As the fourth part of a series of five articles on beginners’ triathlon training, we will go into greater detail on how to structure your running training over a 10-week schedule!
As with the rest of your training, one key word rings throughout the schedule: variety. Variety stimulates your body, and just as importantly it stimulates your mind, which can be a challenge for endurance sports.
So as with the other disciplines of swimming and cycling, your running training will involve at least three sessions every week, each one targeting a different muscle fibre and pace.
Let’s start your week off with a race-pace running session.
As with swimming and cycling, you might want to time your race-pace run over the 10 km distance, time it, note it down and come back to it in 3 weeks to track progress. But you do not want to be running 10 km every week at race pace.
Rather, you will be better off running shorter distances at race pace to ensure that you do not burn out too soon before the big race, something like 5 – 8 km.
✓ This session is designed to help you find your rhythm when running and to get a feel for stride and cadence.
You are not training to run a marathon, so an endurance run for Olympic triathlon does not require you to pound the streets for hours. Since the running section of the race is usually 10 km, a 12-20 km run is suitable as endurance training, depending on how you feel physically on the day.
Your pace should be below race-pace, and you should be able to maintain your pace throughout your chosen distance.
✓ To keep a track of pace, it is a good idea to check your route beforehand, measure out kilometre markers, and then time how long it takes for you to reach each marker. Calculate your speed by dividing the distance by time.
For example: if it takes you 5 minutes to cover one kilometre, you divide 1 by 5 minutes in hours, which is 0.08 (speed (kmph) = distance (km) / time (hours)). This means that your speed over that one kilometre is 12.5 kmph.
✓ Try to maintain that pace for the entire session and begin to extend the distance or increase the speed in later sessions.
Many long-distance runners will notice a large difference in their strength and endurance if they slot a speed session into the day after an endurance run. The best places for a sprint session are sports fields, hills and, if you’re lucky, a beach.
✓ The sports field will allow you to work out the exact distance you sprint if you know the length of the pitch, and so it is easier to keep count of time and distance. After a brief warm-up (by jogging to the pitch, for example), sprint 100 metres, and time yourself.
Walk back to where you started, and then sprint the 100 metres again. Repeat this 10 to 15 times, always trying to maintain your best time.
✓ If you do not have information on the exact distance (such as if you are on a beach or rugged slope), then an alternative is to simply sprint in one direction for 10 to 15 seconds, mark where that takes you, and then walk back to where you started. When you return to the starting point, turn around and do it again.
✓ If you live in a hilly area, you might also want to consider hill-running. You might struggle to full-out sprint, but a 20 minute run up a steep incline will be a sturdy strength-builder and engage different muscles. As a bonus, it might also take you far from your regular routes.
It is all fine and well to train each discipline individually, but what is currently lacking from the schedule is a day when you practice two disciplines back-to-back. If you have never done it before, try cycling a certain distance before getting off the saddle and running.
The first thing you will notice is that your legs will feel like collapsing!
✓ So that you don’t get caught out on race day following the 40 km ride, practice this transition a few times to adapt your body to the swift changes it needs to endure.
To maintain variety and interest in your running, it is important to mix your workouts. Simply running as far as you can as fast as you can will not provide you with effective results come race day.
It is better to focus on different paces with different faces. Your sprint session will fire up fast-twitch muscle fibres which will provide you with strength; your endurance session will help you build up the lung and heart pumping capacity to help you ensure you can go the full distance on race day, and use the slow-twitch muscle fibres which are so abundant in your legs; your race-pace session is designed to help you get a feel for the rhythm and speed you want to hit during your first triathlon.
Although this 10-week schedule gives you plenty of room for manoeuvre and ought to see you physically fit by the time you reach your race, anything can happen on the day, and your first race will be a very big learning curve.
With that in mind, train to your best and take the ups and downs of the race as they come!