Tips to Improve Run this Off Season
Running is a sport that can be done year round. Even if it’s icy and cold out, there are still treadmills and indoor tracks to keep those legs going! It is not uncommon to hear a triathlete say their swim and bike went great, but then fell apart on the run. A lot of success in triathlon comes down to the run. Try these five tips to improve run this off season. The tips will get you to the start of next season a step ahead of the rest.
Focus on Form and Drills
Working on form and drills is a great way to improve run. It is easy to get away from focusing on form during the season, so take some time to break it down. Run tall, with your head up, gaze forward, and make sure you aren’t looking at your feet. Shoulders are relaxed and rolled down the back, chest is open. Arms are bent, close to 90 degrees, close to, but not touching the body, swinging forward and back, not across the body. In addition, fingers are lightly touching, think of holding a baby bird, soft and open. If all of these are good, the hips will naturally fall into the correct place, facing straight and neutral. Your stride should be short and quick, so the body lands directly over the foot contacting the ground.
Drills are a good way to work on stride. Incorporate high knees, butt kicks, side shuffle or karaoke, and tin man into your workouts, as well as strides. While doing high knees, keep your core engaged and torso long. Bring knees up to hip height, and land softly on the ball of your foot. With butt kicks, bring heel as close to your seat as possible, allowing quads to lengthen. Again, land softly on the balls of your feet. Side shuffle or karaoke will work on lateral movement. Keep landing soft and core engaged. Tin man lengthens the hamstrings. Bring one leg straight up in front, opposite hand touching as it lifts. After these drills and a good warm up, do some strides; pick up the pace and lengthen stride. Perform about 30 repetitions of each drill, and 6 or 7 strides, on most runs during the week.
After months of pounding the pavement, give the legs a break and head out on the trails. The soft surface is good on joints, and the rolling terrain is a great strength workout. Not only that, but trail running is good for the soul, too. Venture out and explore, take in the nature and fresh air. Even forget the watch and headphones on these. You might find it refreshing and invigorating to have new scenery, and your body will probably love the change. The dirt, rocks and rolling trails will help you build strength in the stabilizer muscles of your legs, which will make you stronger overall when you get back to the pavement. So another great way to improve run. Even when it snows, trails are a good place to get in a run, as long as the snow is packed well. And if not, just grab some snowshoes!
Do a Fun 5K
There is a good chance that you have spent the last months focused on an “A” race. This usually means there is no time for a casual race thrown in, or the neighborhood 5K. The off season is a great time to do some fun races with friends and family. Run with your kids, your spouse or a friend that is just getting into the sport. You will find a new appreciation for it, and may find it actually fun! If you are one that can’t actually race for fun, then you can use the race to hone in on some speed and form. Just remember to warm up enough before you start! Make sure your heart is pumping and blood is already flowing to the muscles before you toe that start line.
Right now is a really good time to check those shoes you have been running in the last few months. Really think about when they were replaced last, and how many miles are on them. Shoes only last 300-500 miles, and it is surprising how fast those miles add up. If you are starting to feel a creak in the knee or hip, there is a good chance your shoes have run their course and need to be retired. Even if you are not sure, take them into the local run shop to have the professionals decide. Also, if your shoes have been in the house for over a year, even if the miles are low, they still need to be replaced! While you are at the local run store, pick up a good pair of trail shoes, too. Your body will thank you for it!
Let’s face it. Triathlon can be a pretty lonely sport. There are usually countless hours swimming, biking and running alone. Before you know it, the season is over and you have gone months without socializing with anyone! Ok, maybe not entirely true, but you are probably still craving a little attention and social interaction. What better way than joining the local run scene. Most run clubs offer multiple distances to run, and you may find the other members can push you even more than you push yourself. Or, you may find that running in a more relaxed scene is the remedy you need to stay with it. Either way, you can’t go wrong with joining a running club. It will improve run in one way or the other.