Q & A: Training for Running Races After Triathlon Season

Q. Hey Gale, I have my last Olympic-distance triathlon in a couple of weeks. Even though my triathlon season is finished, I don't want to take my offseason or recovery break until the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

For September, October and November, I want to do some 10K running races and push the speed some (if that's possible). My questions are:

  1. Do you think I can do some post-season running races and still get some speed out of my legs?
  2. My preference is to continue doing all three sports. Any general suggestions on how to structure my training?

In advance, thanks for your help,
— C.J. in Jersey

A. Good questions, C.J. I'll try to help. After your last race of the season, give yourself a week of unstructured training. Take one or two days "off", which means no swimming, cycling or running. If you want to take a walk of 30 to 60 minutes on those "off" days rather than doing no exercise, that's a solid option.

For the remainder of that week, keep the daily workout time at less than two hours. The longest workout you'd do should likely be on the bike. Keep that ride mostly aerobic.

Keep the swim and run workouts an hour or less, and keep them mostly aerobic as well. You can include some 60- to 90-second bouts of building your speed, but keep it less than all-out. Give yourself generous rest (2+ minutes) between the accelerations.

Once you're through your recovery week, then you can start planning your running path forward. Plan your running workouts first, then fill-in with swimming and cycling workouts. There are several ways to go about this process, and I'll give you one suggested path.

First, you have a great aerobic base from a season of triathlon racing. Heading into your run season, you will probably need to reduce your weekly training volume. Do not try to replace swimming and cycling volume with running volume.

A general weekly pattern might look something like this:

  • Monday: Short and easy aerobic run.

  • Tuesday: Easy bike and/or easy swim—or take the day off.

  • Wednesday: Speed-endurance intervals at the track or on the treadmill. You can find a suggested workout in this column titled "Hit the Treadmill for a Fast 10K".

  • Thursday: Easy bike and/or easy swim—or take the day off.

  • Friday: Threshold workout. You can find some suggestions for intervals in this column, "Treadmill Threshold Workouts". The intervals can be done on the treadmill or on the open road.

  • Saturday: Medium distance aerobic run that can include a few 20- to 30-second accelerations.

  • Sunday: Race or do a long run that is some 20 to 30 minutes longer than your 10K time. If you're doing a long run, keep it mostly aerobic.

You can see that swim and cycling workouts are all aerobic and recovery-type workouts. You can work on form drills during these workouts, but keep the intensity out.

This is a pretty general suggestion, but what you're looking to do is put your best energy and effort into the run workouts. Keep the overall training volume lower than during the triathlon season. With some rest and sharpening workouts in the run, your running speed should improve.

Let us know how it goes.

Rather ride? Read Transition From Triathlon to Fall Cycling

Gale Bernhardt was the 2003 USA Triathlon Pan American Games and 2004 USA Triathlon Olympic coach for both the men's and women's teams. Her first Olympic experience was as a personal cycling coach at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. Thousands of athletes have had successful training and racing experiences using Gale's pre-built, easy-to-follow training plans. For more information, click here. Let Gale and Active Trainer help you succeed.

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