For anyone who watched the Ironman World Championships last week, you witnessed a clinic in how to run by Patrick Lange, the winner and new Ironman World Champion. His stride looked effortless, long, light, and fluid. Patrick is a natural runner which showed in the way he ran, maintaining perfect technique for the duration of the run. He was suffering just like everyone else, but he was able to rely on his technique to get him through to the finish.
I am not a coach who is going to tell you to run like Patrick. I am not a coach who is going to tell you to run with a higher or lower cadence. I will never tell you to run more with your forefoot or with your toes pointed inward or toes pointed out. I don’t believe we can force our bodies to run one way or another. Doing this would be like trying to fit a round peg into a square hole. If we force it, something will break.
Efficiency in running comes from exercises and training done both while running and as a part of strength work. These exercise don’t take long, and they add a huge benefit to your running. As triathletes, we go from a compact position on the bike to a long, extended position on the run. If our bodies aren’t accustomed to opening up and stretching out, they will remain compact on the run, which can lead to inefficiency, imbalances, and injury.
The term “Ironman March” is used to refer the way a triathlete runs, because the gait looks like a pedal stroke—lifting the knee from the front instead of pushing off from the back. Using the wrong muscles while running not only causes quicker fatigue, but also places undue stress on joints and ligaments, leading to injury.
To combat this, we must train our bodies to utilize the correct muscles in running. We must ingrain this awareness into our movement patterns so that it’s second nature by the time we lace up the shoes and hit the pavement. By dedicating yourself to performing these drills consistently, your body will move more efficiently, your muscles will fire correctly, your run will look pretty, and your times will get faster and faster.
Running Technique Strength Routine
Warm up: Always precede this routine with 5-10 minutes of easy jogging.
Lunge to Balance:
Take a large step forward with your right foot. Lunge down and then back up while using your right glute to control the movement. As you drop down and drive back up, balance on your right foot while driving your left knee up to hip height. You should be balancing on your right foot. Repeat on the left side. Lunge 10 steps in each direction, alternating as you go.
Give yourself plenty of room (20-30 yards). As if running in slow motion, build into the bound by taking a few easy steps and then drive off your right fore-foot with a long extended stride. Land on your left fore-foot and then bound again, this time landing on your right fore-foot. Try to cover as much ground as possible with each bound. Repeat for 10-15 and then return to where you started.
Use your arms as if you were running. Instead of driving your knees forward, bring your heel up to your butt as you run. This will force you to take smaller steps but it will also stretch the hips and quadriceps. Perform 20 butt kicks in one direction and then repeat in the opposite direction.
Single Leg Balance and Reach:
Stand on a slightly bent left leg while keeping your right leg off of the ground and straight. Extend your right leg in front of you and tap the ground before returning to the start position. This time, while keeping your right leg off the ground, reach your right leg out to the side and tap your toes on the ground. Return to the start position, still keeping the right foot off of the ground. Finally, move your right leg to an 11 o’clock position and tap your toes on the ground. Return to start position.
Repeat for 5-8 repetitions and switch legs.