Triathlon Training: Running Off the Bike

Triathlon is a multisport event that consists of three disciplines: swimming, cycling, and running. Individuals may also consider the transition time in between each sport a discipline. The transition time is included in the total time: start to finish. Transition 1 and Transition 2 occur after the swim and bike, respectively. Practicing transition 2 (bike to run) is a critical component to any multisport plan. There are pronounced changes in ones physiology as well as biomechanics. The best way to ensure proper adaptation is to practice this second phase (running off the bike) in training.

Triathletes often question how long and how often this should occur in training. Longer runs off the bike are referred to as bricks and shorter runs are called transition runs. There are many factors that need to be taken into account: experience level of the athlete, injury risk, allotted training time, their focused race distance, and the time of the season.

 Triathletes who have a running background or who have years of racing around their belts often times don’t spend a significant amount of time doing transition runs. Their bodies have become well adapted to adjusting to the run off the bike. You will see them practice brick runs: 1 hour or slightly more, once per week. Newer triathletes and those at a high risk for injury do well with short transition runs. These are typically 2-3 miles, 30 minutes.  Shorter distance racers (sprint, olympic) need to make a very quick transition off the bike into a solid “all out-tempo” effort and will benefit more from doing bricks or transition runs more often.

As a coach, I have never pushed a lot of bricks for the population I coach. I tend to have my athletes do more transition runs and focus their other running days on quality work. During the base phase (winter/building months) running off the bike should be limited. It should pick up once into the preparation and peak phases of training. Everyone is different and you have to experiment to find out what works best for you!

By Morgan Chaffin, Professional Triathlete

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