EPC Tips - Running Off the Bike

Jul. 9, 2015

Triathlon requires an athlete to be proficient at three sports: swimming, cycling and running. Training the three sports individually is a starting point for most triathletes, but eventually you realize that the sport of triathlon is not simply swimming, biking and running; but rather it is its own sport of swim-bike-run. What's the difference you ask?

Cycling after swimming hard is far more challenging than simply cycling hard in a bike race. Likewise, running fast after cycling hard for an extended period is whole different experience than simply running a run race. By the time you reach the run in a triathlon you are already fatigued and you must be able to keep it together to finish your race strong on foot!

For this reason you must train the bike-to-run effort before race day.

For the bike to run transition you must go from a seated, quad-dominant, flexed spinal position on the bike to a standing, full spine extension running position that requires heavy hamstring and glute activation. Anyone who's done a triathlon knows exactly what this feeling is like going from hard cycling to fast running: the stiff back, heavy legs, and lack of bounce as they head out onto the run. Not only is this an unpleasant feeling to work through, but the longer it takes you to find your running stride, the more time you are losing to you competitors on the course!

Training the bike to run transition is critical for triathlon success. Often referred to as "bricks," these training sessions involve a period of cycling followed by a period of running, and are far more triathlon specific than simply a stand-alone bike or stand-alone run session. Most triathletes include bike-to-run training in their programs, but many miss the key element of getting up to speed off the bike by instead simply heading out for an easy run after their bike rides. There are endless ways of constructing a "brick" session, but the key element of nearly all bike-to-run training sessions should be to quickly go from your bike to the run and get up to run speed immediately. Finding your rhythm and a fast run cadence as quick as possible is what helps you on race day to work through that uncomfortable feeling and find your form and rhythm as fast as possible.

The following "run off the bike" session is a good example of specific triathlon training that will train your neuromuscular system to get your run cadence up immediately off the bike, allowing you to be more successful on race day:

  • Immediately following your bike ride (works best after a tough interval session, see last week's bike workout for example), transition to your the following 45:00 run...
  • 4x[1:00 fast, 1:00 easy], build the effort with each interval
  • 4x[5:00 race pace, 1:00 walk]
  • 8:00 easy
  • 5:00 walk
Written by Cody Waite, professional endurance athlete, endurance sport coach and founder of Endurance Performance Coaching. XTERRA Athletes, if you’re going to XTERRA USA and/or XTERRA Worlds this year join our XTERRA Championship Training Program that contains all the key training sessions that will have you in peak condition leading up to these two great events.  
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EPC Tips