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Do’s And Don’ts Of Running Stronger Off The Bike

Make your bike-to-run transition easier by reinforcing a fast turnover.

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Watch the best triathletes transition in any race and one of the things you’ll notice is their ability to seamlessly run off the bike. To start the run without slogging takes a concentrated effort. Set your transition legs up for success with these tips from Steve Trew, a longtime British triathlon coach and co-author of the book 100 Essential Triathlon Sessions.

Maintain A High RPM On The Bike

This tip comes with a warning sticker—some athletes (like Chrissie Wellington) can crank out a very low RPM and still maintain a high run cadence due to how they react to training and their ability to negate muscle memory. But for most athletes, especially at shorter distances, there’s a good case for keeping up the cadence (85+ RPM), particularly toward the end of a discipline, Trew says.

“There’s muscle memory to take into account, and if your legs have been turning over at 85/90/95 RPM, there’s no huge shock to them to try to go into the run discipline at approximately the same [180 foot hits per minute],” Trew says. “To try to transfer 60 RPM on the bike directly into 180 foot hits is a massive ask.”

However, he believes, it may be different for iron-distance races. “There’s a lot of time to get the body and legs to accept the necessary changes, and some distance triathletes can race brilliantly on a bigger gear and slower cadence for Ironman. For half-Ironman, there is now a real need for run speed, so a lot of thinking is required from athletes as to what’s individually best for them.”

RELATED: 4 “Big Gear” Cycling Workouts To Build Leg Strength

Sharpen Up With Short Speedwork

This workout from Trew’s book (which he co-wrote with coach Dan Bullock) is a set of 400-meter efforts aimed at improving strength, speed and the mental toughness to maintain race pace under pressure.

What it is: A set of repetition 400m efforts, all based at 3,000m race pace*, but with “a sting in the tail.” Ten 400m efforts are run at 3K race pace; the first three are run with just 20 seconds of recovery between them then a 1-minute recovery. The second three follow that same pattern. Finally, a fourth 400m is added to the last round, making this a very demanding session.

*To calculate your 3K race pace, Trew says this: Probably the simplest way is to add on around 15 seconds per mile as you go up a distance. So, if you run a 5-minute mile then you’d run a 10:30 two miles (5:15 mile pace). So for doing reps over 400m, it would be around 4 seconds difference. For example, 6:00 mile pace over a 5K race would give 5:45 mile pace over 3000m, so reps on 400m at 1:26.

RELATED: Do Speedwork Now, Benefit Later


10x400m total
– 3x400m with 20 sec recovery after each
– 60 sec recovery
– 3x400m with 20 sec recovery after each
– 60 sec recovery
– 4x400m with 20 sec recovery after each
– 60 sec recovery

Variations: Add two extra 400m, making the sub-sets three, then four; and finally five efforts for a total of 12 in all. Even more demanding!

RELATED: 5 Exercises To Bolster Running Form

Maintain A Strong Running Form

Follow these form pointers— and focus on them both in training and during a race—to ensure you’re not blowing your efficiency.

Don’t Do This
Form Fail: Over-striding
Indicator: Braking effect stops momentum with each stride

Form Fail: Seated running
Indicator: Hips back, bum out

Form Fail: Tight shoulders
Indicator: Shoulders are tense and your neck disappears

Form Fail: Forced breathing
Indicator: Shallow breaths or holding your breath, which will lead to early fatigue

Form Fail: Tight head position
Indicator: A rolling, bobbing head, detracts from run technique

Form Fail: Heel strike
Indicator: Foot strike under knee

Form Fail: Vertical movement
Indicator: Bobbing up and down while running

Do This
Form Focus: Deep belly breathing
How To: Focus on breathing out rather than in.

Form Focus: Upright running
How To: Push hips forward, lean forward from your feet.

Form Focus: High stride frequency
How To: Shorten your stride and maintain a good cadence of 90+ RPM on all runs.

Form Focus: Consistent arm swing
How To: Beware of an uneven arm action.

Form Focus: Focus on the ground 15–20 feet ahead
How To: Look ahead and relax your lower jaw—practice on all types of runs.