Meet Mel:

Welcome to my first article for witsup.com. There is lots of information out there, but here I hope to provide the science, as well as the race insights and experience that develop from coaching, plus competing for over 15 years. The aim is to help your training and consequently your racing. I have a background in middle distance running. I love to analyse it and keep aiming on getting faster.

So why triathlon for me? Well, when I needed some cross training back in 1999, I ‘attempted’ a triathlon and very quickly loved the challenge that this sport provides. I got hooked and 12 years later I now coach athletes doing their first. But, I remember vividly those awful “lead” legs jumping off the bike and onto the run, particularly after my first few triathlons and certainly during my first ironman! I was wondering, why can’t I run fluidly? I’m a good, national level runner, but, what was with my Cliffy young shuffle in triathlons?!

 

Why does it feel so hard?

On the bike you have generated power by pushing against a resistance, ie pushing the pedals, going up hills and side/headwind. The primary muscles working are the quads, hopefully some glutes (butt muscles), and your stabiliser muscles (core). That’s of course if they have been activated – that’s a whole topic I will discuss another time.

There is fatigue and pooling of blood in those areas, so when you jump off the bike, it stays there until you get moving. Soreness is also a result of micro muscle tears, occurring more so in undertrained, poor fluid/nutrition loaded athletes.

Let’s not forget that some other muscles have played different roles. They’ve flexed, extended, hummed along in the background whilst on the bike, and now you are asking them to rapidly switch roles and produce a full body weight, single leg activity. Running is essentially a single leg dynamic activity, just performed for lots of repetitions.

The rate at which your legs turn over on the bike in comparison to leg turn over on the run is also different. Again, the body has to change up gears from cycle to run. So how do you run better, and more specifically off the bike and into the run?

 

A few notes on how to run better off the bike:

Specificity: You need to develop your run and your cycling skill/strength. Training for both bike and run independently is important. The best way is actually training in that activity = sports specificity.

Breaking it down: an important component is breaking down the individual activity into its component parts and then training each of these individually. This ties into drills, strength exercises etc. “To be able to keep one section of the body statically stable, whilst the other moves dynamically, requires input and training” Kate Senini, Pure Physio. In the early stages, this is where understanding how to combine movements is a learned/taught thing. This may require analysis from a run coach, or even some video feedback.

Run off the bike: a common assumption from triathletes is that running more kilometers will make you “better”.  No! In fact, tri specificity is what is needed in addition to your run and cycling volume sessions. In an event, you run off the bike, so you need to do it in training, no matter how good a runner you are. Some coaches will get athletes to run straight after every ride, even if it is only for 2kms just to train the muscles. Mentally, it also prepares you for the feeling you encounter – these are called BRICK sessions. If this is new to you, then try an easy long ride with an easy run off the bike up to half the distance of your next race. Build this into your program once per week. More seasoned athletes should do race pace or quicker efforts on the bike to improve power, and of course, simulate fatigue that you experience in racing. It needs to be progressive, ie. A bit faster, or a bit longer each week to let the body adapt without risk of injury. Talk to a coach about this.

While on the bike: whilst pedalling away, you are in a bent position. The hip angle is less, the quadriceps do a lot of work, whilst hamstrings stretch to work in sync. Then boom, you are on the run now contracting the hamstrings and calves a lot more. Like I said above, you’re now expecting your muscles to play a different role. Sitting to standing changes all those angles, plus, body weight is now through the lower legs, not a saddle. Combat this by shifting position during the ride, it will help avoid stiffness and try to open up the hip angle by standing and pushing your hips forward occasionally. This is especially important to do just before heading into transition.

Like I mentioned above, the cycle vs run rate is different. Shift to an easier gear and pedal quicker, nearing the end of the bike leg. This should help avoid sluggish slow run cadence/turn over.

As a beginner, the phrase, “it will become easier”, is not a cliché – it’s true. It’s just like anything else that you practice, correctly, over a long period of time – so bare with it.

If you’ve got any further questions or feedback, please leave a comment. Happy to help all levels, especially if the run is the weakest link to getting faster! 

About The Author

MelVW

Former professional triathlete Bachelor of Applied Science (Occupational Therapy) Level 1 Run Technique (ERA) Level 1 Athletics Australia Accredited Coach Foundations of Fitness Instruction Certified (AFN)

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One Response

  1. Garonzatron

    Awesomeness, V-Dubbs!!! Great first article. Running, writing, radness… is there nothing you can’t do!?!?

    Love to get some sneaky info on training to increase your speed? Feel like I can run the distances, but would love to start making some time reduction goals.

    Thanks Mels!!!

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