If you have ever watched the final miles of the marathon portion of an Ironman race, you probably saw some athletes struggling and running with their head down, their torso bent forward at the waist, and their feet scraping along the ground as they painfully made some semblance of forward motion. This is called the Ironman shuffle. It’s caused when the hip flexors experience extreme fatigue and as a result, the legs lose their ability to lift properly. While this is an extreme example, if you have limited flexibility in your hip flexors, your running stride will suffer.
In a recent training tip, I discussed the role that the hip flexors and glutes play in leg turn over, foot push-off, and range of motion in the leg stride. The hip flexors are a group of muscles located deep in the groin and hip area. These muscles are responsible for posture and leg swing mobility, including leg lift. Regardless of what distance you’re racing, you need to stretch and strengthen these muscles as part of your normal training routine.
Wanna know if your running stride is good or bad? Listen to your feet when you run. If you’re running properly, your “stick time” or the amount of time your feet are in contact with the ground, should be quick. Touch and go. And you should not hear any scraping sounds. It should feel like you have a spring in your step. If you do hear your shoes scraping the ground, your feet are sliding too much and you’re wasting energy and speed. To correct this problem focus on your foot push-off from the ground as well as the range of motion of your stride. And work on those hip flexors!
Train smart., Race fast.