Cycle to Run Transition: What is Happening, Why This is Important & What We Need to Know!

One of the biggest stressors in triathlon, is also such a dynamic concept of the sport. This comes from the cycle to run transition. Let’s think about the sport in general: Triathlon is based on the endurance and strength of an individual.

Endurance: The ability to endure an unpleasant or difficult process or situation without giving way, and the capacity of something to last or to withstand wear and tear.

Strength: The quality of being physically strong, and the capacity to withstand great force or pressure.

Unfortunately, 80-85% of injuries in endurance sport are attributed to overuse. With more than 70% of injuries that occur whilst training and competing in triathlon attributed to running (1). Seems like the body tends to struggle on enduring things when we neglect working on them properly.

We ask a lot out of our bodies in training and racing, which is why we need the correct tools to endure this sport safely and efficiently.

Let’s check out the math on this:

After your swim, you hop on that bike thankful you didn’t have to get picked up by a kayak.

  • – If you pedal at around 90rpms, that will be around 10,800 pedal strokes per leg in a 2 hour training ride.
  • – If you can knock out around 8 hours per week on the bike when you train, this equates to around 43,200 pedal strokes. IN A WEEK.
  • – Race day – if you can get off the bike in about 5 hours 30 minutes, your going to manage around 29,700 pedal strokes BEFORE hitting the ground running.

Let’s think about running (which of course requires the body to load and distribute impact forces).

  • – If your cadence is around 90 steps per minute, you’ll average about 5,400 strikes per minute in ONE HOUR on ONE LEG. Whew.
  • – So, if you tack on a 4 hour 15 min marathon finish AFTER cycling for around 6 hours, you’re giving your body about 22,950 foot strikes after the huge day that is IRONMAN.

Think that’s nothing? Well, your body will think otherwise unless you’ve trained appropriately for this. That brings us to our main point. How to manage the cycle to run transition, and how to allow the body to endure this the correct way.

Once we get off that bike after many hours in the seated position, we then hit the ground running which requires the highest energy demand. This is unfortunate since after the bike we naturally will be more fatigued, have depleted glycogen levels and we will need to get that blood flow redistributed! Notoriously we all hop off that bike and end up running slightly faster than we should, or unable to pace ourselves properly. It makes sense due to the proprioception of what our body is doing being so low!

Sitting in those aerobars for an extended amount of time places the body in a prolonged period of hip flexion and core fatigue, which can create increase in tightness through the front of the hip and pelvis.

For the run, this can cause an increase in the anterior pelvic tilt, and a decrease in hip flexion. Unfortunately, these two items are linked to a few major running injuries. When those hips and quads are tight causing our pelvis to be rotated incorrectly, we lose optimal power at toe off which will decrease our running performance. This will also cause low back tightness which we all have felt one time or another! Having a neutral pelvis will help with shock absorption. When the pelvis is compromised through injury, fatigue or muscle breakdown, this will place huge stressors through the hip, knee and ankle joints. It will be nearly impossible to load the joints evenly for force distribution. The core fatigue and breakdown throughout that day will be a major factor when trying to keep the body’s center of mass in alignment as well. We may end up seeing increased upper body shift, shoulder sway, uneven hip load along with lack of hip extension at toe off.

We want to note, this is not the only thing causing tightness, fatigue or pain in the cycle to run transition, or through-out training. There are many other factors that we can help eliminate or provide answers to when doing a cycle to run analysis at Optimize Performance.

The good news?? There are drills, mobility work and strength movements to help make the bike to run transition safe and efficient through-out training and on race day!

Contact Optimize Performance for more details on ways to help prevent running injuries off the bike. Come in for cycling testing to measure VLaMax, Threshold, VO2, Nutrient Combustion and find your Specific Wattage and Pacing for training, then hop off the bike and go out for a run while we follow you and perform our ‘in the field’ running analysis!


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