We’ve all had that dead leg feeling when you get off the bike and start the run.
You know the one. When your brain is in run mode but your body is still in cycle mode and your legs seem to have forgotten how to run?
It’s often referred to as the ‘Ironman Shuffle’ but can really apply to any distance.
Tip #1: Be more coyote
Think about it. On the bike, no matter how good the set up, your hips have been positioned behind you for a long time. Given the distances involved in triathlon races, it can be anywhere from an hour to ten hours, depending on your ability.
While getting off your bike and running with it into T2 might seem like enough time for your brain to pull you out of that position and into a different one, in reality, it’s a very different story.
Bodies are pre-programmed to do whatever’s easiest. The scientists call it the law of the conservation of energy. This means that your body is always trying to function in the MIDDLE of its range of motion, because it takes the least amount of effort to be there.
If you’ve been bent over your bike for, let’s say, three hours, you’ve been tightening your hip flexors sufficiently to change where the middle of your hip range of motion is, restricting how upright your body can be without effort.
If your new middle of range is less upright, then you’ll have to be leaning forward slightly, which means that your hips are pushed a little bit behind you and running in this position is very difficult, hence the shuffling.
One simple way to avoid this is to run out of T2 like you’re Wile E Coyote. I don’t mean as fast as possible, I mean that cartoon style running where the hips are pushed forward in an exaggerated manner.
Doing this, just out of transition will adjust your middle of range back to a more normal position, allowing you to run the rest of your race without shuffling.
That is, until you start to fatigue.
Tip #2: Break out a boogie
Running is a very repetitive action and it’s quite likely, especially in Ironman distance, that you’ll hit a shuffling period when you start to fatigue. After a while of doing the same thing over and over, your brain starts to pay less attention to what you’re doing and the body sinks into the most comfortable – not effective – running style, which often pushes you into shuffling.
To break this up and get your brain back on the job, all you need to do is alternate turning your toes in and out with every stride for 100 metres or so.
This simple change to what your body is doing is often enough to wake up the hips and pull you out of the shuffle.
You don’t have to do it for long, but you can it as often as is necessary throughout your race. You’ll be amazed at the difference it makes.
Tip #3: Go long
In a similar way to how tip #2 breaks up the monotony, striding out for a few paces can help too, although if you’re shuffling, be careful trying to stride further as this can stretch your hip flexors just that bit too far which may cause you problems. I’d recommend first doing tip #2, then striding out for a few paces, then settling back into your running.
Struggling through the shuffle and forcing your body to keep going may get you to the end of the race, but it’ll be thoroughly unpleasant and take a huge amount of mental effort when your body is already fatigued. Do you really want to finish a race like that?
It’s much less effort and therefore much more pleasant to use the body’s natural behaviours to get the results you want, leaving you free to enjoy the race and the occasion – especially if the location for your race is stunning.
You can do a huge amount to help this shuffling issue before your race even starts though. The Lower Back Pain Solution, Hip Flexors 5 Ways and Adductor Tightness Videos in your FREE mostmotion® account will give you a great head start. If you haven’t got a FREE account yet, simply fill in your email address below to get started.