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Winter Running Focus for the Triathlete = PB’s in 2010

Despite the weather, good run focus this winter can help you run your best times in spring

Despite the “less than ideal” conditions of winter training, a good run focus this winter could help you run your best times in the spring. With less time spent on the bike and preparing for races, you now have a four to six month opportunity to work on specific components of your run game. In order to achieve new times however, you must try some new methods in your training. Most triathletes are creatures of habit, so break out of your mold and include some of the following concepts in your run focus and you will be rewarded.

Add Another Run Session (or two) per week
When looking at your run focus, start by ensuring that you can increase the frequency of your runs. Our physiologists suggest that training five times per week is the ideal frequency rate for optimal improvement in endurance athletes.  Maybe you have an opportunity to add a run with a group each week, or perhaps a training partner that may be interested in meeting you for a run on a weekly basis.  The additional running should be carefully planned with you and/or your coach to ensure you optimizing different energy systems and recovery.

Build Your Week around the Run
Give your run sessions priority. Building your week schedule to emphasize key runs and making sure you hit your main run sessions rested will allow you to make further gains in your run program. When coaching an athlete through a run focus phase, here at LifeSport we build their program around their runs by starting with their run program first, then inserting meaningful bike and swim workouts through the week in places that don’t impede key run sets. For instance you may want to have a recovery day the day prior to running intervals and then swim in the afternoon after your run interval set. You can also reduce the volume, frequency and intensity of your riding, but if your schedule allows for it, keep swimming.  We have found that swimming can supplement the run focus nicely as it is much less weight-bearing and appears to lead to fitness and performance gains on the run.

Work Your Different Energy Systems
Many coaches and physiologists say the off-season should be committed to building base and efficiency on the run. While this is a good philosophy, there can be a good argument made to also include workouts that vary the intensity and utilize other energy systems.  Not only will you see efficiency and performance gains, variety in your program will keep your motivation high as well.

If you or your coach is setting up your winter program, keep a weekly, longer low heart rate run as the staple workout. The objective, over time, should be to increase your distance and speed on this workout while keeping the same low heart rate (HR) – at about 65 to 70 per cent of your maximum. (Most athletes run this at too high of an effort).  This workout can be used to work on form, cadence, nutrition, hydration and pacing, which will ultimately increase your aerobic capacity and efficiency.  It is an amazing and rewarding process to see yourself getting faster and faster at the same low HR effort.

Now, instead of adding more long runs to your schedule, add shorter workouts that vary the training intensities and energy systems, ultimately increasing your aerobic efficiency and performance.

Run Inside and Out
Even if the temperature is freezing outside, bundle up warmly and head out the door.  Outdoor running in winter conditions can actually be quite enjoyable, if you are dressed properly, and offer many benefits like strength building and training variety.  Save your lower effort and longer runs for outdoors and remember to wear shoes that have more grip, reflective clothing if in the dark and a neck tube that can be pulled up over your mouth so you are not breathing in frigid air. On the other hand, use the treadmill for more intensive sessions indoors to work on your higher end energy systems, leg speed and form.

Run Hills
Triathlon running is as much about strength as it is about speed. A weekly hill interval set that progresses first in volume, and then intensity, can help develop power and muscle elasticity, improve stride frequency and length while encouraging the proper use of arm action, develop control and stabilization as well as improved speed (downhill running), promote strength endurance, and improve lactate tolerance.

Each week do one hill interval session.  Compliment your hill intervals with a weekly, hilly aerobic base run of one to two hours. Hit the trails if they are available.

Keep  Running Off The Bike
A run focus is also a great opportunity for transition work.  “Specificity” is a common sports science term which refers to creating training environments and movement that mimics competition. Running frequently off the bike teaches the body to be efficient and transition from bike legs to run legs quickly. Most world class triathletes run off the bike at least once or twice a week. While we want to make sure during your run focus phase that you hit your key run sessions fresh, adding some short “frequency” runs off the bike helps run efficiency without adding a lot of load or fatigue to your overall program.

Include Run Technique
A technically efficient run form requires less oxygen and results in improved running cconomy, ultimately leading to an increase in performance. You can greatly increase your run economy by giving attention to your stride length and cadence. Get on a treadmill with a mirror and start working on run cadence. Shoot for a run cadence which is very similar to cycling: 85 to 90 strides per minute is good for taller men when running at 10km run race pace, while 90 to 100 is efficient for smaller athletes. You should find that increasing cadence will either increase run speed, or shorten stride length. With practice and observation of heart rate versus speed, you will find your natural cadence and stride length.

Work on a slight forward lean and “chin down” position while still keeping your eyes on the horizon. Don’t waste energy with excessive bouncing up and down. Imagine running under a low ceiling. If you bounce to high you will bang your head. Also, minimize unnecessary movement of the arms. Arms play an important role in providing some rotational stability, but the movement must not be excessive. Elbows should be bent  at approximately 90 degrees, and the arm swing should not cross the vertical centre line of your torso.

Enter Run Races
Races provide motivation, purpose and a training target. You will run faster in a race than in training, which results in a bigger boost to your run fitness.  Running races will give you different competitive experiences and you may even learn a few tricks from your single sport compatriots to add to your triathlon racing tool kit. Try all different distances and approach them as a casual training opportunity, not as a higher stress competitive environment.

The fall and winter are great times to focus on the run. By adding these concepts to your routine you will see performance gains in the spring – maybe even a new personal best, regardless of your age.  Remember, with increased frequency should also come greater attention to replacing your shoes more often and enhancing recovery with ice baths and massage.

Paul Regensburg is a senior coach at LifeSport, the “Official Coaches of Ironman”.  Paul is an Olympic, Pan Am Games, and Ironman Coach, and has coached athletes from beginner to world championship athletes at all distances.  Visit  HYPERLINK “https://www.LifeSportCoaching.com/”www.LifeSportCoaching.com or contact  HYPERLINK “mailto:coach@LifeSportCoaching.com”coach@LifeSportCoaching.com for more information or coaching inquiries

Categories: Run