling of instability? Or, have they changed their lifestyle to not put themselves at risk for “tweaking” their ankle? This is a very exciting area of research because, our goal as a clinician is to prevent CAI from occurring and since we probably won’t ever figure out how to actually prevent ankle sprains from happening; we would like to determine how to get all ankle sprainers to become copers.
2. Why did you choose this topic to research?
I am an Athletic Trainer by profession. While working with various sports, at various levels, and multiple age groups one injury I always encountered were ankle sprains. No matter who you are, there is a risk of suffering an ankle sprain. With my background in athletic training and my exposure to the injury, when I decided to go to the University of Virginia for my doctorate I decided that I wanted to focus my research on ankle sprains and ankle instability. Being at UVA gave me access to prominent ankle researchers and an unbelievable motion analysis laboratory which I took advantage of.
This particular study was developed as a progression from a previous study conducted at the lab. A couple of years prior to my arrival to UVA, Lindsay Drewes (now Lindsay Sauer) and Patrick McKeon, conducted a similar study in CAI subjects, however, their data was collected while subjects were barefoot (Drewes et al., 2009; Drewes, McKeon, Kerrigan, & Hertel, 2009). Their studies reported some interesting findings; however asking individuals to perform barefoot tasks is novel, so I wanted to replicate the study while subjects were shod (shod means in shoes), a more common/comfortable condition.
3. What did you find?
The short answer: we found that while shod, gait kinematics are different between those with and without CAI. (note: kinematics is a fancy word for range of motion)
Interestingly, unlike previous gait research on CAI subjects, we did not find kinematic differences just prior to, at, or immediately following initial contact. I think adding shoes to our methods has revealed altered kinematics that barefoot methods had not previously done. Our kinematic differences occurred towards terminal stance as well as during swing. One thing to note is; no one really understands when ankle sprains occur, it has been hypothesized that they may occur either at initial contact OR terminal stance (Konradsen & Voigt 2002). However the majority of research has only focused on initial contact. Our study actually evaluated the entire gait cycle finding difference at terminal stance is very new and original. Hopefully this will encourage more researchers to evaluate the later stages of gait in the future.
4. Given that the previous research was using people walking/running barefoot, what do you think adding shoes into the equation helps?
Adding shoes to the research has added a piece to the mysterious CAI puzzle. Before I discuss what shoes added, let me explain a little about the shoes we used. We were able to obtain multiple pairs (both men and women sizes) of Brook Defyance shoes. Collaborating closely with Brooks, we were able to remove various aspects of the shoe to enable us to place anatomical markers on a subject’s skin without disrupting the integrity of the shoe. Placing markers on the skin allowed us to better observe joint kinematics. Placing markers on top of shoes (which has been done in the past) only allows researchers to observe what the shoe is doing. Shoes may slip or move differently than the joint. Our goal was to see what each individual’s limb was doing, which with this custom shoe we were able to do.
So, getting back to your question, I believe incorporating shoes, specifically our custom shoes, has significantly contributed the CAI literature. Previous research has shown that there are kinematic differences and muscle activation differences between running barefoot and shod (Kerr et al 2009, De Wit et al 2000, Burkett et al 1985). If anyone has ever tried to go and run barefoot (outside or on a treadmill) without weeks of acclimation, your feet hurt and your gait naturally changes in order to adequately absorb forces. The majority of previous CAI literature asked their subjects to perform this novel task of running barefoot. Knowing that gait changes, we are unsure if their findings are due to the task or due to CAI or both. Allowing our subjects to wear shoes, we were able to capture a more natural gait stride. Secondly, plantar stimulation has been shown to affect CAI subjects differently than healthy controls. Placing shoes on our subjects may have provided some stimulation that barefoot gait does not. Plus, being an athletic trainer, I always want to try to mimic what athletes do and there are not many sports that train or compete barefoot.
5. Can you make any recommendations based on this study?
I think the most important recommendation I have for clinicians and athletes is not to shrug an ankle sprain off as “just” an ankle sprain. This study as well as the majority of CAI literature shows that individuals with CAI have both local and global alterations compared to healthy controls. We also know that CAI has been linked to osteoarthritis. This study specifically shows that gait changes can be observed. After suffering from an ankle sprain and those who have CAI should evaluate their rehabilitation and not hurry back to activity. Therapists can incorporate gait re-training exercises into rehabilitation.
6. What questions remain unanswered about the effects of CAI on athletes?
Oh so many! As any researcher will tell you, as we answer one question it seems like 10 more pop up. I touched upon this previously, but I think the three most important unanswered questions pertaining to CAI are, 1) What causes it? 2) Can we prevent it? and, 3) How do we best treat it? I know these are three very broad questions, but it’s what all CAI researchers are striving to determine.
