Dave Green writes: "Cycling helps running performance but running does little to improve your cycling" said an injured triathlete to me recently. She was able to do bike training but unable to run for several weeks and had noticed that her bike training, despite not doing much more than usual, had improved significantly, on resumption of running, within six weeks she had set personal bests over three distances in run only races. When the reverse happens (you can run but you can't ride) the cycling fitness plummets.
Armed with this information it became apparent to me that the triathlete should limit his/her run training sessions to very specific work for 3 reasons:
- running does not aid cycling performance
- as triathletes have to balance three sports good time management skills are essential
- I believe each of the three disciplines exerts a 'pull’ away from the other two if the balance of training is changed and one discipline becomes too dominant
I coach primarily triathletes/duathletes but I also advise a fair number of pure runners and what I tend to do is to unite them for three specific sessions each week/fortnight (depending on time of year).
The three key sessions (the big three) that I recommend are as follows:
- The multi-paced track session we use a combination of threee running speeds in any one session and in this order slower than race pace/race pace/faster than race pace so for example your aim was for the Olympic distance, then the pace work would be half-marathon pace/10km pace/5km pace with a total distance of 8000-10000metres worth of work e.g. 5km worth of threshold reps/3km worth of 10km paced reps/and 2m worth of 5km pace work. This is not as tough as it sounds as long as you have developed a strong aerobic system first. Distance of reps/recovery/frequency all depend on the triathlete’s ability and time of year and ultimate aims.
- The hill run - definitely a big winner in my book when it comes down to developing strength quickly. Early season start with just running up and down a hill at a steady pace and as the season progresses move into 3minute hills then 2minute long hills and in the race season a session of say 8x45secs fast uphills hold your strength but also develops speed, form and running economy. Hills are EXCELLENT for honing your running technique and teaching you to hold good form whilst tired.
- The long run - nothing special about this except that I would limit the longest run to twice your race distance (i.e. Olympic distance is finished of with a 10km run so 10km x 2 =20km) with an upper limit of two and a half hours for an ironman distance race, further than this and the risk of injury and excessive tiredness far outweigh the relatively small gains available. On top of this I normally ask my athletes to perform the long run slightly quicker than a pure runner would to maximise the aerobic gains.
Well that's it in a nutshell, the big three, key specific running sessions that should improve your running in every department, making you a better conditioned, more economical, stronger runner. Oh and I forgot to add, the by product of all this is a faster run leg!