Thursday, March 19, 2015

Goin' for Gold: Running Tips from an Olympic Triathlete

Winning a gold medal at the Olympic Games has been a dream of mine ever since I was eight years old. When I was a kid, I wore a hat that read, “Goin’ for Gold!” In 1995, it was announced that triathlon was  going to appear for the first time in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia. It was at this time that I knew my Olympic dream could become reality.

The running portion of triathlon in the Olympics has become the most important segment of the event. In fact, most of the races come down to the run. The saying in our sport has now become “running for gold.” After competing in four Olympic triathlons, I’ve learned a lot about how to run more efficiently. 

Whether you’re a novice runner training for your first 5k or an experienced marathoner, I hope these tips give your performance a boost! 

  1. Run with a high cadence. It is very important that you have a high cadence, or quick leg turnover, when you run. Longer strides are less efficient and can lead to injury, particularly in the knees. When cycling, you need to have a cadence of 90 rpms or higher; the same goes for running. Even when you go for a slow jog, it is important to try and maintain 90 rpms. It is not a coincidence that the fastest marathoners in the world have the fastest leg turnover.
  2. Don’t heel-strike, mid-foot strike.  You should never heel-toe run. The longer your foot is on the ground the slower your turnover will be. A good way to experience the proper way to strike the ground is to practice by running barefoot on hard pavement for a short distance. When you run barefoot on a sidewalk, I guarantee that you will run on the front halves of your feet because it is painful to strike the pavement with your heel. Make slow improvements with your foot strike because your calves will be very sore at first if you are doing this correctly. You’ll also find that your cadence naturally increases when you run with more of a mid-foot strike rather than a heel-toe strike.
  3. Relax your shoulders. Many runners tighten their shoulders, which takes up a lot of energy. Every couple of minutes, give yourself a mental reminder to relax your upper body. A good way to practice this is to do a couple shoulder shrugs before you run and a few times while you are running.

In order to win a gold medal at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, I’ll have to produce one of the fastest run splits in the race. The dream I had as an eight-year-old has not changed…and I hope I can “run for gold” in 2016. I hope you can “run for gold,” as well, in whatever race you’re training for!

May all your transitions be fast and smooth!
Photo Credit: David Mable

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