Thursday, October 5, 2017

Triathlon: Fixing Foot Strike

Most swimmers make decent runners, and many runners learn to swim reasonably well, but it’s hard to be truly great at both sports.  Instead, swimmers and runners both tend to pick up cycling or yoga as their second-best discipline when they take up triathlon as master’s athletes.  But the difficulty of transitioning from one ostensibly simple aerobic activity to another can be maddening for folks who’re used to being considered good at whatever it is that they try to do.
Personally, I enjoy running.  I’ve never been better than mediocre.  I was good enough for the Army, and maybe I could even have made my high school’s varsity cross country team back in the day.  That is absolutely as far as my abilities were ever gonna carry me, though.  In road races now, I am usually somewhere near the median finisher.  About half the field finishes ahead of me, both overall and in my particular age group.  That still puts me significantly ahead of your average non-running schlub, but it hardly qualifies as “good”.  It’s much closer to “acceptable”.
Does this look like the face of a guy who runs comfortably?
As the video below explains, over-striding has always been one of my main mechanical issues.  Fundamentally, I think this is because swimmers tend to take long, efficient strokes that enhance gliding across the water’s surface, while runners are efficient with relatively short strides that maintain good turnover and tempo.  Alas, running to cadence tends to teach over-striding as well, which is maybe why so many of my friends are having knee problems now.  Certainly, I started runningslower after I joined the Army.  I’ve always assumed that this was because I gained weight, and maybe because I worked out somewhat less overall as a cadet than I did as an overly-ambitious high school athlete.  However, it could have also been that running to cadence reinforced in me the unfortunate habit of over-striding, adding a natural brake to a previously more efficient running form.
The issue is not :15 lost on a two-mile run twenty-five years ago, but rather that at age forty-four, I’m at the point where running doesn’t come as easy as it used to.  Thus, I would like very much to increase my running efficiency.  That starts with understanding what’s going wrong and why.
This video explains the potential problem as succinctly as I’ve ever seen.
FIX YOUR FOOTSTRIKE!!! [running tip @vlfit] . Footstrike placement is extremely important if you want to be able to propel yourself forward effectively while running!🚶🏻While it may sound as simple as just picking the right place to strike the ground, the unfortunate reality is that it's not 😔 . EVERYTHING HAS A CAUSE. EVERYTHING IS CONNECTED. . In order to fix this issue, we need to look at what's actually causing the problem 🔍 rather than trying to fix the effect on its own. (Ie. if you have back pain, it usually isn't just your back that's the problem, there is usually other contributing factors down and up the chain) . One of biggest factors that contribute to poor positioning of your footstrike is shin angle! 📐 . ❌When you're swinging your shin out by excessively extending the knee outward (shown on the left) it will cause your footstrike to occur too far out in front of your hips, and essentially cause a braking effect. Not only will this increase your ground contact time and impact as a result, it will also load your hamstrings eccentrically for a longer time than necessary. All of these effects basically mean more repetitive stress and increased risk of injury 🙅🏻 . ✅The right way to address this issue is by using one of my favourite cues of "keeping the shin tight" meaning keeping it close to the body and not swinging it out. One of the best ways to tell if your front shin is in an optimal position, is to compare it to the shin angle of the back leg during the "toe off" phase in the gait cycle (when your back foot is right about to leave the ground). If your shin angle is relatively parallel to the shin angle of the back leg during toe off (shown in the right video) you are in a good position to strike the ground with optimal placement. . ↔️This has similar application to both SPRINTING and DISTANCE RUNNING. However, the main difference is that there's more allowance to footstrike slightly further out in front of the hips during a longer distance/slower paced run, whereas sprinters need to pull the foot down more forcefully underneath the hips to maximize their speed over a short distance. . 🔊TAG SOMEONE WHO ♥️TO RUN!!! . #Myodetox
A post shared by Vinh Pham (@vinnierehab) on

Granted, it’s a lot easier to describe what you’re doing wrong than it is to fix your own mechanics.  I work on my mechanics all the time in the pool, but I’d hardly say they’re “good,” despite nearly two-and-a-half decades swimming.  We all have our issues, and imperfect practice most certainly creates imperfect execution.  Whatever my bad habits, they’re ingrained by now.
Regardless, I haven't been running at all well of late, and I can't help hoping that if I can find some time to have someone video me on a treadmill, maybe I'll be able to fix some of whatever’s going on with my stride.  All else aside, it feels ugly.  

I’ll keep you posted.

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