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6 Ways to Improve Your Triathlon Run Time in 2023

Are you a triathlete looking to improve your run time and cross that finish line faster?

Whether you’re a seasoned athlete or a newbie to the triathlon scene, shaving precious seconds off your run can be a game-changer. But where do you start?

In this article, we’ll share six ways you can improve your triathlon run time, from incorporating running drills into your training routine to fine-tuning your nutrition plan. So, grab a protein bar and let’s get started!

1. Increase your Mileage Gradually and Incorporate Speed Work

Running is a high-impact sport that places stress on the body. Increasing your mileage too quickly can lead to injury, so it’s essential to increase your mileage gradually. Aim to increase your mileage by no more than 10% per week, and make sure to include rest days in your training schedule. A good training plan will help with this as it will give you structured running workouts along with strength work and balance between your swim and bike workouts, an example sprint triathlon plan is here.

Speed work is an excellent way to improve your run time. It involves short bursts of high-intensity running followed by recovery periods. Examples of speed work include intervals, hill repeats, and tempo runs. These workouts help to improve your running economy, lactate threshold, and VO2 max.

Example Hill Repeat Workout

One of my favourite hill’s workouts on a moderate to steep hill and here’s how you do it:

  • Warm up well and try out some of the drills detailed in this article.
  • After a good warm up (you need to be very warm for this workout!) you start with a 30 second run up the hill.
  • At 30 seconds mark where you ran to.
  • Then turn and walk for 30 seconds back towards the start and after 30 seconds jog the rest of the way down.
  • Recover fully and do the same for 45 seconds and 60 seconds marking where you go to on the hill.
  • Do this for two more sets and try to get to the marker or further on each repeat.
  • Warm down and stretch well after the final set.

2. Strengthen your Legs and Core

Running requires strong leg muscles and core strength. Incorporate strength training exercises such as squats, lunges, and calf raises into your training program. For your core you should try the Dead Bug, Plank and Bird Dog.

These exercises will help to improve your running efficiency and reduce your risk of injury.

Here’s a FREE Trinewbies four-week strength and conditioning plan specifically designed for triathletes and includes running strength exercises.

You can also gain leg strength from your bike training (see point 6 in this article).

3. Practice good form

Good running form is crucial to running efficiently and reducing your risk of injury. Focus on maintaining a tall posture, relaxed shoulders, and a mid-foot strike. Avoid over-striding, which can lead to a braking effect and slow you down.

The most effective way to improve your running form is to include specific running drills in your warmup. My favourite running drills to start each running session are:

The Runners Arabesque drill is a popular exercise among runners that helps improve running form, strength, flexibility, and stability. As runners when we run, we are always landing and loading on one foot to single legs drills are essential to increase our stability throughout the whole leg from your foot to you hips.  

Here are the steps to do the Arabesque drill:

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your arms at your sides.
  • Stand on one leg (left leg) and lift your right knee to hip height, flexed.
  • Then hip hinge forward and extend right leg behind you, keeping your leg straight and your toes pointing towards the ground.
  • Reach your arms forward, keeping them and your back parallel to the ground.
  • Hold this position for a few seconds, then return to the starting position with the knee drive up.
  • Repeat on the other side and always perform this slow and controlled.
  • Aim for three sets of 15 on each side but if this is difficult start with 5 on each side for three sets and work up to 15.

The Arabesque drill will improve your balance and coordination, which are essential for running efficiently. The drill will also strengthen your glutes, hamstrings, and core muscles, which help to support your body during running. Additionally, the Arabesque drill improves flexibility in your hip flexors and hamstrings, which can improve your running form and reduce the risk of injury.

High Knees Drill

This drill involves running in place while lifting your knees as high as possible. It helps to improve your running form, cadence, and leg strength.

This drill can help you improve your running form, cadence, and leg strength. Here’s how to perform the high knee running drill:

  • Begin by jogging in place, making sure to stay light on your feet and land softly.
  • Once you’re comfortable, begin to lift your knees higher with each step. Your knees should come up to about waist level.
  • As you lift each knee, extend your opposite arm forward in a running motion.
  • Continue to jog in place, lifting your knees as high as you can and pumping your arms.

