If you are starting out running and haven’t done much previously, the secret is slow and steady, you need to give your body time to adapt no matter what your fitness level and history in other sports. If gentle running is an issue and finds you out of breath as soon as you start to jog, then a flat run and walk strategy is the way forward. Take heart, we’ve all been there but try to be consistent in your running and Increase the number of times in a week you run before increasing the time you spend running at one go.
Don’t worry about the distance, simply focus on the amount time you spend out running until you feel confident to keep going. Only once you are confident to run two or three miles or about thirty minutes non-stop on flat terrain, should you start to build the mileage.
Your shoes are probably the most important piece of kit in the whole of your triathlon armoury. They have to be right for you. Most of us don’t have perfect biomechanics and you may need an assessment of running form to determine which of the several types of shoe is right for you. There are good running shoe shops around that offer video analysis of your running gait and will offer to do this for you, although beware the Saturday boy or girl who may have little experience and whose aim is to sell you the most expensive pair. It is worth getting it done professional especially if experiencing issues such as shin splints or knee pain. There are lots of confusing terms about over- and under-pronating, cushioning and stability shoes, natural running gaits etc. The general rule here is don’t spend too much money on your first proper pair of running shoes until you are confident that they are the right ones for you.
Most triathletes will have gone through periods of running injury which are more or less debilitating. However, the most common cause of the injury is building up the mileage when the body is not ready for it. Of course, if you are otherwise very fit, your body may well be able to tolerate increases, but the general tried and tested rule is not to increase your running mileage or time on your feet running by more than 10% from one week to the next. It is especially important not to increase the length of your longest run by more than about a mile and a half or 2.5 km in one jump. Always allow a day or two recovery after a long or hard run before you undertake another similar session. You need to allow your body time to recover and running is the most damaging of all triathlon’s disciplines. You also have to avoid the surprisingly common mistake of over-training. Also, If you find yourself getting niggles which don’t go away after a couple of days, there may underlying issues with your core of biomechanics which may need addressing. It is usually better to back off on the running to sort out the problem. Whilst pushing the running can mean you make advances in your running and help with fitness gains, and result in faster triathlon races, it is also a risky strategy for older triathletes or the injury prone.
One really good way to work on your run training, especially as you move towards the race season is to undertake back to back training sessions, commonly known as brick sessions where you cycle for an hour or two and then get straight off the bike and change into your running kit/shoes and go for a run. If it is your first go at a brick session, then keep the run short for a mile or two at most. You will quickly understand that there is no feeling quite like the jelly legs you experience when you start to run after cycling hard. However, if you build even short runs immediately on to the back of a hard or long bike ride you will run faster during races as a result of increased strength endurance.