Triathlon
November 24, 2020

How To Run Faster Off-The-Bike

Man running off the bike in an ironman triathlon

As a triathlete, you’re going to have to run, or at the very least walk, after riding your bike if you want to finish your race.

It makes sense then that you should dedicate some of your training to practising this skill. I certainly did during my pro days.

In this post, I’m going to discuss the pros and cons of running off-the-bike in training, and share how you can run faster off-the-bike in your next triathlon. Read on.

Why You Should Run Off-The-Bike In Training

Running off-the-bike in training can have some benefits over traditional stand-alone running.

  • Running off-the-bike simulates what you do in racing, so it’s useful for conditioning the body to transition between sports.
  • Running off-the-bike allows you to practice and master the art of a fast transition.
  • Running off-the-bike can be used to maximise your time when time is tight.
  • Running off-the-bike can help you to test your race gear and swap out the equipment that’s not working out well.
  • Running off-the-bike is excellent for beginner athletes who are not familiar with the feelings and fatigue that come with transitioning between sports.

The Downside Of Running Off-The-Bike

Running off-the-bike isn’t all upside. To make the most of your training, you need to structure your runs off-the-bike carefully.

  • Running off-the-bike is hard on your body and can affect your ability to recover when done too often.
  • Too many runs off-the-bike can sacrifice high-quality stand-alone run sessions and lower your overall run mileage, which over time, could harm your performance.
  • Getting too tired by running off-the-bike can cause your form to deteriorate and could put you at a higher risk of injury.
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How To Improve Your Running Off-The-Bike

Besides improving your aerobic fitness and building overall strength, there are two specific types of training sessions you can do to improve your ability to run well off-the-bike.

  1. Transition runs
  2. Brick sessions

Transition runs are short runs—usually 5 to 15-minutes—after a full bike ride.

Brick sessions consist of a full bike session followed immediately by a full run session; in other words, it’s a session in which each discipline could stand alone as it’s own training session.

Transition Runs

Transition runs are great for athletes new to triathlon or for athlete’s who have not been running well in recent races. They’re also more useful for short course athletes.

I recommend doing transition runs in the early stages of your training cycle following your speed and long rides. You can do them after every ride, but I have found that placing them after these two anchor sessions will work well for most athletes.

As you become more familiar with running off-the-bike, you can lower your frequency as needed and focus on brick sessions and high-quality stand-alone runs.

My Favourite Transition Run
Every week over summer, I used to do a short criterium race. I’d ride out to the venue to warm up, then ride the race. At the finish, all the cyclists began a couple of easy laps to cool down and chat, but I jumped off and did a ten-minute transition run. Sometimes I would run it steady (zone 2) and other times at race pace. It depended on where I was in the training cycle and how I felt. I’d cycle home to cool down. It was great fun.

Brick Sessions

Brick sessions are more strenuous than transition runs, and because of that, cannot be done at the same frequency. Brick sessions are best done in the later stages of the training cycle when you’re trying to simulate what you will do on race day.

These runs are best done off race-specific and long rides, and I recommend capping the duration to a maximum of 50-minutes for short course triathletes and 90-minutes for long course athletes.

My Favourite Brick Session
The most common (and my favourite) brick session I did was a long ride followed by a 30 – 40-minute run off-the-bike. I’d usually run this steady (zone 2) but would sometimes run the first 20-minute moderately hard (zone 3) before dropping back to steady for the remainder of the run.

Running Off-The-Bike In Training

Running off-the-bike in training can help to improve your triathlon running performance by making your stronger and conditioning your body to run efficiently on tired legs.

You don’t have to do either of these runs every week, although you can. I only did them at certain times depending on how my running was going, and what I was trying to achieve. In Coached programmes, transition runs and brick sessions are optional.

The exact type of runs you choose to do will depend on a few things.

  1. Your experience as a triathlete
  2. The length of the race you are preparing for
  3. Where you are in your training cycle
  4. How much time you have available to train

Consider the above factors then carefully add transition runs and/or brick sessions into your schedule. You should see your run times improve.


Head CoachBen PulhamBen Pulham is the founder of Coached, a personal training programme that helps runners & triathletes optimise, track and enjoy their training.