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5 Triathlon Running Workouts to Make the Most of Your Training

triathlon run workouts

There is a general misconception that triathletes need a high volume of running miles to become efficient. By contrast, your triathlon running program should lean more on the site of quality over quantity of runs.

You can get the most out of your run training by adapting triathlon running workouts to be more challenging, drill-oriented, and structured. These training sessions can dramatically improve your running economy by making you feel stronger, allowing you to maintain faster paces for longer.

Here are five of our favorite triathlon running workouts to help mix up your training. Let’s go!

1. Hill Sprints

Hill sprints or workouts are quick, arduous runs up on a high or moderate elevation. In contrast to hill repeats, these are short and intense. Additionally, they deviate significantly from the conventional strength-training approach for triathlon, but when included in your training, they can offer multiple benefits.

triathlon pain and suffering on the run

Whether you choose short sprints at full velocity or long hill sprints, you’ll receive a mix of speed and strength training that will give you explosive force with each foot strike.

Hill sprints help to lengthen your stride and develop your ideal running cadence. By sprinting up an elevation, you force your muscles to work harder, improving your stride length and running efficiency.

Another benefit of hill sprints is that they strengthen your connective tissue, hence reducing fatigue and injuries. Usually, the connective tissue around your joints and muscles holds them in place and prevents too much movement. It can support your muscles and joints, thus reducing the risk of injury.

Studies have revealed that hill exercises can improve running economy due to better neuromuscular coordination, powerful muscles, joint stability, and muscle stiffness. By improving these factors, hill exercises can help triathletes become more efficient and improve their overall performance.

Last but not least, hill sprints make you run faster due to coordinated movements and increased power. When you sprint up a hill, your muscles generate more power with each contraction.

2. Ladder Workouts

Ladder workouts are a type of interval training involving working out at progressively higher speed for a set period, taking a short rest, and then repeating the workout. This type of training is ideal for triathletes as it helps build both aerobic and anaerobic fitness and improves your speed as well as power.

triathlon running workouts

Incorporating ladder workouts into your training three to four times per week will help you significantly improve your race times. 

To achieve this, you need a coordination ladder, which is a training tool that allows you to improve your speed, coordination, and jumping power in a simple way. 

  • Initially, start from easy to difficult by jumping slowly at first and then quickly. 
  • Then, perform the jumps and runs using the forefoot and ensure you have a short ground contact time. 
  • With your torso in an upright position, look ahead with a bent arm position. Normally, your arms will support the flowing movement over the ladder. 
  • After the ladder, you can invent your own sequence of jumps and steps. 

3. Run-Bike Brick Workout 

A brick workout combines at least two different activities, such as biking and running or swimming and biking. A brick workout is a great way to simulate the triathlon experience, which is especially important for the bike-to-run transition.

Olympic Triathlon Distances

Even though you are a runner, when preparing for a triathlon, your body needs to get accustomed to performing multiple activities simultaneously. 

Triathletes have varying opinions on brick workouts, but most of them agree that after finishing this exercise, their legs feel bulky and slow like bricks. It might be because when you exercise, you stack at least two activities on top of each other precisely like bricks.

First, you must introduce the brick workout sessions at least 3 to 4 weeks before the race. It will help if you incorporate weekly short workouts as part of your training routine.

As with any other workout, start small with one brick exercise per training session. Here is a simple brick workout routine for a bike run.

  • Initially, one bike ride of 10 minutes is sufficient to warm you up.
  • Then, an easy pace run of 10 minutes.
  • As you progress, bike for 30-90 minutes at training intensity (length depending on the triathlon distances you training for.)
  • Then a tempo pace run of 20-40 minutes at training intensity.

As you become accustomed to the workout, increase the intensity as well as the distance covered. With time, this becomes simple, and you’ll feel like you’ve added an extra mile to your race. However, it should be slow to prevent injuries during the transition and maximize your workout time.

4. Run and Strength Combo Workout

As the name suggests, a combo workout combines two types of exercises into a single session. Also known as a hybrid session, it can involve running for a few to several minutes, followed by a strength-training circuit. 

Strength Training Triathlon Fundamentals

There are multiple benefits of this type of workout for a triathlete. Besides saving time, combining workouts helps you target various muscle groups, break through plateaus and reach high levels of your workout.

Even though most triathletes prefer working out in the open, a gym can be a good place to kickstart your combo training. For instance, your running workout can compromise a blend of running on a treadmill and several intervals of endurance training.

If you want a high-intensity workout, you may consider looking at a treadmill walkthrough to pick the best machine to enable you to get the most of your strength and cardio training,

To start with, you can adopt this simple routine on a treadmill and with a pair of dumbbells;

  • Start with three-minute warm-up dynamic exercises, including leg sweeps, high knees, and butt kickers.
  • Follow the exercises with warm-up jogging for 5 minutes, 2% incline running for 90 seconds, 3% incline running for 90 seconds, and 4% incline running for 90 seconds. Have a 45-second recovery at each interval.
  • Increase intensity by adjusting the incline and reducing run time. Repeat the circuits and use heavy dumbbells to create fatigue. 
  • For finisher sprints, sprint at 1% incline for 30 seconds and break for 60 seconds to recover. 

5. Plyometrics Workouts

Plyometric training can sound complicated and possibly challenging, especially for beginner triathletes. Because of the complex movement sequences that are often explosive, there’s an impression that ply workouts are only suitable for pro athletes. On the contrary, both amateur and professional athletes can benefit from plyometric exercises, provided these are performed correctly. 

strengthen knee ligament for injury prevention

Runners who follow a training routine with ply exercises can increase their performance because of more strength in their lower body and enhanced explosive power. 

Typically, plyometrics involves using bounds, jumps, and hops to reduce ground time. It also includes strength training and stability to help you decelerate, land gently, and have reasonable control of the body.

Examples of simple plyometric workouts include:

Ankle Hops

This workout involves skipping on your ankles using calf muscles and straight legs. You may start with three by ten ankle hops, then advance to 3 by 30 with both legs.

Depth Jumps

With depth jumps, start by standing on a box, step off and fall towards the ground. This workout triggers your lower body muscles, including quadriceps, glutes, and hamstrings.

Box Jumps

As the name suggests, box jumps involve jumping from the floor to a high surface. Essentially, the exercise targets your quads and enhances explosive power. 

Single Leg Hops

Single-leg hops drills enable you to develop power and continuously improve your balance and stability. It also boosts coordination between the firing of glutes, ankles, and knee extension to maximize power and stability.

Last Word on Triathlon Running

It’s no secret that specialized run training is an important part of a triathlon training program. If you don’t incorporate strength training, plyometrics, and variety into your run routine, you’re missing out on valuable stress and stimulus that can help you come race day. Not do these activities help improve your running economy and speed, but with the guidance of an endurance coach or structured training program, they also reduce the risk of injury. Further, it targets your key muscle groups and enables you to develop a balanced approach.

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Tyler Tafelsky Gravel Cyclist
Head of Content at Better Triathlete | Website

Endurance athlete, professional off-road cyclist, and avid blogger, Tyler Tafelsky participates in long-course multisport and cycling events. Today, Tyler competes in ultra-distance cycling races at the professional level. Since starting Better Triathlete in 2014, he has been the head of content for the site's editorial team. Learn more about Tyler