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Speeding Up Your Triathlon Run

By Joan Scrivanich

runIf you love to run and you come from a running background, then you probably can’t wait to get to the run leg of a triathlon. But if running is your weakness or you don’t enjoy it as much, you may dread that last leg of a triathlon thinking the best is behind you. Well, no matter how you feel about running, there are things you can do to make the best of both your training and the run segment of a triathlon.

Running after riding a bike is different from running on fresh legs. Your legs will feel heavy or like rubber bands. Experience and brick workouts help us get used to that feeling. Good running form will also help because you'll run more efficiently. This means you use less energy at the same pace you would run with bad form. You’ll also be less prone to injury.

Of course, no one is as fast after a hard bike ride compared to a stand alone run, so your goal is to make that difference as small as possible. Here are a few ways to accomplish this:

  • If cycling is your weakness, become stronger on the bike so that you're not as fatigued when you get to the run.
  • If running is your weakness, focus more on your run training. Maybe add a day of extra running to your schedule.
  • Practice bike-run bricks.
  • Include core work and strength into your training to help stabilize your body while running and contribute to better running form.
  • Include intervals in your training to teach your body to run with more efficiency.
  • When you get toward the end of the bike during a race, start thinking about the transition and make that mental switch from being a cyclist to being a runner.
  • Use the last part of the bike leg to switch to an easier gear and stretch out a bit. Get out of the saddle and loosen up those hip flexors.
  • The beginning of the run in a triathlon is very mental. Don’t get discouraged! It helps to break the run up into more manageable chunks. Think of only running one mile at a time or even one block at a time. Whatever distance it is that you feel you can get through, run that distance, and then say to yourself “OK, I was able to run that. I think I’ll run another.” This will make anything from a 5k through a marathon — or even an ultra — easier to get through.

Happy Running!

Joan Scrivanich, MA, CSCS is a USA Triathlon and USA Track & Field Certified Coach as well as a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist. She has a master’s degree in exercise physiology from Columbia University and has been an endurance athlete for 25 years, which has included competing at a Division I college in both cross country and track.

Joan’s coaching career started in the healthcare field while working at the top NYC hospitals in cardiac rehabilitation and research. She now coaches triathletes and runners full time while also coaching fitness clients and freelance writing. Find out more about Joan and her coaching at Rise Endurance LLC at riseendurance.com.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the practices of USA Triathlon. Before starting any new diet or exercise program, you should check with your physician and/or coach.

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