Over the years, I’ve had the honor of attending the Ironman Championships in Kona. Watching these incredible athletes, swim, bike and THEN run a marathon, I’m always amazed. Somehow doing all three sports has helped teach them how to run faster and longer.
Talking with these athletes, nearly all of them say they are better runners now than when the focused only on running. In fact, they convinced me to get back to more biking and I’m reallllly working to make it to the pool more.
Living in FL, I toyed with a triathlon repeatedly, but the truth is I love running. It’s my primary passion and I didn’t want to devote enough time to the other disciplines to do it well.
But, I want all of us to take a page from their training, so I got some tips from Page Spicer Williams, a fellow Oakley Women’s ambassador way back in 2011! She’s a speedster in running and an accomplished triathlete.
Bonus points if you do tackle a triathlon because MANY triathletes dislike running. Which means you have an immediate leg up on them, once you nail down the biking and swimming!
5 Ways Triathlon Training Makes You a Better Runner
My schedule is much different as Ironman training is about volume and endurance, rather than speed and tempo work. You also need to ensure that you get the right mix, the right progression and the right recovery to ensure that your body can handle large volumes of training.
Beyond that difference though, here are the major areas that can help any runner get better.
1. Learn How to Fuel
I don’t care who you are, if you don’t feel hungry, if you feel like you could run without it — don’t be a dummy. Fuel yourself pre-race, during your race, and your post-race properly and your body will thank you (and so will your results).
This is one area that continues to allude many runners, but is a main stay of triathlon training. They spend a lot of time thinking about what to take with them and how to fuel in advance because of the time they spend on the course. It’s equally important for runners and one of the keys to avoid bonking!
- Try playing with whole foods
- Try a variety of pre-workout snacks
- Try refueling with a green smoothie if you aren’t hungry
- Try refueling with a healthy high protein breakfast
In other words, don’t stop experimenting until you find the fueling strategy that keeps your energy levels even and allows you to recover from one workout to the next.
2. Stay on Top of Body Care
If you think running miles and miles puts strain on the body, try using a whole lot of different muscles every single day. Your body is your tool for getting through not just each workout, but life, and if you want tomorrow’s run/bike session and the following days swim to go well, you have to give your body the respect it deserves.
Being lazy and skipping these things often leads to injury, then instead of 5-10 minutes of time you’re spending months going through physical therapy and wishing you could be training.
Don’t be lazy, pull out the foam roller before your run and spend a couple minutes stretching before bed. And consider joining a place that offers a monthly massage discount to help keep you going and enjoying those benefits!
3. Embracing New Challenges
If you happen to be in a slump with running, then maybe a triathlon is the cure!
Suddenly you’ve got a whole new set of challenges to get you excited, things to learn and of course immediate race PR’s!
Taking on these new sports is a great chance to get your mind right about obstacles as well. The longer we run, the more we seem to think we should know it all or that setbacks are the end of the road. But in a triathlon you get a flat tire and need to fix it, get back on and keep pedaling. You get slapped in the face during the swim, need to shake it off and get to the shore.
Bad runs, injuries and other less than ideal happening will occur. It’s not a question of if, but when. But when they do happen, you have a choice in life. You can either dwell on it and let it consume you, or you can handle it with optimism, laughter, or whatever positive means necessary.
Get a double flat on your triple brick workout? Complain for a minute, then get it fixed. Have a bad long run? Get some rest then get back out there and try again. Sprain your ankle before the biggest race of your life? Take care of it then work even hard to go after your dreams.
10 days before Ironman Arizona, Page fell during an easy recovery run, sprained her ankle on both sides and had to pull out of the race that she had trained an entire year for. She was understandably devastated.
Three plus months of physical therapy later, she got back to training training for IMCDA and feeling stronger than going into IMAZ. You have to believe that everything happens for a reason, so when shit happens, just know that it happens to everyone.
4. Biking for Power
In the triathlon, the bike portion is the longest in terms of distance which means it requires a respectable amount of training. For runners, this is an ideal cross training scenario because:
- it allows you to still be outside
- it’s lower impact, which is a great break from running
- cycling at 90RPM mimics the ideal foot turnover for running
- it builds leg strength in a new way
- you can explore areas you might not reach on a shorter run
- you can take it inside for a spin class if you need more motivation
5. Swimming for Breathing
If you’re afraid of something, keep at it. Keep trying. Keep working. Never give up. You’ll get there…we all will. This is the thought process that helped Page get herself out in to the open water to embrace swimming, which she loved, but turns out that wild ocean was terrifying.
For all runners that time swimming can be beneficial:
- Allows you to improve your breathing
- Expands lung capacity
- Full body workout that’s low impact
- Ideal cross training
- Perfect way to keep moving when unable to run due to injury
- Options from open water to pool
If you want serious results, you have to get serious about training. BOOM mental nuggets being dropped all over the place.
But truly, I’ve seen more runners transitioning to the triathlon for a change of pace and I think it’s great! Not only do you get to experience something new, but you come back to running stronger, healthier and sans burn out.
Have you ever done a triathlon? How did it help your running?
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