Want to be a successful triathlete at every distance? You may want to check your hip flexabilty.
Checkout the side by side shot of Craig Alexander and Alister Brownlee. These men are the two king pins of triathlon right now. Alistar Brownlee races Olympic triathlon series and Craig Alexander races the half and full Ironman distance. Both are at the top of their games and rarely lose a race.
In terms of running, Brownlee has amazing hip flexibility that allows him to run 30:XX for a 10km (after the bike and swim!). Alexander is no slouch posting 32:XX in similar length races. After ‘exercising’ for 5 hours, like in Ironman Kona, his hip angles are much smaller which takes away from his ability to run faster.
In biomechanical terms, running fast comes down to who can produce the most power consistently over a given distance. Arms, legs, and hips in unicent make up the forward motion necessary to propel you to the finish line. Hip flexibility is a marker of speed but not the overall determinant.
Brownlee’s flexibility is impressive for an endurance athlete as he possesses the hip mobility of a 400m sprinter. For Brownlee to keep a 95 degree angle throughout his run after his bike and swim is phenomenal. It’s also where I think future Ironman athletes need to work to help lesson their times.
Alexander recently broke the Kona record for the fastest finish. His marathon run time at this race, a 2:44:03 is respectable in a very tough conditions. To improve and beat this record, I think Alexander has to run faster as the bike and swim times are almost topped out. If Alexander could keep a 80+ degree hip angle through the marathon, we could see a major drop in the 8:03 total time he posted at Kona.
Do you run like Brownlee or Alexander?
To have a look at your hip flexibility, get someone to take a side shot of you running at various speeds. See if there is a difference.
The future of triathlon is to run like Brownlee.