large_92967452 When we focus on form we improve our technique and therefore, our performance.  The key to good running performance, like the other two components of triathlon, is efficiency.  Economizing body movements saves energy, which in turn allows the body to go longer and, or harder.  If we use little energy to produce the running motion, we have that much more energy to go hard in training and racing.  Proper running form equals good running economy.  At some point during your annual triathlon training cycle, a good number of weeks should be dedicated to focus on form, and it is best done during Transition Phase or Early Preparation phase.

So how do we run efficiently?  Running efficiency comes from the combination of body position, stride mechanics, and core and leg strength.

 

Body position:

  • Head in neutral, slid back slightly, “holding” softball under chin, looking 6-8 feet in front of you
  • Slight lean forward from the trunk, only about 6 degrees, which is achieved with proper head position
  • Back straight, shoulders back but relaxed, sternum lifted
  • Arms bent to 90 degrees, swinging front-to-back, don’t cross body
  • Hands relaxed with fingers in loose position as if holding potato chip between thumb and index finger

Stride mechanics:

  • Speed is a function of stride rate and stride length
  • Stride length increases greater than stride rate as speed increases
  • High stride rate: 180 foot strikes per minute
    • Every person has a natural rate, not easily changed at slower speeds
    • Stride rate increases with faster speeds
    • Minimize ground contact time: less time on the ground = more time with body moving forward
    • Midfoot and forefoot strike result in less time on the ground
    • Over striding with heel strike results in more time on the ground and “braking” action of the body
    • Brings the body forward, foot strike is on forefoot
  • High kick:
    • Foot coming high up towards buttocks, initiates the swing phase of the leg
    • Less energy expended to swing the leg forward when it is bent than straight (shorter lever arm)
    • Higher kick with faster speeds

Strength:

  • Correct body position requires strength in the trunk (neck, back, abdominals, pelvic girdle), and legs
  • Proper stride mechanics require strength from:
    • The trunk and hip abductors to ensure symmetry of pelvic girdle during swing and stance phase
    • The hamstrings to get high kick and slow down leg extension during terminal swing phase
    • The hip flexors to bring the leg forward during initial and mid swing phase
    • The quads to extent the knee during mid swing phase
    • The lower leg and ankle muscles to get a strong push off from the toes during late stance phase

ttp://www.flickr.com/photos/lostmymind/92967452/”>adropp</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>