Performing the high knee running drill can help you in several ways. Firstly, it can help you to improve running form by encouraging you to keep your torso upright, engage your core muscles, and land with a midfoot strike. Additionally, the high knee drill can improve your leg strength by targeting the hip flexors, quads, and glutes. By practicing this drill regularly, you can also improve your cadence and develop a quicker turnover, which can lead to a more efficient running style. The high knee running drill is a great way to warm up before a run, or to incorporate into a regular training routine to help improve your running performance.

Walking Lunges

This may not seem like a drill but completing walking lunges before every run workout will help you improve your leg strength, mobility, stability, and flexibility.

Walking lunges are a great warm-up exercise before a running workout because they help to activate and stretch several key muscles used in running. Here are some of the benefits of doing walking lunges before a running workout:

  • Improves hip mobility: Walking lunges help to improve hip mobility by stretching and strengthening the hip flexors, which are used extensively in running.
  • Activates the glutes: Walking lunges help to activate the glute muscles, which play a key role in stabilizing the pelvis during running and maintaining proper posture.
  • Increases hamstring flexibility: Walking lunges also stretch the hamstrings, which can help to improve flexibility and prevent injury during running.
  • Improves balance and coordination: Walking lunges require balance and coordination, which can help to improve running form and stability.
  • Increases heart rate and blood flow: Walking lunges are a great way to increase heart rate and blood flow to the muscles, preparing the body for more intense exercise.

Here’s how to perform a walking lunge running drill:

  • Start by standing up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms at your sides.
  • Take a step forward with your right foot and lower your body down into a lunge position, bending both knees to about 90 degrees.
  • Keep your torso upright and your front knee directly over your ankle.
  • Push off with your back foot and bring it forward to meet your front foot.
  • Take another step forward with your left foot and lower your body down into a lunge position, again keeping your torso upright and your front knee directly over your ankle.
  • Continue to alternate legs, taking a step forward with one foot and lowering down into a lunge position before bringing the back foot forward to meet the front foot.
  • Keep moving forward, taking large steps and lowering into a lunge with each step.

As you perform the walking lunge drill, focus on maintaining good posture and keeping your core muscles engaged. Be sure to keep your front knee directly over your ankle and your torso upright throughout the movement. You can also add variations to the walking lunge, such as raising your arms overhead or adding a twist to the torso, to increase the challenge and engage different muscle groups.

Perform 10-15 lunges for 3 sets.

By incorporating walking lunges into your warm-up routine before a running workout, you can help to activate and stretch key muscles, improve balance and coordination, and increase heart rate and blood flow. This can help to reduce the risk of injury, improve running performance, and make your workout more effective overall.

Incorporate Plyometric Drills

Plyometric drills are explosive exercises that help to improve your power, speed, and agility. Examples of plyometric drills include box jumps, single-leg hops, jumping rope, and bounding. These exercises are particularly useful for triathletes as they help to improve running efficiency, reduce ground contact time, and increase stride length.

The best and easiest way to incorporate plyometrics is to find your old jump rope and get jumping.

Jumping rope will help with calf conditioning and ankle stiffness and strengthening this area can help avoid plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinopathy, shin splints, calf strains and more.

Little and often is best for jumping rope and an example is 5 sets of 20 seconds 4-5 times a week.

4. Run on Different Terrain

Running on different terrain helps to improve your balance, coordination, and stability. Incorporate trail running, beach running, and hill running into your training program. Running on different terrain will also help to prevent overuse injuries by engaging different muscles.

If you don’t live near any trails, hills or a sandy beach then seek out a park with grassy areas and run on this (unless the sign says “keep off the grass!”.

Another alternative is to run up steps in an apartment block or up the bleachers at your local sports ground.

5. Nail your Nutrition

Proper nutrition is essential for peak athletic performance, and this is especially true for triathletes like you looking to improve your run time. Fine-tuning your nutrition plan can help you optimize your energy levels, reduce fatigue, and improve recovery, all of which can lead to a faster run time.

For example, consuming the right balance of macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, and fat) can help you fuel your body for endurance exercise, while staying hydrated can help regulate body temperature and prevent cramping. You can calculate your macronutrients and Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) here.

