My friend Jonathan Rohr passed away unexpectedly Thursday at the far too young age of 25. He was working to pro triathlete status and going to med school in Antigua. Jon was full of inspiration and an energy that would leave anyone with a big smile. I was fortunate enough to train with Jon and have my butt kicked by him several times. His passion and skill for triathlon were incredible. He enjoyed reading my blog and always talked about doing a series of guest posts to help my readers with their training. He sent me the first in the series but for some reason I kept it in my inbox… never posting it.
Finally, a most special guest post, in honor of Jon.
Imagine a Ferrari- but one that is dirty, dented, and worn out. It has all the trappings of a luxurious sports car, but it just isn’t turning heads like it should. The same is true for an athlete with improper mechanics. Hard work lays a great foundation, but proper mechanics ensure that glossy shine that makes it all look perfect.
Improving your mechanics in swimming, cycling, and running will allow you to go faster and reduce the risk of injury.
While sitting at your computer, look forward, keep your shoulders parallel, and stick your right arm straight ahead. Now rotate your body so that you right shoulder is in front of you, and your left shoulder is behind you. See how much further your arm stuck out? Proper rotating and reaching is step 1 in perfecting your stroke. By rolling your body you are placing the leading shoulder forward, thus allowing your arm to reach further forward as well. This results in a longer stroke, and greater efficiency. Another benefit is that the roll allows an air pocket to form by your face on the exposed side, and it will require much less effort to get your head out of the water to breathe. If you aren’t rolling, then every time you move your head to get a breath you’re bending.
|Bending causes more drag, slowing you down. Instead, keep your spine straight and rotate. This decreases drag and increases stroke length, making you go faster.|
Another bad habit many swimmers have is leaving their hips low in the water, resulting in poor hydrodynamics. Keep your hips high, you should feel air on your butt. A way to trick yourself into doing this is to try and “swim downward”.
The last issue I notice is improper stroke style. The “windmill stroke” misconception is as widespread as it is wrong.
|WRONG! This type of stroke results in force being wasted pushing down and pulling back up. In addition to wasting energy, this makes the swimmer bob up and down in the water, leading to more drag, and even more wasted energy.|
|CORRECT! This type of stroke allows maximal force to be spent pushing water behind you.|
To do a proper stroke, be sure to keep your upper arm parallel with the surface of the water, swinging your arm wide as shown in the picture.
When we first learned to ride a bike, we did so on open pedals, pushing down with one leg at a time. This is a hard habit to break.
The advantage clips provide is that they allow the rider to push down and pull back up, using more of the muscles in the leg. Using a large amount of muscles moderately is more efficient than using a few muscles aggressively.
|Proper pedal stroke.|
To achieve this, many suggest that you pretend your scrapping something off the bottom of your foot. It is also helpful to monitor where you are feeling pressure in your foot. When you are getting the most of each pedal stroke, you will feel pressure on the ball of your feet, then a slight amount on the heel, followed by the top of your foot, and finally the back to the ball of your foot again.
Another great method of improving your cycling habits is to try a fixed gear setup. In a fixed gear bike, the pedals move as long as the wheels are moving. Many spinners have this setup, and the spin classes themselves can be a lot of fun!
Bad running form is abundant, and can be detrimental to your body in the short and long term. Poor form such as heel strike could lead to a stress fracture. Over time it will result in increased degradation of knee and hip joints, which could leave you feeling old and lethargic long before you should. I take proper running form very seriously because when I’m old and grey I want to be just like this guy.
RUNNING LIKE THIS IS WRONG.
I refuse to even post the the picture on my blog directly, out of fear that some quick-glancer will see it and think that’s how a runner should look. What’s crazy is that I’ve seen this stock photo used in billboards and ads all over the place. The runner in the picture is over-striding, leading to heel strike. Heel strike is when the heel is the first part of your foot to hit the ground.
Why heel strike is the devil!!
- It slows you down. Putting your heel down far in front of your center of gravity is like hitting the brakes with every step. In fact, this is exactly what a runner does to stop. If you look at finish line photos, most people will be heel striking (which in this situation is OK, because they are actually trying to stop).
- It is bad for your tibia, fibula, knees, femur, and hips. When you heel strike you are not allowing your foot to absorb any impact, and you’re sending all that force right up your leg. This results in excessive and unnecessary stress being placed upon your body, risking injury and long-term degradation.
|The athlete on the left has locked his leg straight, is landing far in front of his center of gravity, and heel striking. The athlete on the right is landing just in front of his center of gravity, legs slightly bent, and mid-foot striking.|