You feel good coming out of the water with an adrenaline-fueled start to the race. You jump off your bike pleased with your pace and cadence. And then: bonk! Those first steps of the run your legs feel like they are made of cement. The bike to run transition is the hardest in the sport. It is the test of your training and preparation. Now you will discover if you have put in the necessary work, if you did the right type of work, and if you will have what it takes to stay in the race and fly by your competition.

Training for the run segment of a triathlon may seem simple; however, putting in the right run workouts can make all the difference. How often should you run? What type of running should you do? Making the right plan can be simple and very rewarding on race day.

WHY SHOULD TRIATHLETES HAVE A RUNNING ROUTINE?

OVERALL ENDURANCE

runners running in a marathon race

Image via Pixabay

As one-third of the race, running is an obviously an important component of training for a triathlon. Outside of a race, running offers overall health and endurance benefits as well. Running is a great way to improve your overall cardiovascular health and endurance. Perhaps the greatest benefit of running is how much it aids in losing weight. Being lighter and leaner will help you last longer no matter which discipline you are training in.

PLAN TO WIN

people watching Padova marathon during daytime

Image by Pietro Rampazzo via Unsplash

How often should you run is often a matter of what you are training for and what your goal is. Your plan for training for the run portion of your triathlon race should be related to the distance you are planning and the final time you are aiming for. This will help you decide on the pace you must hold for the run leg. Considering the distance, total time, and target pace, you can come up with a running routine that is specific to you and your goals. You would not bake a cake without a recipe, you would not head out on a trip without a map, and you should not establish your running routine without a well thought-out plan.

TO THINE OWN SELF BE TRUE

man running with no.178 ID

Image by Quino Al via Unsplash

Let’s face it, some days you simply don’t want to run. You face the next phase of your training and just decide you do not have the will to go after it. Maybe you will just stay in bed. Maybe you will skip today’s training and just do some short time on the bike. Having a routine and a plan for your running that is reasonable and has specific training and rest days will help you stay on track and true to your race goals.

If you can establish a routine, you can train your body for what to expect based on how often should you run. You will be ready to train on the right days. On race day you will reap the rewards of having a good routine.

MOST IMPORTANT RUN WORKOUTS FOR TRIATHLETES

Variety: More Than the Spice of Life

Having a plan and a routine for how often should you run is the right commitment for success in your race; but, it will greatly improve your ability to reach your goals if you include the right kind of workouts as part of your routine. Going out and mindlessly pounding the pavement at a steady pace will not deliver the improvement you are seeking in your fitness, endurance, and speed. In order to round out your running skill completely, your run training should include the following:

  • Long runs
  • Progressive pace runs
  • Speed training
  • Brick runs

LONG RUNS

No matter the distance of the race you want to complete, you will want to ensure you have the endurance to finish and have the strength and correct form so that you do not come up short. You will want to build up distances on your long runs over time. Do not try to go too far too early in your training and risk hurting yourself or becoming discouraged.

Start with a distance or time that you can handle and only takes a day or two to recover from. Then, begin adding 10% each week to your runs in either time or distance. You want to work up to a distance that is about 50% longer than the run leg of the race you are aiming for. How often should you run your "long run"? Start with one per week early on, perhaps two at your peak training, and reduce to one, shorter long run two weeks before your race.

PROGRESSIVE PACE RUNS

If there is one thing that you know for sure on race day it is this: as the run leg goes on it will feel harder and harder. To prepare yourself both mentally and physically for the run segment, you should mix in progressive pace runs. In these runs, you start off at a comfortable pace where you can keep your heart rate nice and low. With each successive half-mile or mile (depending on your race distance) you will slightly increase your pace. Continue picking up your pace until the very last mile and try to make each mile faster than the one before. These runs can be shorter (by about half) than your long runs, but you will want to put in the complete effort to keep that mile pace from dropping.

SPEED TRAINING

Here is a painful truth: if you cannot run fast… it's because you do not run fast. While the logic of that statement may be in question, the facts are not. If your body never feels the strain and effort it takes to run truly fast, then your pace times will never drop by the amount you have set out for yourself.

Speed training - very short runs at 100% effort followed by even longer periods of rest - will help your body learn what it feels like to go faster than your normal pace. It will give you the strength and confidence to pick it up on your long runs. How often should you run? Well, if it does not include speed training, it may as well be not at all!

BRICK RUNS

Triathlons are fun and challenging because of the variety. Training for a triathlon gives you the chance for variety in your training and means you won’t get bored just doing the same thing every day. You must train your body for that challenge and variety. Coming off the bike and into the run in a triathlon is similar to other sports. Your run training should include efforts where you run after your bike rides. These combined bike-and-run training sessions are called brick workouts. Mix in a mid-distance run with an easier bike ride occasionally to prepare yourself for that feeling.

HOW OFTEN SHOULD YOU RUN?


NOT LIKE IT IS YOUR JOB

In training for your triathlon, you clearly need to be well-trained in not just running, but in swimming and bicycling as well. Not to mention, your body will need two days with no training in order to recover. It is important that you have at least one day each week where you only rest.


Where Are You?

Where you are in your training and how far off your race day is can also dictate how often should you run. Early on when your race is far off, one long run per week may be sufficient. Taking advantage of the time, you can have more off-days per week as your body adjusts to the new demands of training.

man wearing red suit running on road

Image by Victoire Joncheray via Unsplash

At the peak of your triathlon training, you should be including at least two run-training sessions per week. In fact, on your toughest weeks, three run-training sessions would be reasonable with one long run, one progressive/speed training, and one brick run on one of your cycling days too. Within three weeks of your race, be sure to bring your training back down to just twice per week and lower your distance/time so you are ready and rested for race day.


Listen to Your Body

The best person to ask how often should you run is yourself! Your body is wise and it can tell you a lot about how much you are running and how often should you run. If you are taking over two days to recover from any run-training, skip or reduce your next run day to take care of your body.

CONCLUSION

“My legs are made of stone!” You do not want to be this racer on the day of your big triathlon. Going from the bike to the run never feels good, but with the right training and knowledge how often should you run, you can make life and racing a lot easier for yourself. Be sure to include all the specific trainings. Keep the amount and how often you run within limits and appropriate to where you are in your training. Listen to your body to know when you are running too often or not often enough. Once you have your plan, stick to it, and follow through. On race day you will feel like a champion.

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