Done in an hour: running

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The third in our series of “Done in an hour” articles, James Beckinsale gives us three running sessions specifically targeting skills and technique, technique and aerobic capacity and finally lactate tolerance and strength.


Running is by far the predominant area in which triathletes pick up most of their injuries and this can be caused by poor technique, over training (as it is the only weight-bearing discipline) or conducting brick type sessions thus running tired off the bike (again poor technique/ poor economy of motion).

It is also the area where if you are not strong physically or mentally, you will always end your triathlon experience on a low. How nice would it be to be coming in off the bike thinking “I have worked hard on my running over winter, I can’t wait to get on the run and put it into practice” That said, if you have just hammered the bike to try and get a good time, thus worked above your functional power threshold, no amount of run training is going to save you from the pain!

Before we start, remember we are not runners, we are triathletes. Therefore, we ride before we run and when we ride we rely heavily on our quads, they (our quads) then become very tired, so we do not want to over use them on the run. Instead we want to utilise our hamstrings and only use our quads as stabilisers.

Session one

The use of the treadmill was first introduced to me by the lovely people at Sports Dimensions in Chiswick. Although their thinking on correct running biomechanics was the same as my own, I found introducing the treadmill really speeds up the learning process when coaching athletes. You see when you increase the incline, the athlete naturally has to run with soft knees and as you increase the speed the athlete is forced into recruiting the running muscles in the correct pattern (with some coaching!). I have seen some dramatic results using this technique and it negates the need of long sessions on the track trying to teach athletes (especially juniors) optimum economy of motion.

Skill/technique: the aim is to improve the neural firing patterns of your running muscles.

Equipment required: skipping rope, treadmill, mirror, video camera (use your mobile phone), friend/ partner.

Warm up: Skipping for 5mins (you can build this until you can skip for the time it will take you to run 10km), do not increase duration of skip by more than 10% each week and use single leg skipping not just double feet. (Time 5mins)

Main set: Put the treadmill up to about 10-12% and at a speed that is around your 10km race pace.  Straddle the treadmill, test the pace of the treadmill with one foot, keep holding onto the side and the jump on. Keep hold of the sides until you are comfortable running then let go.

Set 1 = 4 x 1min with 3mins recovery between (jump off treadmill once finished first run and just walk around)
Set 2 = 4 x 30 secs (increase speed + 1km per hour, ie if on 10kph go to 11kph) with 3mins recovery between each rep.
Set 3 = 2 x 15 secs increase incline by 2% and increase speed by 2kph with 3mins recovery between each rep. (Time 43mins)

Cool down: 5mins easy spin on bike. (Time 5mins)

(Total session time 53mins)

Ask a friend to video your running so you can let your coach see it or try to do some self analysis. Here are some points to focus on while watching.

Running man
Five key style points to focus on, see the table below
A Stay tall and lift the chest. Limit the twisting of the shoulders and arms crossing the midline. Drive arms forward and back like a sprinter.
B Centre of gravity constantly moves forward stabilised by glutes, quads and core muscles. Body has a slight forward lean.
C High heel lift uses hamstrings (which are not so tired onff the bike) to accentuate recovery and flow. Watch Tim Don running to see how well he does this.
D Knee does not so much lift as drive through with a forefoot strike. Skipping will help to strengthen this stance. This optimises the stretch/shotening cycle. Foot does not go forward of the knee prior to strike which reduces the load on the quads to a stabilisation process – they are tired after the bike.
E Legs cycle in a continuous flow under the hips. Lift the heel and the knee at the same time.

NB: It takes the mind and body (neural pathways) around six weeks to develop/ learn a new skill, so persevere; you’ll soon be injury free and flying!

Session two

Technique/aerobic aim: to develop running skills while developing aerobic capacity

Equipment required: running track, HR monitor, video

Warm up: 10mins easy jogging (Time 10mins)

Drills: about 5mins of different running type drills, ballistic stretch (ask someone if you don’t understand this term) (Time 5mins)

Main set: 6 x 1mile reps at 10k race pace (ie off the bike run pace) – on laps 2 and 4 focus on the above running skill points and on laps 1 and 3 ensure you maintain the correct pace. Take 90 seconds to 3mins (depending on fitness) recovery between each rep but do not just stand around go through running drills. This is not a stressful session and as you complete the reps think “could I maintain this pace in a race”? If you work too hard you will not be able to focus on good form on laps 2 and 4. (Time 30/ 35 mins)

Again try to get a friend to record what your running is looking like; visual feedback can paint a thousand words.

Cool down: 5 – 10mins easy jog and static stretch (Time 5 mins)

(Total session time 55 mins)

Session three – SUPER-SET

Lactate tolerance strength aim: to increase the rate of lactate dissipation from cells and increase run specific strength.

Equipment required: strong heart and mind, track, HR monitor

Warm up: do four laps of the track: first is easy, second medium, third is building from medium to hard and finish with one lap as pick up’s (50 hard 100 easy etc) then do some ballistic stretching (ask someone!) (Time 10 mins)

Main set: this set is done at maximum effort throughout. As you go through 200m into 400m the build up of pyruvate and proton accumulation at cell level ensures you will not be able to keep up the 200m pace and it’s the same for the 1km. This is a fantastic session to increase the mental strength of the athlete, as they have to hold onto form as they endure the pain, it makes running off the bike a doddle!

Start with a 200m run, straight into a 400m run then straight into 1km. There is no rest between each distance. Recovery is waiting until HR drops below 120 bpm or for around 90 secs to 3mins depending on fitness. Repeat this 1 to 6 times (Time 30 – 35 mins)

Depending on your fitness you will start to get jelly legs as you head into the second half of the 400m phase (600m) and it is at this point you will need to be mentally strong to hold good form (the first 2 to 600m is where you will develop run specific strength). As you get into the 1km part, you will not be running fast, but just trying to hold good form and a moderate pace. It is during this phase you are training the body to dissipate the lactate from the cells. As you improve your fitness/ strength you will be able to run the last km at closer and closer to race pace.

Don’t worry so much about the times you take to run each segment, just try and keep working at your maximum intensity for the specific distance.

One of the main limiting factors of white (as opposed to African endurance runners is their lack of strength endurance, improve your specific run strength and watch your run times tumble.

Cool down: do at least 10 mins of easy jogging – when you get home do hot and cold contrast on your legs; get in a shower (or bath with ice in) and run cold water over your legs for about 5mins – then put it to hot and repeat the process (try and cover all of the major muscles from the hips down) repeat x 3 to 6. (Time 10 mins)

(Total training time 55 mins)


Get the complete set of ‘Done in an hour‘ articles through these links