7. Describe your new career/research interest for us?
Since leaving UVA about a year ago and starting here at Kent State University, my overall research focus has not changed; I still want to better understand CAI and determine how to prevent CAI. However, because I do not have access to a state-of-the-art motion analysis lab my methods are shifting a bit. Neuromuscular control, balance, and proprioception are, in my opinion, the keys to ankle sprain rehabilitation. I am implementing various interventions on individuals with CAI in hopes to determine the most effective way to treat this syndrome.
So…..for those of you wanting a simple summary. Here it is. People who keep spraining their ankles walk and run different from those who don’t sprain frequently. While some of you may say “who cares” – this is pretty important stuff. You see, all the gait research out there says something pretty simple. Variability is good. Its good to have slightly different ways to move. This way, when you get into “interesting situations” (like when you plant your foot slightly wrong) you have a skill set in place to correct your ankle position and save your body from injury. But this study shows that the pattern of people with CAI is different. And since these people keep spraining, one could say this compensated pattern really isn’t working….and is likely a big contributing factor to their ongoing issues.
From the clinical side, its a good idea to improve the stability of your foot and ankle. Strong muscles inside the feet means less stress to the joint and better proprioception for faster stability, which both reduce injury risk. Want some more? Check out foot some specific foot strengthening exercises in my book, and on this video below (right about 3:22).
Lastly, I’d like to say thanks to Lisa for all her work on this project, and thanks to Brooks for supplying shoes, and helping to ensure that the modifications we made to the study shoes to get 3D markers on the foot did not alter the function of the shoe during walking and running. If you’d like to contact Dr Chinn for additional questions, feel free to contact her below.
Lisa Chinn, PhD, AT. Assistant Professor in Athletic Training, Kent State University, Room 266D MACC Annex,Kent, OH 44242 – email@example.com
What can a new research study tell you about running off-the-bike? Sometimes, research just tells us things that are somewhat interesting. And other times, like this one, research provides a very nice take home message of which we should all take note.
Now those of you who have seen me for an evaluation, read my Running Times article called “P is for Posture”, or read my book know that this is the un-sung skill that can make or break you as an athlete. Posture is the foundation around which the most powerful muscles in your body attach. If the position of those muscles is optimal, a number of things go really well…..most notably peaked performance, and a better stabilized chassis for a reduced risk of injury. If this optimal position is compromised, then you aren’t operating at your best.
So, if I told you ahead of time that doing “A” before “B” will produce complications that make “B” harder, you’d (hopefully) try to prepare ahead of time to minimize, or eliminate those complications. Right? …. Well, here’s what happens.
We had a group of triatheltes come into our lab and run. We measured a number of factors related to the way they ran to get a baseline. This same group of runners came back a second time, but before they ran, they cycled for 30 min at a just-easier-than-threshold effort. Their post-bike running data showed that they had more arch in the low back, a more anteriorly-tilted pelvis, a more flexed hip, and less hip extension.
poor position = poor performance
For those of you wondering if this is good or bad, I’ll give you both the simple and more in-depth version. Running off the bike makes you look more like the person on the left than the person on the right.
I simply cannot downplay the significance postural alignment. If you screw this up, you’ll screw up your run. And given that 70% of injuries in triathlon occur in the run, this is yet one more contributing factor.
Cycling doesn’t “hurt us” – then why do we see postural shifts occur in triathlon? You are bent over in a forward position. Some tissues get bound up. Others get lengthened. And we only did this for a 30 min ride. What happens if you force this constrianed position for 5 hrs, and then go run? We don’t know for sure (because we didn’t test this) but if I was a betting man, I think we’d see the same patterns, but somewhat worse. To be fair, we only looked at their running data for the first 14 min of the run. Maybe posture improves after this 14 min. Maybe it stays the same. Maybe it gets worse. We didn’t test it. But no one wants two slow or injury-prone miles out of T2. And due to the fact that central fatigue typically makes our posture worse, I’d think this is something we should all pay attention to.
So here’s your chance to beat the odds, and be “smarter” than the average. Here’s your mission for today:
Find correct posture standing right now (see above references)
Hold correct posture walking around your office or house.
Go for a run, maintain correct posture (and if you fall into the “back seat” stop and fix it!)
Go for a brick workout, and pay special attention to your postural alignment off the bike. If you focus on this in training, it will be easy to correct on race day.You should be able to run any pace – from an easy run to 400’s on the track – without compromising your posture alignment.
I’d like to thank our former grad student and first author, Nicole Rendos, for taking the lead on this study. And if you are looking for more ways to tune-up your triathlon training, come see us this August for our REP Triathlon Camp!