Additionally, consuming antioxidant-rich foods such as fruits and vegetables can help reduce inflammation and support your immune system, allowing your body to recover more quickly from intense training sessions. By making small adjustments to your nutrition plan, you can gain a competitive edge and achieve your best run time yet. You can find some great recipe ideas in these FREE books.

6. Improving you Bike Strength and Efficiency

As triathletes we can’t take the run in isolation but have to consider what comes before which is a long bike ride. The bike section can have a big bearing on your run time and how prepared you are for it.

Doing bike to run Brick sessions during your training is always a good idea to prepare you for transition 2 (T2). Also trying to match your bike cadence to your run cadence is also a good idea. The most efficient bike cadence is 90 revolutions per minute (RPM) and the most efficient run cadence is 180 strides per minute (SPM) which is the same as your 90 RPM. Matching these can make T2 a bit more comfortable and set you off on the run leg in a stronger way.

Improving your bike strength and efficiency can also certainly help on the run leg of a triathlon.

Here are a few reasons why:

  • Conservation of energy

By improving your bike strength and efficiency, you can conserve energy during the bike leg, leaving you with more energy for the run. This can help you feel fresher and more capable of running well after the bike leg.

  • Improved cardiovascular fitness

Cycling is a great way to build cardiovascular fitness, which can benefit your running performance. By improving your cardiovascular fitness on the bike, you can increase your endurance and reduce your risk of fatigue during the run leg.

  • Stronger leg muscles

Cycling can help strengthen your leg muscles, including your quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes. Stronger leg muscles can help you run faster and with less effort, improving your running performance and reducing your risk of injury.

  • Better running form

Improving your bike strength and efficiency can also help improve your running form. By strengthening the muscles used in both cycling and running, you can help maintain proper form and reduce your risk of injury during the run leg.

Overall, improving your bike strength and efficiency is a great way to improve your overall triathlon performance, including your performance on the run leg. By building cardiovascular fitness, strengthening your leg muscles, and conserving energy during the bike leg, you can help improve your running performance and achieve your best triathlon results.

Conclusion: 6 Ways to Improving your Running Time

Improving your run time during a triathlon can seem like an intimidating task, but with the right training and preparation, you can cross that finish line faster than ever before.

Incorporating running drills, endurance training, and strength training into your routine can help you improve your form, speed, and endurance.

Additionally, fine-tuning your nutrition plan and developing a proper recovery plan can help you optimize your energy levels and reduce fatigue. By taking a well-rounded approach to your training, you can set yourself up for success and achieve your best run time yet.

Remember to listen to your body, take rest days when needed, and stay focused on your goals. Whether you’re a seasoned athlete or a newbie to the triathlon scene, with these six tips in your toolbox, you’ll be well on your way to achieving your personal best run time.

Karen Parnell is a Level 3 British Triathlon and IRONMAN Certified Coach, WOWSA Level 3 open water swimming coach and NASM Personal Trainer and Sports Technology Writer. 

Need a training plan? I have plans on TrainingPeaks, FinalSurge and FinalSurge IRONMAN marketplace:

TrainingPeaks

FinalSurge

Official IRONMAN Training Plans in FinalSurge

I also coach a very small number of athletes one to one for all triathlon distances, open water swimming events and running races, email me for details and availability. Karen.parnell@chilitri.com

Improve your Triathlon Run Time FAQ

Why is the run important in triathlon?

The run is the last event in a triathlon and can make or break a race. It is essential to have a good run time to perform well in the race. You may also need to run a fair way to the transition area after the swim and in transition itself so perfecting your run is key.

What are some ways to improve my triathlon run time?

You can improve your triathlon run time by increasing your mileage gradually, incorporating speed work, strengthening your legs, practicing good form, incorporating plyometric drills, and running on different terrain.

What are some examples of speed work?

Examples of speed work include sprint intervals, hill repeats, and Fartlek runs.

How can strength training help me improve my run time?

Strength training exercises such as squats, lunges, and calf raises can help improve your running efficiency and reduce your risk of injury.

What is good running form?

