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Shake Up Your Run! by Chris Thomas

Practical, fun and effective ways to improve your run sessions:

Time trial time: Kick the season off or kick start your run with a timed run. Then use the splits to plan your quality speed. Aiming for times can help you stay on track and strive for a tangible goal. The timed run distance will depend on your event goal however typically for triathlon a 5 or 10km TT will do the trick. 

An example might be: Say you ran a 5km timed in 25mins, this means you are running the TT at 5min per km pace. If you were running a set of 8-10 x 400m intervals at just under your 5km race pace then you are aiming to run them at 1:45 to 1:50 (2mins is your TT race pace)

Intervals: Adding intervals to 1 to 2 of your weekly sessions will provide a valuable change of pace as well as variations in stride rate and stride length. Intervals can vary in length and pace and can be used all year round. They can be performed over a flat, undulating or hilly course and are also beneficial when added to the end of a session to help strengthen your run all the way to the finish line. Interval training can be used as a track session or within a continuous run. Generally, the shorter and faster the interval the longer the recovery time needed. Make sure that you are giving yourself adequate recovery between each interval, that way you can run with good technique and quality.

Build strength: As triathletes we rarely get to run off the bike over a perfectly smooth, flat course so make sure you are including hills to build strength and push the heart rate higher. Making sure your long runs or aerobic runs include some hills is a great way to keep your run interesting, however, including a specific strength run session such as hill repeats can offer you the double whammy - all the benefits of interval training plus the strength work! Hill reps are best run over a slight to moderate incline and over 200m to 1km depending on the outcome desired. If it is power, strength and speed you are after then a shorter hill running at 85-100% effort will suit however, a speed endurance session (longer intervals) at 75-85% effort and over around 400m - 1km will provide solid strength endurance session. Hills are also a great way to develop and refine run technique in the off-season.

Short and sharp the key? There are many studies out at the moment that advocate the less is better (mentality) and quality over quantity approach. The theory behind this research is that high intensity efforts over short periods decreases the overall training load by reducing the impact and training force required to run hard over longer periods. The other major benefit is that the athlete is more likely to hold good technique during short intervals at high intensity. A thorough warm up is important, including drills and run throughs. The main set will include hard intervals of around 10-12 seconds with 20-30sec recovery and repeat this continuously for 10-12 reps. Then run easy for a few minutes and repeat the same set 3-6 times in total. Warm down well.

Swiss speed play (fartlek): Fartlek is one of the most effective and versatile run sessions for a beginner, intermediate or elite athlete. Fartlek is the Swedish word for speed-play and is a continuous run whereby the pace and interval time can vary. It is an unstructured session that places stress on the aerobic and anaerobic system. I love a fartlek session because this it allows you to challenge yourself physically over short (15-60sec), medium (60sec - 90sec) or longer intervals (90sec - 2mins) and also encourages you to work with the all important "feel" tool when it comes to pace and recovery times. Add a 15-30 minute fartlek set to the middle of a run session.

Would you like a ride or a swim with your run? There are some great benefits for adding the run to the end of a bike ride or after a swim. The obvious one is to gain physical adaptations to running off the bike. I also like to run from the swim not only for variety but for the endurance benefits and I find that swimming beforehand can decrease stress on the body as everything is warmed up and ready to go from the start.

Downhill running: There is a place for downhill running to help strengthen the legs and this type of training can be especially beneficial for strengthening the back end of your run. It is no secret that running downhill is much harder on the body than running uphill as the force through the feet, calves and quads is much greater running downhill. You need to be very careful when adding this very specific training to your run sessions as the load will need to be built slowly, core strength needs to be solid and proper run technique is critical. 

Go natural: Head to a bush track, coastal scenic run or trail for your recovery and long slow distance runs. Why? Trail running will have you thinking on your feet a lot more than road running and this is fantastic way to fire up the neural pathways which means time goes by quicker and studies also show that recovery is quicker due to less mental fatigue. Trail running will also bring the accessories muscles into play making this run a great strength and conditioning session.

Find some friends (including the 4 legged kind): running with 2-legged or 4-legged friends can make your run really worthwhile and fun. Friends can also provide you with healthy competition. [1] 

Fire up the gluteus: Many of us are guilty of having gluteus that fail us when it comes to running. The lack of gluteal and hamstring strength can be the cause of many lower leg issues and imbalances. The weakness may be a strength issue and or from an inability to connect cognitively and recruit these muscles while running. To encourage the glutes and hamstrings to start firing, try adding some body weight conditioning exercises and drills to the start of 1-2 runs per week. Another great way to get the old toosh firing is to add stairs to the middle or the end of your run. Run or walk the stairs with good technique – light on your feet, up tall and with some pace.

Don't forget the recovery: Put simply, your recovery runs and active recovery between your run sessions is as important as the training itself. 

Happy Running,


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