Pre-season drills to build leanness and strength

Race faster this triathlon season with our focussed workouts


Want to clock a new PB this race season? Then you’ll need a leaner physique for running and a stronger body for biking. Joe Beer shows you how to become a lean, mean racing machine… 


 Now is also the ideal time to think about last year’s performances and how you want to better them. And whether you want a new PB, faster times or a coveted age-group medal, there are two key things that can help you – becoming leaner and stronger. 

It’s a hard message, but when it comes to running, your performance is primarily affected by your body mass. To put it bluntly, the less chub you have, the faster you’ll go. Running is the last section of the race, when you’re most fatigued, so the less weight you have to carry the better. Think about the most balanced, fastest triathletes on the scene and you’ll notice they look lean, even if some are stockier than a pure runner. So leanness then, is our first goal.

Our second goal is strength. To be strong on the bike means you will have better fatigue-resistance and a bigger number of watts to provide during the bike split. Good biking prowess accounts for a huge component of race-day performance – usually at least 45-50% of total time. Granted, during a triathlon it must be a controlled biking effort, but a bigger, stronger engine means faster bike splits that won’t affect your improved run physique.

So, to make you as fast as possible in 2014 we need to work on two things: a leaner physique for running and a stronger physique for biking. Here are two drills to help you achieve just that… 


Triathlete running


Get your turbo trainer, road bike, running or rowing kit organised the night before. Start as soon as you can after waking up – green tea or black coffee allowed, but no sports drinks, food or milk in your hot drink(s). 


Take this easy, it’s not long since you woke up. Gradually move from low- to mid-Z1 (60 to 70% HRmax) over 10-20mins in your chosen activity. Never rush this bit!

Main session

Continuous 30-80mins at 65 to 80% of maximum HR. Don’t aim for a set pace, work at a pace that best suits your body. You’re using a slow-burn fuel, so don’t worry about race pace, what other people you might see out training might think or what you did last time you completed the session. Use water or zero-calorie drinks.


Allow time to come back down to your early-morning mode. Relaxed 10mins light effort to stop excessive sweating and until you almost feel cold. 


If you’re going to do this, and you’re outside, move indoors before starting.

Post session

Shower, change and ideally delay food intake until 40mins after training has stopped. Low glycaemic foods like oats plus milk are ideal.


Turbo trainer


Race bike on turbo trainer with towel, sports drink, shoes already attached and some music to motivate you or ride to. Have a carbohydrate snack 1-2hrs before the session. 


Take this easy, you’re not working hard yet. Low-to-mid Z1 over 10mins. Then 10mins gradually increasing the gear towards an upper Z1, 85rpm training effort.

Main session

Continuous 40mins mostly at 65 to 75% of maximum HR. Follow a pattern of 5mins in the biggest gear (for example, 53 x 15) grinding at 60rpm, followed by 5mins of light spinning on the small chainring (for example, 39 x 16). Sip your drink as your thirst indicates.

You’ll need to experiment with the biggest possible gear – the key factor here is that you’re at 60rpm, grinding the gear but keeping it smooth. Vary between using and not using aerobars to develop power in slightly different riding positions.


Allow time to reduce heat build-up and loosen the legs. Do 10mins light effort until excessive sweating has stopped and you’re just about starting to feel cold.

Brick run

If you going to do this, you should change quickly to run shoes and run steady for 5-15mins. 

Post session 

Shower, change and eat a meal of high carbs with quality protein.

(Images: Jonny Gawler)


Like these drills? Head to our Training section for more advice!