July 21, 2011

Triathlon Training: Take your running to the next level

Being a faster runner doesn’t happen naturally.  It requires consistent, focused practice in all phases of your training.  In the general base phase, the subject of the last article, you focused on periodically counting your steps to improve your stride rate, to utilize active breathing to control your heart rate (HR), and practice a proper lean to use gravity to up your run speed.  If you truly practiced these exercises in each of your runs then you should already be seeing improvement in your run speed.  Now, after at least 3-6 weeks in the general base building phase, it’s time to take it up a notch.

Running speed is really very simple…stride rate x stride length.  So the best way to improve your run speed (really the only way) is to increase how often you contact the ground or increase your stride rate.  The reason is simple.  No matter who you are you will quickly reach your potential in terms of stride length but stride rate has no such limitation.   So in this speed/strength base phase you’ll build on the exercises introduced in the general base phase by incorporating the following run speed/technique drills.

1.      Continue counting and leaning: In every run check your stride rate at least three times by counting your steps for 30 seconds.  Once early in the run, once in the middle of the run, and certainly near the end of each run.  Each time you check your stride rate try to consciously lean a little more to practice using gravity to up your stride rate.

2.      Alactic sets:  These are short speed bursts lasting no more than 15 seconds…7 – 8 seconds is best.  These were introduced in the last article but now need to be a regularly incorporated into your run training.  Really focus on moving your legs as quickly as you can and try to keep your stride rate up after each effort…just shorten your stride length.  Follow each repetition with 5 – 10 active breathes to keep your HR under control…remember your still building your aerobic base.  Make sure to give yourself 2 -3 minutes between each repetition.

3.      Short speed: These are short, fast runs to build run speed and leg strength.  Do this once a week and start with 10 x 20 seconds in week #1, 10 x 30 seconds in week #2, and 10 x 40 seconds in week #3.  Really focus on moving your legs quickly and count your steps…remember the goal is 180 steps/minute or more.  Give yourself 2-3 minutes between repetitions to recover.

4.      Single leg kick-butt drill: While running snap your right heel up to your butt run three steps and snap your left heel up to your butt.  Repeat this 5 -10 times with each heel and do 5 – 10 repetitions in each run.  This will strengthen your hamstrings, help to increase your stride rate, and improve your running form… you should notice a proper mid-foot strike, particularly if you tend to heel strike.

5.      Get lean: Recent research of recreational runners found that body-fat percentage is a better predictor of race times than training volume.  So if you haven’t already, now is the time to get serious about eating to improve your performance.  Don’t starve yourself.  Reduce the exogenous carbohydrates, such as pizza and pasta, and make sure to balance your meals…carbs, fats, and protein at each.  Each of us is different so you have to find what works for you.

Incorporate speed/technique work into your run training early and often to get the most out of the time you have available. And, as always, be sure to progress slowly and stretch to minimize the risk of injuries.

That’s it for this week.  Until next time train safe, stay healthy, and hope to see you at the races.

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