LEG LUBE: We’ve all been there. Your IRONMAN has gone according to plan until, on the run, you start to sense your form giving way. Suddenly it becomes increasingly difficult to assume a balanced, upright posture. Your arm swing no longer feels effortless and, in more extreme cases, you might even feel your upper body shifting sideways.
As the saying goes, “this is when the race starts.” Form breakdown and dysfunctional running are ubiquitous with long-course triathlon; triathletes need to train to delay this scenario if they hope to improve their performance on race day. Aside from the sheer training volume necessary to be able to finish an IRONMAN 70.3 or IRONMAN race (in conjunction with nailing one’s nutrition), there are several other strategies and tactics that athletes can incorporate in their training to stay strong on the run.
One of the most important training sessions you can do to prepare for long course racing is to practice running off the bike, otherwise known as a brick workout. Coaches use brick workouts to help triathletes deal with moving from an aerodynamic position to the upright running posture. Cycling and running use different muscle recruitment strategies that do not simply turn on and off, so preparing ourselves for this transition is critical. In a recent study that specifically investigated running mechanics after 30 minutes of cycling, altered mechanics (a more anteriorly tilted pelvis and decreased hip extension) persisted for 14 minutes following activity. In applying this to training, reasoning suggests that triathletes should routinely practice running for short durations (around 15 to 20 minutes) following cycling. In triathlon terms, this probably marks the point where we “find our legs.”