Eliminate Weakness in the Off Season

Sunday, December 2, 2012
This year before Christmas make your goal to eliminate the weakest link.
Every triathlete has strengths and weaknesses. The problem is we often spend more time on our strengths rather than addressing our weaknesses. If you look at the Brownlee brothers, they do not seem to have a weakness! Obviously they are highly trained and very disciplined but if you have a leg of the race that you dread, make it your goal to turn this into your favourite for next year.
Some tips:
The Swim
1) Weak leg kick
Triathletes are notorious for dragging their legs. This will slow you down more than anything. The quickest way to improve your swim speed is by reducing drag. Look at your technique and make sure your ankles are relaxed, you are kicking from the hips and maintaining a horizontal body position. This requires practice. Grab a kick board and do some laps just kicking.
2) Short stroke length
This one is a classic. Swimming is about creating maximum efficiency instead of using heavy force. This means finishing the race with the least amount of strokes. The trouble is most people speed up and shorten their stroke length as they try to go faster. This actually makes them slower and more fatigued. Practice drills in the pool of trying to slow down. Do powerful strokes, make each one count. Count the number of strokes you need to take each length and try to reduce this each week.
Think about stretching out in front of you and taking a full stroke. You will travel further, faster and with less effort.
When you get to the race remember how this feels and before long you will be gliding past your competitors easily as they are churning up the water getting nowhere.

The Bike
1) Poor pedal technique
Most triathletes only pedal using half a stroke. They focus on the push down. However a full pedal stroke is a full circle. You will gain an enormous advantage over everyone else if you apply power to the full circumference of the circle. Pushing down uses predominantly your quadriceps muscles in the front of your thigh. Pulling up behind you will engage the hamstrings as well.
Good ways to improve this is to use a power meter. Watch the power output and try to make it smooth throughout the whole pedal stroke.
One legged cycling is also brilliant. Jump on an exercise bike or turbo trainer and pedal with just one leg for a minute then just the other leg. Observe how the stroke feels and how different one leg is to the other. Try to make the pedal stroke even. Breaking the cycling down to each pedal stroke and correcting it from the base line up is the best way to improve your cycling times and speeds.
2) Good posture
Good posture on the bike enables all the muscles to be used more effectively. It will prevent the dreaded neck and back pain, most people experience on longer rides and will allow your lungs to be more open providing you with much needed oxygen. This requires a certain level of core strength. So do not neglect these exercises. You should be doing strength training at least twice a week. Things like the plank, chin ups, seated row and squats will all help your core and back strength. Very important and will pay massive dividends.
The Run
1) Weak gluteal muscles.
Running is all about technique. Strong gluteal muscles are very important for stabilising the pelvis so we do not sway about as we run. Any twisting in the torso will lead to rotation in the knees and shin leading to knee pain and shin splints. Try to power from the strong muscles in your backside. If you do not have strong muscles in your back side- start doing squats and lunges immediately. Do not go on another run until these are firmly in your weekly program.
2) Heel striking
Heel striking is like running with the brakes on. Make sure you start to practice landing on your forefoot or mid foot. This is very important and will become more important the longer run you do. The forefoot provides and natural cushion and will allow the arch of the foot to cushion your body and propel you forward.
Have someone watch you run and get feedback. Try experimenting with forefoot landing on the treadmill where you do not have to watch out for cars, dogs or uneven ground.


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