Arizona Sports Physio
Contact InformationIan Chapple, Physical Therapist
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Injury Prevention for TriathletesResearch performed on triathletes at Staffordshire University in Stroke-on Trent found 58-64% of all overuse injuries were running related, followed by 16-34% from the bike, and a very small % from swimming. Of the overuse injuries in triathletes swimming is responsible for mostly shoulder injuries, biking for back injuries, and running injuries mainly included the knee, Achilles, and lowerback.
As a triathlete it makes sense to focus on running injury prevention
How to better prepare for the prevention of running related injuries
- Become more aware of your unique body structure
- Perform the correct personalized running specific strength, balance, and flexibility training
- Have your running form critiqued and work on improving your efficiency
Motion in the human body occurs in three directions. These motions include:
- forward to backwards
- side to side
These motions occur in multiple muscle groups and multiple joints all working in unison to maintain the most efficient running form working against the forces of gravity, ground reaction force, and the momentum of the body.
Having the structure of your feet, legs, and pelvis examined is important to become more more aware of your body and what type of injuries you may be predisposed to due to your structural make-up. A common example is runners with bowed legs predisposed to stress fractures.
The example on the left below demonstrates how a leg length difference can create a changed foot structure which will ultimately result in asymmetry of the motion the the feet when running. (the right longer leg stands in a collapsed position) The picture on the right demonstrates how an orthotic device helps to create improved alignment.
How Stretching can help prevent running related injury and improve running form and performance
- muscles are more prone to injury if the are continuously taken to their end range of motion during your running gait.
- Increasing your overall range of motion will help improve performance (speed) by increasing your stride length
speed = stride length x cadenceHow to get the most out of your stretching:
- Stretching should be unique to your own imbalances and activities
- Stretch in positions that mimic running
- Add movement to your stretch (more real life)
|Notice that when striding out both the quadriceps and hip flexors are stretched synchronicly.||Hip flexor &quad stretch with Upper body rotation.|
Why Strengthening is important for Triathletes during Running
Most triathletes are very familiar with the feeling of heaviness in the quadriceps muscles when transitioning from the bike to the run. At this transition excess blood has pooled in the quads and the legs have been programmed to moving in a cyclic fashion. It takes some time for a triathlete to find their running legs and rhythm. Thus, triathletes are labeled as strength runners vs rhythm runners. We can then conclude that strengthening and running form is very important for triathletes.
How to strengthen:
- Strengthening should be unique to your own imbalances and activities
- Strengthen in positions that mimic running (upright, single leg exercises)
- Low or no weight and high repetitions
- Concentrate on core muscles (abdominals, hips, gluts)
|An example of a balance exercise||An example of strengthening the right hamstring muscle|
How to become more of a Rhythm Runner
Changing your running form can improve economy by becoming more efficient. Working on improved running form is the same as changing your swimming technique or cycling cadence with cognitive thinking and practice.
Some ideas for a more efficient running form
- Cadence: recommended between 88-90. (each time one foot lands in one minute) Improved cadence = foot landing closer to below pelvis which (no oversriding) = less ground reaction force and less time the foot is on the ground = decreased chance of injury.
- Posture: posture begins with your head tilt which should be predominately straight ahead with a slight tilt downward. Your chest should be held high and forward and give you the feeling of slightly falling forward. This feeling will take advantage of the gravitational forces with each step. Hand placement can also influence your posture. It is recommended to carry your hands between your waist line and rib cage.
- Arm Swing: swing freely mainly in a forward/backward motion. The arms should be relaxed along with the shoulders. Any excessive movement of the arms will create unwanted movement elsewhere in the body resulting in wasted energy
- Bounce: minimal bounce should be present. Any excessive motion up and down is energy expenditure for moving forward
A good example of an efficient running form
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