Triathlon Training: Running

You’re two-thirds of the way through a triathlon — onto the final stage. Your legs are sore; your breathing is heavy. The only thing standing between you and a well-earned rest is a run to the finish line.

Unfortunately, this is no quick dash around a track, and without the right training beforehand, this stage can kill your overall race time. This guide will provide insight into preparing for the final leg of a triathlon: The run. Included  are some tips in regards to training, equipment, and how to get the most out of the final stretch of a race.

Mix it Up

Proper equipment maintenance should be as important as all your other training habits. You must make sure it is well-adapted and well-maintained. For example, adequate running shoes are important for efficient, injury-free running.

A common misconception is that distance racing (like in a tri) requires exclusively training for distance. Although distance training is beneficial, a mixture of aerobic and anaerobic training is ultimately best for performance gains. Despite the aerobic nature of these races, there will undoubtedly be occasions that call for an all-out effort, such as a sprint through the finish.

To prepare for these situations, it’s important to simulate the conditions while training. For example, run a 5k at 85-percent intensity, followed by a couple of 400 and 200-meter sprints at max effort. Mixing up the routines and intensity will spark muscle confusion and exercise all ranges of cardiovascular functionality. The 5k run at 85 percent will train aerobic capacity, while the sprints will train anaerobic capacity.

Chafing is Not Comfortable

Distance runners often experience chafing in a variety of areas on the body — primarily on the inner-thigh where the legs rub together, and on the nipples. There are several ways to avoid the potential discomfort chafing can cause:

  • Wear run-friendly attire. Spandex compression shorts are great for avoiding any chafing in the upper-thigh area. This material also holds up well in water, so it can be worn through the swimming portion of the race, too.
  • Nipple chafing generally affects males more than it does females, as the sports bra eliminates this issue with females. It occurs because the shirt bounces up and down on the body and rubs against the nipples with each running step. It’s common to see inexperienced runners come in from a distance event with bloody nipples as a result of this situation.

To avoid nipple chafing, triathletes and runners alike have been known to tape their nipple to provide an extra protective layer. Beyond that plan, male runners can always remove their shirt and run topless. With that strategy, however, you can run the risk of excessive sun exposure. Ultimately, it’s best for triathletes to remember all of this during training and come up with a solution that suits them.

Old, Trustworthy Shoes Prevail

Far too often, triathletes purchase new gear as a result of panicking for an upcoming race. They think new equipment will provide an edge to help overcome the daunting race ahead. In reality, these purchases often cause more harm than help — especially when it comes to shoes. Racing with new and unfamiliar shoes can often lead to blisters, something no one wants during a race (especially if it’s just the beginning of the course).

Your old, reliable shoes have been broken in already, and your body has adjusted to working in them. This isn’t to say that race-specific shoes are detrimental; if you have the resources for training in race-day shoes, that’s great. However, if you decide to go that route, it's best to take time to familiarize yourself with, and break in, your racing shoes so no surprises are left for race-day.

No Running Can Make You Faster

Obviously, running practice (whether it is anaerobic or aerobic) will eventually make you a better runner. However, there are alternatives to the monotony of relentless running:

  • Plyometric exercises, such as box jumps or burpees, offer great cardiovascular conditioning, as well as a new environment for anaerobic training.
  • If your knees are beginning to feel the wear of constant running, rest your legs and hop on the resistance rower. It will make for a great cardio workout.

As a triathlete, it’s important to train your legs for muscular exhaustion, so running on already tired legs can lead to some progress. However, when you begin to approach the signs of overtraining, it’s best to let your body rest and recover. That’s when it’s best to take advantage of these cardio-improving running substitutes.

Pull, Don’t Push

Hot Tip: Don't Stop

If possible, try not to stop running during the race — even for a quick break or to slow down to walking pace. Stopping in the middle of your run will allow the muscles to constrict and tighten up, something you do not want to happen during the competition. If you find yourself too tired to continue to run, slow down to a light and easy jog. Even the slowest jog is still better than walking.

Like any athletic endeavor, developing technique takes practice. Running is no exception. A particular running technique that’s growing in popularity among endurance athletes and sprinters alike is the POSE method, developed by Dr. Nicholas Romanov. In essence, it calls for runners to strike the ground with the balls of their feet rather than their heels. This method also has runners pull their back foot up from the ground into their next stride rather than going with the conventional back-foot push off the ground. This style of running draws most energy from the hamstrings and calves, rather than the quads (which should be spent from the bike ride).

It’s All About Variety

When training for your run, it’s all about changing up your routine to provide the maximum amount of versatility. Long-distance, high-intensity, running alternatives can be implemented into a successful running program, keeping workouts fresh and interesting. Evaluate your running program and assess its repetitiveness. If you find yourself completing the same workout again and again, begin to change things up with a variety of run-related workouts.

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