Ask the Coach: Can I make running off the bike easier?

By Lifesport Coach Jeremy Howard

This is a question I get asked a lot; along with “how does (insert name) run so fast off the bike”?

The short answer is – just run easier.

The disconnect usually is in the answer to the second question. Chances are (insert name) is running relatively easier, and significantly at that, in the opening moments of the run than the person asking the question.  (Insert name) is able to hold even pace through the run, or even get slightly faster as they progress. 

I don’t believe there are many of us who want to run off the bike easier. What we really want is for that effort to translate to speed.  Regardless of the distance you are competing at, it is important to recognize that most people bike too hard, then fade throughout the run.  If you recognize that, then logically the best time to catch your competitors is on the back half of the run.  If you put yourself in a position to be running your strongest/fastest when everyone else is at their weakest, and possibly walking, then you will be in the best position to have a successful race.   

There are certainly physical things that you can do to make running off the bike more effective. But when it comes to remedying the “going too fast at the beginning then fading throughout the run” mindset, it is more than simply willing yourself in those final miles; it is the discipline to hold a relaxed, sustainable effort right from the start, and knowing what that means.  There is no magic on race day.  I’ll repeat: there will be no magic on race day.  Whatever pace you trained for, aim to run the first 20% of the run a few seconds slower than that goal pace.  This will allow you to settle, stay relaxed, build up naturally, and have those elusive extra gears to drop the effort over the final km’s.

It is important to practise this mindset in your training leading up to the race.  Brick runs are the prime workouts to focus on: relaxing at the start – take the first couple km’s easier than pace, then build up slowly.  If you are performing race pace intervals, you can start relaxed and build up over the course of the set.  Also, if they are longer intervals, you can build up throughout the interval (i.e., start relaxed for the first few moments then build pace/effort through the middle of each interval).

The good news is you have the fitness to run stronger off the bike.  The biggest hurdle is changing your mentality as you hit the run.  Instead of pushing, change your mindset to focus on form, cadence, and relaxation.  There is plenty of time to push once you have established rhythm!

Happy Runday!


LifeSport triathlon coach Jeremy Howard has an extensive background in multi-sport as an athlete and coach. Jeremy is USAT, ASCA and CSCAA certified with over 15 years of coaching experience. Since 2003, Jeremy has worked as a swim coach at the Age Group, Master's and Collegiate levels. Additionally, Jeremy is certified as a Level 1 coach with USA Track and Field (USATF) and has coached athletes in Cross Country and Road Racing at the High School and Master's Level.  

Contact Jeremy to help reach your full potential in the wonderful sport of triathlon.

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