Running can be the most challenging leg of a triathlon for many athletes. Not because the time it takes to improve (think building strength on the bike), the technique needed (think swimming) but because many people struggle with how they can become a faster and more efficient runner. Many people struggle with how can they get faster and more efficient on race day. The other issue facing many athletes is avoiding running injuries that are more likely to occur over swimming or cycling injuries.
It is critical that you remain consistent in your running training. Week in week out throughout your race build, remaining consistent is the fundamental rule to becoming a better runner. Consistency not only helps you become fitter and faster but the more you train your running muscles building strength in the weak areas the lower the chances of you becoming injured. It is also important to add variation to your run program. No matter how many easy runs you do per week eventually your improvements will stagnate and this is where speed, fartlek, strength endurance, long runs and runs of the bike are important sessions to add to your running program.
To get faster, you need to run faster and this means getting uncomfortable in training. Some staple speed sessions include 12x 400s with a 200m float (a very easy paced run). 4-6X1kms with a 200m float or a pyramid set of 1km, 800m, 400m, 400m, 800m, 1km with 200m float. The focus of the session needs to be on running at race pace over the distance of the interval, and this means yes, you will get uncomfortable.
A fartlek session is another type of speed session that introduces faster running in training. Fartlek training is a perfect way to switch gears and build tolerance to changing speeds and comfort levels. A popular fartlek session is known as the ‘Mona Fartlek’. It consists of 2x90sec, 4x60sec intervals, 4x30sec intervals and 4x15sec intervals with a tempo recovery of the same duration between each repetition. Fartlek sessions can also be an easier way mentally to add speed into your program if doing speed work alone as the run can be done on a scenic route as opposed to around a track.
Hill repeats add strength and muscular endurance to your running training. It is as simple as finding a hill that allows either a short sharp effort or a sustained strength effort depending on your goals. Jog down as recovery and repeat for 4-6 efforts. Ensure adequate warm up and cool down is completed around 10-20 minutes each side.
A long run is a critical and integral part of your running program. The major benefit of a long run is it allows you to increase your VO2 max and aerobic efficiency that is critical to endurance sports such as triathlon. You’ll need to recruit a seriously good running friend as your long run needs to be completed at a conversational pace (around <80% max heart rate) or a good playlist should set you up for the longer days pounding the pavement.
Run of the bike
You do it on race day and it needs to be practiced in training. It is good to try and incorporate a short run off your long ride. To start with think short and easy, stay relaxed and get used to the feeling of coming of a big ride and onto a run. A good starting point is 20 mins. As you progress and get more comfortable you can increase time and pace. Make sure you add these runs to your total run mileage for the week and adjust other training sessions to avoid over training and injury.
These sessions should add some direction and purpose to improve your running training. With the high injury risk of running ensure you are listening to your body and gradually increase your mileage and intensity of sessions. To stay as bulletproof as possible on the run strength training in the gym is also a critical component to consider adding to your training.