1 BUILDING BRICKS
You must remember that triathlon running isn’t the same as running. It’s important to know in our game how well you run subsequent to the first two components of the game. So a brick session is ideal for meeting or exceeding demands of competition.
2 MODELLING SPEED
It’s good to model behaviour and teach the athlete the pace that they need to run at. You want to run 42mins for 10km. That breaks down as around 4:12mins/km. So run that but break it up so it’s manageable. That might mean running 10 x 1km at 4:12min pace with a 1min rest between. Or do it as
4 x 10:30mins with a 1min walk in-between.
3 MAXIMISE RESOURCES
The UK presents fantastic opportunities for running over a variety of terrain and conditions, especially as you pommes have open access to a lot of land, even if it’s in private hands! So try off-road running. It’ll increase what I term your running vocabulary (skills, fitness…). Extending your vocabulary and running across a number of platforms help you to reach your goals.
4 WATCHING YOU
Have a biomechanist or physio observe your run action and then set about improving technique. Sometimes just reducing your knee angle on landing and having a faster turnover can improve your run.
5 WIDEN STRIDE RATE
I know a lot of coaches who use treadmills to develop cadence and cadence bandwidth. Why? As an analogy, it’s like moving pieces of firewood. If you’ve 1,000 pieces of firewood to move, you could do 10 reps of 100 but you might be smashed after the third 100. Or you might do 100 reps of 10 and find it easier. In tri it’s the same. If you have a good cadence range, it’ll come in handy when you’re fatigued. A treadmill is a good place to build this, to develop stride rate and have you working out a bandwidth that you can sustain fatigued or fresh.
6 COUNTING STRIDES
You can measure stride rate in several ways. With a simple wristwatch, count how many strides you take in 15secs and multiply that by four. Or use an advanced training tool that measures cadence like those from Garmin and Polar.
Joining a club with good coaches will improve technique, too. It’s a matter of screening what you do, which could be as basic as a coach’s eye, or something more complex like a video device or iPad recording.
7 INJURY-FREE RUNNING
Consistency of running is key to success. I’ve been with Gwen for six years and, in that time, she hasn’t had one real injury. My analogy is that it doesn’t matter if you take the muffin to a cake-icing competition – it’s still a muffin. The secret is consistency and then icing on the cake. Staying injury-free can be as fundamental as looking after your soft tissue by massage.
8 CHOOSE THE RIGHT COACH
Our sport isn’t one + one + one = three. It’s one + one + one = 55. The comparative stresses are exponential. Often people in individual sports might think they have the solution for you based on, say, their experience as a swim coach. But that’s measuring success by what they do, not what we do. Work with people who are working with triathletes.
9 FOOTWEAR VARIETY
You should have a pair of shoes for longer distances and one for shorter efforts and racing. It’s hard to put a numerical value on how long those shoes will last, but understand that they compress and take time to return to their normal state. So have a couple pairs of longer [more cushioned] shoe if you’re running a lot.
10 SHADOW THE CHAMP
As identified with Alistair Brownlee’s off-road work, having good proprioception really adds to your run performance. Don’t just look at how fast you’re running or what your heart rate is doing. Enjoy the process of noting where your feet land.
11 GREEN LIGHT FOR LSD
There should be four run sessions in your ‘run vocabulary’: long, slow distance (LSD); tempo, which is a bit slower than race pace; race pace; and faster than race pace. Ultimately, that LSD session is the most vital for age-groupers because we’re an endurance sport so ensure you have one LSD each week. The rest is up to you. You need the capacity to generate work over a sustained period of time.
12 TAKE IT EASY… AND RUN DAMN HARD
Do your easy runs easy and your hard runs hard. Using Gwen as an example, she runs 16km easy on a Sunday. She’ll start out at 5:30min/km pace and increase speed to maybe 4:45min/km pace. For Gwen, that’s really easy. Remember: in a tri, she’s looking at around 16mins for 5km. But I know age-group guys who’ll run 22mins for a 5km sprint run and will be running much faster than Gwen on a Sunday morning… but they can’t change pace. Gwen’s bandwidth is huge.
13 RUN-WALK BEGINNINGS
I’m a big fan of a run-walk strategy at the start of an age-group session. Maybe do 9mins of running and 1min of walking just to reboot and refresh. It’ll prepare you for the set ahead.
14 RUN TO THE BEAT
Music’s a great tool for motivation and increasing stride rate. There are apps where you can listen to the beat you’re aspiring to, which might be 80spm (strides per minute). So an iPod is handy but don’t let it become a crutch as they’re banned for races.
15 OUTLOOK CHANGE
Turn your run training around and focus on good technique instead of other fitness parameters.
16 REGULAR WARM-UP
If I throw a basketball at you and you’re unaware I’ve filled it with water, you’ll drop it because your brain is only tuned into catching an air-filled ball. It’s the same with a warm-up – you need to activate mind and muscle.
17 TAKE IT SLOW
Be mindful of training load when increasing run volume as you still have two other disciplines to train for. That fatigue can build up, so take it slow to avoid injury
18 LOVE TO WALK
Incorporating 30-60secs of walking every 5-10mins during longer runs can help you focus on key self-coaching points. You’ll get more out of less and likely have less fatigue the next day. As for walking, aim for around 60 stride cycles per minute as a starting point.
19 METHODICAL PLANNING
Your long run on a Sunday should be at a pace to prepare you for your hard run on the Tuesday. Don’t spend your ‘hard running money’ on Sunday as it’ll tire you too much and jeopardise the quality of your harder Tuesday effort.