The Similarities1 of 12
Let's start with the similarities. All run training, whether it's for your next 5K race or your upcoming sprint-distance triathlon, share the same three basic elements, or what I call the Holy Trinity of Training: base building, strength and speed.
1. Endurance/Aerobic Base2 of 12
Aerobic zone heart rate training develops your cardiovascular system so you can resist fatigue (run the 5K) and teach your body to efficiently burn fat for fuel. This will make up the bulk of your run training—at least 80 percent.
2. Strength/Force/Power3 of 12
Both general (weight lifting) and sport-specific (running hill repeats) strength training can help you overcome resistance, such as running up hills during your race, with less muscular fatigue. Triathletes should limit run-specific strength to once a week. Remember, you have two other sports to build for.
3. Speed Skills4 of 12
Speed skills contain both technique drills (butt-kick drills, cadence drills, etc.) and speed work (short sprints to longer lactate threshold sets). Both make you a faster runner because you become more efficient (run faster with the same energy output) and you teach your neuromuscular system to fire faster. Build technique drills and short speed sets (5 to 10 second bursts) into every run. Once again, if you are training for triathlon, limit your speed-focused run sessions to once a week, and for best results do your speed work on rested legs.
And that, my friends, is where the similarity ends.
The Differences5 of 12
The unique twist in triathlon is that your run begins on tired legs. And unlike someone focused strictly on 5Ks, you have less time available for run training because you require time to train for two other sports. To step up to the challenge of three sports and to be able to run strong off the bike, incorporate these three additional advanced tactics into your triathlon training schedule.
1. Sprint or Olympic-Distance Triathlon6 of 12
Do one session three weeks before and a second session two weeks before your key race: After a good warm up, do three to four repetitions of 8 to 12 minutes at slightly above race pace on a bike trainer, followed immediately by a 5 to 8 minute run slightly above race pace. In between each repetition, spin for a minute or two on the trainer to get your legs ready for the next set.
2. IRONMAN 70.3 or Full IRONMAN7 of 12
Do one session three weeks before and a second session two weeks before your key race: After a good warm up, do three to four repetitions of 12 to 20 minutes at slightly above race pace on a bike trainer, followed immediately by an 8 to 12 minute run slightly above race pace. In between each repetition, spin for a minute or two on the trainer to get your legs ready for the next set.
These routines build triathlon-specific fitness along with the mental fortitude.
Be a Pace-Keeper8 of 12
All of us overestimate our abilities at one time or another. If it happens in training it's not a big deal, but on race day that can spell big trouble. The reason is simple: No matter who you are, you can't out race your training. That's why it's vitally important to manage your pace throughout the day, particularly on the bike and the first half of the run, so you build momentum to a fast, strong run finish.
1. Back Off on the Bike9 of 12
One of the best ways to avoid a death march on the run is to go one gear easier than you think you can comfortably handle for the bike leg, especially the first half of it. This is particularly important in 70.3- and 140.6-distance races. Remember, when you're passing all those folks during the second half of the run leg (you know, the ones that were killing it on the bike) it's not because you're running faster; it's because you saved your legs and don't have to slow down as much.
2. Monitor Your Breathing10 of 12
Build the habit of using your breathing to keep you in touch with your body. During training rides and runs, practice taking a few deep breaths to get you present and then take mental inventory on how you're feeling. Stay aware! That way you can adjust your pace up or down as needed all the way to the finish line.
Keep Playing Those Mind Games11 of 12
The bike-to-run transition crushes more people than any other part of the race. That's because they burn tons of mental energy fretting about how far they have to go instead of staying in the moment and focusing on getting themselves quickly into their running rhythm.
One strategy here is to practice counting from one to four, or repeat the word "quick" over and over as you start off on a run to get your mind focused on leg turnover and form. Good form combined with a quick cadence will win out every time.
And finally, one of my favorites is lying to myself. These days when I head out for a transition run, I tell myself it's a reward (instead of punishment) and smile. It sounds crazy, but it works and it builds mental confidence like you wouldn't believe.
Build these tactics into your training program before your next event and they will pay huge dividends come race day.