You will feel pain and fatigue after cycling, but that shouldn’t slow down your run

By Arland Macasieb | Photo by Abraham Domingo

Running on pre-fatigued legs after cycling is perhaps the hardest aspect of duathlon and triathlon. But there are quite a few training techniques and methods to help you become a strong runner off the bike.

Develop a strong aerobic base

The more kilometers you can cycle and run consistently, the more you will develop your overall resistance to fatigue. These endurance runs are done well below the body’s lactate threshold, but usually for long durations (1+ hour runs and 2+ hours on the bike) and primarily using the type 1 slow twitch muscle fibers.

Become a stronger cyclist

By getting stronger on the bike, you can actually turn back your effort so you can “save” your legs for the run.  The way I like to train for this is to push bigger gears and lower cadence during training (70 rpm or less), then, on race week, shifting to smaller gears and more spin. Having a power meter to monitor your efforts on climbing and intervals will help. You should always try to do efforts at your intended race wattage or higher at least once or twice a week. These efforts with stimulate both type 2a FOG (fast oxidative glycolytic) and 2b muscle fibers FG (fast glycolytic)

Pedal efficiently

By using training tools like PowerCranks and the Spin Scan on a Computrainer, you can measure the efficiency of your pedal stroke. When we first learned to ride a bike, we were taught to keep a back pressure on the pedals to keep our feet connected—but once we are clipped in, we no longer have to apply that back force and we can actually pull up or unweight our feet on the back half of the pedal stroke, also called the upstroke. This upstroke is actually the same motion we have in running to pick up our knees. Pedaling efficiency is also helped when we use shorter crank lengths.

Get in the habit of running off the bike often. Some triathletes are so used to it they actually run better when they cycle first and warm up their legs

Do brick workouts

Get in the habit of running off the bike often. Some triathletes are so used to it they actually run better when they cycle first and warm up their legs. If a bike or stationary trainer is not available, you can substitute isometric wall sitting in place of the bike to pre-fatigue the legs.

Practice short quick strides

As mentioned, I’m an advocate of lower cadences on the bike, particularly for 70.3 and Iron distance racing. For Olympic distances, 90+ rpm is acceptable, especially in a draft legal event. Off the bike, a fast cadence of 180 spm (steps per minute) is ideal. You can gradually increase your stride length, but fast cadence on the run is far more crucial than it is on the bike.

Control your pace

Run at a steady controlled pace, especially in the beginning. It is easy to get carried away, but the best races are run in either an even pace or negative split. Wearing a heart rate monitor is handy. It’s also good to do several workouts at race pace or faster, so you know where your limits are before the event.

If you can put these six elements together you will be on your way to having your best splits off the bike.  And remember, “bike for show, run for dough!”