Triathlon coach Garth Fox explains how to sharpen up your running for the summer race season.
Spring is the perfect time to work on your running speed. Hopefully you’ve managed a reasonably consistent period of running over the winter months. This is important because it provides a springboard for the next block of training. Sports scientists and coaches recommend periodisation – organising training periods and workouts so that they build upon each other. You should aim to hit peak condition for the summer. Here are five ways to go about it.
1 Rev the engine hard
Aerobic capacity (or VO2 max) represents your maximal ability to process oxygen to meet energy demands via aerobic metabolism. For triathlons, this attribute is very important because it is almost entirely fuelled by energy derived from aerobic metabolism. One way in which we can boost it is by including a weekly dose of VO2 max stimulus over the next four to six weeks.
Example Run 800m at 95% max effort. Note the time it took and then allow yourself the exact same time to recover. Repeat this three to four times or until you’re no longer able to maintain the pace of the first set. Add one set per week as progression.
2 T2 transition tuner
Going from riding in a crouched aero position straight into hard running is very challenging. Your breathing frequency, oxygen consumption and lactate production all rise for a given pace off the bike, while running efficiency is also reduced. You can train for this – it’s known as brick training. What underpins a really good brick is performing the bike-to-run transition as fast as you would in a race and then immediately accelerating up to target race pace. It’s the changeover from bike to running and the race-pace running that you need to focus on.
Example Set your race bike up on the turbo trainer and do three to four repeats of seven minutes cycling at moderate intensity, into five minutes running at race pace from the off. For progression add one more set per week.
3 Skip for speed
Finnish researchers have shown that just four weeks of plyometric training can improve running economy by as much as eight per cent. Including a series of hopping, bounding or skipping movements (skipping is especially effective) once or twice weekly before an easy run will do the trick.
Example Single-leg hops. Hop on one leg at a time but aim to really cover some distance with each hop. World class runners can cover about 25m in seven hops. The key is to minimise ground contact time and to land as softly as possible. Repeat no more than three times on each leg.
4 Race testing
The best training data always comes from races. This is because racing provides an environment that allows us to dig deeper than when training. This is a really powerful tool when used sparingly. The idea is to insert a few shorter distance run races than the distance you’ll encounter in your triathlon, around three to six weeks out from your A-race. Recover properly after each and you’ll get a significant boost in fitness and general race readiness.
Example Add one or two pure 5km run races at six and three weeks out from your Olympic-distance A-race. A 10km race would be ideal preparation for a half-Ironman.
5 Dietary Spring Clean
If you still find yourself somewhat heavier than you’d anticipated for this stage in the year, don’t despair. By simply knuckling down to clean eating and cutting out alcohol, excess sugar, fat and processed foods for the next six weeks, you’ll shed some of the excess. This matters because research shows that we can gain as much as two to six seconds per kilometre per kilogram of body weight lost.
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