How Often Should I Run Off the Bike?
How Often Should I Run Off the Bike? By Mary Timoney, Ironman University Certified Coach
For most triathletes the toughest part of the race is after the transition from bike to run. The legs are quite tired from the cycling effort, the athlete has put forth a tremendous amount of work, and now he/she is faced with a long run. The best way to prepare for the run after T2 is to practice this effort often and get comfortable running on tired legs.
During the cycling portion of the race, the body is in a flexed position for quite some time. The athlete is leaning forward on the elbows in the aero position for typically 3 to 6 hours during an iron distance event. The main muscle groups used are the quads as they are pushing and pulling the pedals. At T2 this is the first time the athlete has stood vertical for several hours and now they are asking their body to completely shift muscle groups and extend the hip flexors from that flexed position to standing. The hip flexor muscles are now in a more extended position after being extremely flexed for hours. The muscles used in running are now recruited while the legs feel like jelly, and must get used to being vertical once again. I always tell my athletes to ease into the run for that first mile or so (unless of course it is a sprint effort) to let their leg muscles get acquainted with the new body position.
The question is how often should we practice running off the bike?
Practice makes perfect. Like I said above, the best way to train for the legs feeling like “jelly” is to practice running off the bike often. For Sprint or Olympic athletes, I start out their program with just one short mid- week brick workout per week, and as we progress I add another brick after the long ride on the weekend. The mid-week brick is usually an hour ride with a 15-20 minute run off the bike. The pace is usually aerobic in the beginning but as we move into the peak weeks of the program, I increase the pace of the run. The weekend brick is generally a 1-2 hour ride followed by a 30 minute run. If an athlete really wants more or is seriously looking at a podium finish, I will add a 3rd mid-week short brick effort during the peak weeks of training. To summarize, Sprint or Olympic athletes will always get at least 2 bricks from me, and sometimes a third during the peak weeks depending on athlete performance goals.
For Iron distance athletes, I always have them do a shorter mid-week brick with a 1 hour and 15 minute ride followed by a 15 to 30 minute run. Since most folks are more pressed for time during the week, I don’t make this effort much more than 1 hour and 30 minutes total. I save the longer brick for the weekend and it is always after the long ride. The duration of the run for this effort is anywhere from 30 min to 2 hours depending on where we are in the mesocycle. Typically, my iron distance athletes do a long ride followed by a run on Saturday and then their long run on Sundays. If an athlete still wants more, I will add a short 30 to 45 minute bike ride, usually on the trainer, before the Sunday long run. In a nut shell, I always give at least 2 bricks (short and long) for iron distance athletes, and sometimes a 3rdbrick on Sundays depending on the competitive level of the athlete.
Often I give my athletes what I call a “revolving brick” workout. It involves riding the same 6 mile loop several times and building the run after each loop. For example, ride the loop at race pace, transition at the track and run half a mile. Ride the loop just below race pace, transition at the track and run 1 mile. Ride the loop again followed by a 1.5 mile run. The combinations for this workout are endless and it gets athletes accustomed to running on tired legs.
I guess you could say I am a huge fan of bike to run workouts because the transition from bike to run is the hardest part of the race for most athletes. I’ve had beginner athletes tell me that when they dismounted from their bike that their legs felt so tired that they questioned if they could even complete the run. Regular brick workouts build confidence running on tired legs so on race day it doesn’t seem so physically and mentally overwhelming.
Now you know the secret to achieving the fastest possible getaway on foot after the bike. Enjoy your bricks!
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