Improving Running Economy

Improving running economy is a goal of every coach. There are two primary ways to achieve these gains. First, through bio-mechanical efficiency, and second via physiological improvements.

So, how does one begin to find these improvements? Video analysis of running mechanics is the first step. 

Using the video analysis program and tools of choice, you and your coach can look to ensure a number that a number of things are occuring:

  • Foot strike is under the center mass of the body
  • Good foot plant / contact - mid foot strike ideally.
  • No over-stride
  • Good shin angle and knee flexion
  • Running cadence of around 180-200
  • Minimal bounce and hip drop
  • Ensuring the “Three C’s”:
  1. Body is compact and linear.
  2. All appendages are connected
  3. An effective cadence in stride is in place

Once the limiters of your athletes run mechanics have been determined, you would begin to incorporate drills to remediate the flaws in running form. For example, working on the bio-energetics & functional range of motion of your athlete, while focusing on a under center mass foot strike, using harness & tire pull work.

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The end goal here is to allow the athlete to be able to run, all out, without compromising form. Depending on the limiters in question, your coach can assist with the drills to incorporate to ensure that your run is as bio-mechanically sound as possible.

Once your run mechanics are dialed, and mechanical economy is gained, you can then shift focus on to the physiological side of economy improvement:

First, begin to employ fractionalization in speed training. 

By this I mean a break up of the overall training distance to shorter efforts of higher intensity - sometimes up to race pace - with enough recovery between these efforts to maintain that intensity.  By incorporating varying prescriptions to work on all of the energy systems (aerobic, anaerobic, to VO2), one can facilitate the improvement of threshold HR and pace, lactic acid tolerance, and the ability to improve VO2 pace.

Then, by slowly increasing the distances covered at higher intensities and HR, we can then improve the overall anaerobic endurance and improve your race day pace.

Working on energy systems is massively important once the physical mechanics have been dialed in. Without working all aspects physiologically your pace will never increase along with your ability to hold faster efforts over longer distances. There are many ways to ensure that the energy systems are being worked properly. Including workouts such as tempo runs, speed-work at the track, "K-Pump" (Potassium ion) training theory, and many other types of higher quality workouts is key. And this includes recovery runs. Speed work and anaerobic sessions are important, but without proper recovery the body physiologically will not adapt to the work that is being placed upon it. If that doesn't happen, improvements may cease, or move in the opposite direction.

Obviously this is a complicated subject and is something that requires time, effort, and structured training prescriptions to achieve desired improvements. The types of workouts that can and should be implemented many. But depending on you needs and ability, a structured plan can be implemented to ensure that improvements come sooner rather than later.

Questions? Contact Dave to schedule up a free 30 minute consultation on the subject!

The Off-Season

It's almost upon us. The off-season. And unfortunately a lot of athletes don't know what they should be doing between their final "A" race of the season, and when they need to pick themselves up and start serious training again. 

I've written about the off-season before. You can read that blog post here. But I'll summarize, and add to it, today. So, what should you do when your season is over?

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The Challenges Of Being An Age-Group Triathlete

It's been a great season for our athletes. PR's, podium finishes, a trip to World Championships in Canada. I'm a proud of the effort and dedication my athletes have put forth.

Yet for some it's been an interesting season. Work and life are providing all the challenges they need. And that's the interesting part of being an age-group athlete. Best laid plans are often disrupted. And I'm not even talking about the potential for an injury.

One of our higher performing athletes is active duty in the Coast Guard. Just as our training was hitting a high note, and some key races were fast approaching, he'd receive orders to be away for two weeks. Okay, we adjusted. Then he was deployed to Houston to help deliver aid after the hurricane. You can't argue with that. But suddenly the training is on hold, and the season is completely upside down.

Another athlete had some new job responsibilities added to her plate. You know, a conference call with an east-Asian office on Thursday nights at a god-awful time. So Friday AM sessions are out. So we adjust the week around. But those new responsibilities sometimes mean longer days. Workouts are missed. Okay, we adjust again. But getting momentum and regularity was a challenge. Target races are rescheduled. 

And how about a new addition to the family? That will assuredly add to the stress of scheduling workouts while balancing life at home. Add to that some extra work thrown into the mix, and races have to be skipped as preparations just couldn't be accomplished. An Xterra Pan-Am qualifier last year had a heck of a time getting in one Xterra race this year.

Balancing life and work and training. That's part of being an age-group athlete. Dealing with conflicts and changes to schedules creates the need to be flexible on all fronts - for both athlete and coach alike. But it can be difficult to digest and process at the time.

It's easy to give up and say "well, this season is over", but it doesn't have to be that way. Keep your focus. Find alternatives. Change your "A" race (as annoying as that may be). Explore other racing options like targeting a mountain bike enduro instead of letting all the Xterra prep go by the wayside. Easier yet, choose a shorter distance target race. You can't get in the training hours necessary for an Ironman? Find a 70.3 instead. Or even an Olympic distance race. True it might be your ultimate goal, but move that target to next season. You have myriad options available to you.

It's not all or nothing, and that's important to keep in mind. Work with your coach to find alternatives and adjust training and racing schedules to accommodate changes as they arise. You can find a new goal to keep driving you through this season and into the next.

Equally as important: Utilize your coach during this process. That is part of our job after all. Being a coach requires not only understanding the training that's necessary for the athlete, but it requires that we be a sounding board. We're here to  listen to you, the the athlete, and help you navigate the options available to still have a successful season no matter what is thrown your way.


Performance Improvements and Success Stories

Recently I've written a couple of blog posts discussing the importance of improving athlete limiters and the proper development of energy systems. The goal being to ensure not only the improvement of said limiters of an athlete but to further develop their strengths as well. With that in mind I thought it was time that we highlighted a few of our athletes here at Podium Training Systems to show not only the scope of racing that happens amongst our athletes, but also the type of improvements and success they've had and how we achieved those gains.

I reached out to a small number of my athletes to see if they would be willing to share their experiences over the past season or two and provide me with what they felt were their biggest improvements.

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The Importance Of The Swim

I hear a lot of people (coaches and athletes alike) state: "You can't win a triathlon in the swim, but you can lose one in the swim". 

I've heard numerous athletes declare: "I just need to survive the swim".

I disagree with both statements. As a coach these are the first things, should an athlete of mine say such a thing, that we remove from the conversation. You can indeed win a triathlon by having a good swim. Just as you can win it by having a good bike, or run. But you have to be strong across all the disciplines to ensure that your good swim effort holds up at the end. 

Just surviving the swim? That's a great way to lose time, waste energy, and ensure you have a harder bike and run leg than is necessary.

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