Many of us triathletes are still in the offseason, a time where workouts aren't quite so structured and no races are looming on the horizon.
For many runners, it is time to start focusing on next year's running season.
The more efficient your running, biking and swimming form is, the less energy you will expend over the long haul and the more likely you will perform at a quicker pace. This is especially important as you decide to challenge yourself with endurance-type road racing and triathlon events.
Can you learn to be efficient?
Mike Pigg, arguably one of the best cyclists who previously competed in the sport of triathlon, actually came to the sport from a running background.
However, even though he had come from a running background, this was not always his strong suit in triathlon. He used to overstride during running, which made for a hard heel-strike and slowed his forward momentum.
To remedy this problem, he used a combination of videotape analysis and stride drills to essentially relearn his running stride by practicing a shorter, faster stride pattern.
Pigg transferred what he knew to work for him on the bike, a quick cadence or turnover, to make him just as quick on the run. Using the muscle memory premise, he would train his legs to race fast by concentrating on a quick turnover in his training.
Speed work can improve efficiency
Any efficiency and speed gained in small movements can add up to big gains over the course of a longer race.
Using speed work during a workout is not just about how fast your legs go but also has a lot to do with moving as efficiently as possible.
Regardless if you are or aren't competing, when you move more efficiently and quicker, you are able to get more quality work done in a shorter amount of time.
Also, the more speed work you incorporate into your weekly workouts, the more cardiovascular improvement and muscular strength you will see.
When speed work is utilized, it helps to improve your running form and helps your body become better adapted to an oxygen deficit.
Focus on form
When running, try to keep your eyes focused, looking straight ahead on a horizontal plane. Keep your elbows bent at a relaxed but fixed 90-degree angle. Keep your hands held in a loose grip but with your arms close into your body. Try to maintain an upright position while running, while focusing on not moving up and down in your stride but striding out in a manner that continually propels you in a forward moving motion.
By making small refinements and adjustments to your stride through training, running technique can be improved.
One exercise to help you focus on your form is doing rhythm strides. These are short, controlled sprints performed on the track. Run 100 meters at a pace a little faster than your 5K pace, do an easy jog for 50 meters and then run another quick 100 meters.
While running these strides, focus on your biomechanics and stride frequency, making sure to maintain an upright body position and running as efficiently as possible.
Be strong to run strong
Muscle imbalances can also lead to inefficiency in running and result in a potential injury.
By developing a strength program that utilizes a variety of muscles, you can help to undo some of those imbalances.
Runners tend to have overdeveloped quadriceps muscles, which can lead to an imbalance and result in knee pain. Make sure that you always include exercises to work your hamstrings as well, an area that may be underdeveloped with just running.
Cross-training can also help in this area, as some muscles that aren't worked in running may be strengthened through biking and swimming.
I like to do single leg exercises and drills on the bike. Typically, one leg is weaker than the other and by working one leg at a time, you are more likely to strengthen those weak muscles.
Wherever your weakness lies, taking the winter months to fine-tune your technique and amp up your strength routine will definitely pay big dividends once your next road race or triathlon comes.