Good running form involves maintaining a tall posture, relaxed shoulders, and a mid-foot strike. It also includes avoiding over-striding, which can lead to a braking effect and slow you down.

What are some examples of plyometric drills?

Examples of plyometric drills include box jumps, single-leg hops, jumping rope and bounding.

How can running on different terrain help improve my run time?

Running on different terrain helps improve your balance, coordination, and stability. It also helps prevent overuse injuries by engaging different muscles.

What are some of the best running drills?

Some of the best running drills include runner’s arabesque, walking lunges, high knees, butt kicks, skipping, bounding, and hill sprints.

What are some of the best running drills?

Some of the best running drills include runner’s arabesque, walking lunges, high knees, butt kicks, skipping, bounding, and hill sprints.

How often should I incorporate running drills into my training program?

Running drills should be incorporated into your training program 1-2 times per week to improve your running form, cadence, and power. If you can include a few running drills in your warmup before each running workout.

What is endurance training, and how does it improve my run time?

Endurance training is any type of physical activity that aims to improve your body’s ability to perform prolonged exercise. By incorporating endurance training into your routine, you can improve your cardiovascular system, allowing your body to transport oxygen and nutrients more efficiently. This can help you run faster and for longer periods of time during a triathlon.

Why is strength training important for improving my run time?

Strength training can help improve your running performance by targeting key muscles used in running and increasing their endurance and power. By incorporating strength training into your routine, you can improve your running economy, speed, and overall performance.

How does nutrition impact my triathlon run time?

Proper nutrition is essential for peak athletic performance, and this is especially true for triathletes looking to improve their run time. Fine-tuning your nutrition plan can help you optimize your energy levels, reduce fatigue, and improve recovery, all of which can lead to a faster run time. Consuming the right balance of macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, and fat), staying hydrated, and consuming antioxidant-rich foods can all help improve your running performance.

Will improving my bike strength and efficiency make me a better runner?

Yes, improving your bike strength and efficiency can help improve your running performance by building cardiovascular fitness, strengthening your leg muscles, and improving your running form. However, it’s important to remember that running is a different activity than cycling, and you will still need to train specifically for the run leg of the triathlon to achieve your best results.

Will improving my bike strength and efficiency make me a better runner?

Yes, improving your bike strength and efficiency can help improve your running performance by building cardiovascular fitness, strengthening your leg muscles, and improving your running form. However, it’s important to remember that running is a different activity than cycling, and you will still need to train specifically for the run leg of the triathlon to achieve your best results.

What is a brick session in triathlon?

A brick session is a training session that involves back-to-back workouts of two of the three disciplines: swim-bike or bike-run. The term “brick” comes from the feeling of having heavy legs, as if they were made of bricks, when transitioning from one discipline to another.

Why do triathletes do brick sessions?

The purpose of a brick session is to improve an athlete’s ability to transition between the disciplines, to build endurance and stamina, and to practice race-specific pacing. It also helps to build mental toughness and prepare an athlete for the challenges of race day.

What is the most common type of brick session in triathlon?

The most common brick session in triathlon is a bike-run session, where an athlete will complete a bike ride and then immediately transition into a run. This type of training helps to simulate the feeling of running on tired legs that triathletes experience during the run leg of a race.

What is T2 in triathlon?

T2, or Transition 2, is the second transition in a triathlon, where athletes transition from the bike leg to the run leg.

What happens during T2?

During T2, athletes rack their bikes, remove their helmets, change into running shoes and any other necessary gear, and begin the run portion of the race. T2 is typically located near the run course, and athletes will exit the transition area and begin the run leg of the race.

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Karen Parnell
Karen Parnellhttps://chilitri.com/one-to-one-coaching
Karen Parnell is a Level 3 British Triathlon and IRONMAN Certified Coach, WOWSA Level 3 open water swimming coach,  80/20 Endurance certified coach and NASM Personal Trainer and Sports Technology Writer. Need a training plan? I have plans on TrainingPeaks, FinalSurge and TrainingTilt: TrainingPeaks FinalSurge TrainingTilt I also coach a very small number of athletes one to one for all triathlon distances, open water swimming events and running races, email me for details and availability. Karen.parnell@chilitri.com

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