Many runners head to triathlon after being frustrated with injury. The move across is therefore a popular one, as it allows you to retain your competitive spirit, while at the same time easing the pressure on your body.
As a runner, you’ll bring many strengths across to multisport, including a well-developed cardiovascular system, strong tendons and ligaments and the psychological boost of knowing you’re coming in to your favourite discipline when others will be tiring.
It’s the swimming that runners often find most tricky to master, though – and the key thing to be aware of is that water behaves in a very different way to air! It’s difficult to muscle your way through water and increasing your effort does not necessarily mean you go faster, in the same way that it might when running.
Starting swimming at a later age means a lot of technique needs to be learnt – particularly how to become streamlined, how to hold onto and grip the water and how to work with the water rather than fight it. In order to become streamlined swimming requires flexibility and co-ordination through the shoulders, chest and upper back and that may take a while to develop.
It’s technique that runners often struggle with and most would benefit from some initial guidance from a coach. Combine the coaching with feedback from the water, patience and a lot of practice and swimming technique, though, and your speed will gradually improve. Flexibility can be achieved through a well-thought out and targeted stretching programme.
At the opposite end of the body, runners often have strong but tight ankles and feet. This commonly results in an inability to kick efficiently, and if combined with poor glute activation may even result in you kicking and moving backwards! Often a combination of glute activation work and gentle stretching through the ankles, including using fins in the pool, will help overcome this and create a more efficient forward-propelling kick.
If you’re a runner without any serious cycling background, it might take between two to four years of cycling before you start to approach your full potential on two wheels. Again it’s worth demonstrating patience while these improvements come – triathlon is an endurance sport after all and patience is key!
By getting out during the winter to become familiar riding a bike and learning the skills required to corner smoothly, descend quickly and climb strongly, you will soon come to enjoy riding and build enough confidence to compete with a smile.
Runner-to-triathlete training plan
To go from runner to triathlete, keep your running ticking over, but invest time in swimming regularly to maximise the technique gain. Work on your bike pedalling technique and spend time just enjoying being out there riding.
Swim: 60min aerobic endurance/technique
Swim: 30mins technique
Run: 60min intervals
Bike: 60min turbo or rollers, working on cadence and pedalling
Run: 45mins steady
Swim: 30mins technique
Bike: 90min hilly ride
Bike: 2hrs long ride, steady, with 15min run off bike
That wraps up our four-part guide, which also includes an introduction on how to go from one sport to three, and tri-specific advice for swimmers and cyclists