An obvious key feature of a traditional triathlon is the run that follows the bike.   What’s the best way to train for this in order to boost your performance, enjoy the run and even get faster as a result?

I divide runs that follow bikes into three distinct categories, each with it’s own purpose.  We’ll cover each one.

  1. Transition Runs
  2. Brick Runs
  3. Two a day workouts where run follows bike

Transition Runs

Transition Runs are brief runs usually of 1- 3 miles (or 10-30 minutes) that are designed to help you get used to the physical and neuro-muscular transition to runnign after riding the bike.  Bike riding involves a seated, weight supported flexed & slightly hunched position.  The hip and knee joints have a fairly small range of motion when compared to the run.   When the muscular fatigue of a threshold race effort on the bike is then followed by an activity that requires opening up the joint movements and getting bigger range of motion, especially the hips,  the body simply gets confused.  I’m sure you’ve seen the “ironman shuffle”?   This is a running position that almost looks like the triathlete is ‘sitting’ while they run. They have taken the flexed hip position on the bike and simply translated it to an upright posture, never fully opening up the hip flexor and the front of the leg.

A 10 minute transition run focused 100% on achieving a tall open posture with a full stride length is the key workout in order to get our body accustomed to the actual transition itself.   Therefore a true “transition run” is not intended to be a run workout or fatigue your leg muscles even more, but simply to help you quickly achieve your best running form.

Starting a minimum of 6 weeks out from your first race if you are a beginner, to 2-3 months out if you are more experienced, start adding a  10-15 minute transition run to 1-2 bike rides during the week. Keep the time between bike and run to less than 5 minutes for best impact.

Brick Runs

A brick run differs from a transition run in that it is designed to create some running stress or fatigue in your legs following a bike and therefore help improve your overall fitness.   These need to be balanced with overall training load and the length of the brick run taken into account when planning total weekly run volume.   Depending on your skill level, a 10 minute brick run might do the trick, but more likely you’ll need a 30 minute or long run to create the training stress we are looking for in a traditional brick.   How long can you go? Believe it or not, brick runs of longer than an hour are seldom needed, even if you are training for a long course triathlon.   The combination of a long bike followed by a run longer than an hour simple creates a lot of fatigue that is difficult to recovery from, even at lighter intensities.

A steady diet of 30-45 minute brick runs following your medium length bike ride of the week will prepare you well for race day especially when some of these bike/run combos are done at race intensity.

Two-a-Days Run following Bike

In a two a day workout, several hours of recovery between the first and second session allow muscular recovery, fuel regeneration and a neuro-muscular ‘reset’ so that you can get a high quality second workout.   It’s vital for improving efficiency of your run technique that you do a lot of running on well rested legs.   This makes a lot of triathletes nervous since the feeling of dead, tired legs can become common.  But when focusing on recovery and performance, rather than strict mileage or hours trained, most triathletes will find a better spring in their run, which is literally what is needed to improve efficiency, use less energy and run faster on race day.

So when you are looking at training plans, or hear your friends chatting about their “bricks” or “transition runs”, don’t make the assumption that their plan is distiguishing between these three types of post-bike runs.  Many coaches & training plans use the terms interchangably.   But the quality of your training determines the quality of your performance.  Aim for the best quality runs, with a purpose, at the right time in your schedule in order to run your fastest on race day.