6 Tips To Running Faster Off The Bike

The run in triathlon can be a game changer when it comes to placing. Being fast in an Ironman (both 1406. and 70.3 distances) really comes down to who can to who is the one who slows down the least. It is very common that around the late stages of a race all of the sudden the wheels fall off and pace drops. Running off the bike seems so easy, you just run right? So why is it that you as you work through your training all of the sudden it seems like you are getting slower during your running. You up your run mileage and it doesn’t seem to help… Running efficiently and in turn faster off the bike is more than just running more; there are a lot of little other factors involved with running faster off the bike.

I put together a few tips to helping you learn to run faster off the bike.

6 Tips to Running Faster off the Bike

Increase your bike cadence
Cadence is the rate in which you pedal on the bike, or the number of pedal revolutions per minute (RPMs). While there is no magical cadence number, and everyone is a little different in which works perfectly for them a higher cadence has shown to not only help you to go faster on the bike but also to run better off the bike.

When you have a low RPM that means you are usually in a lower in order to push enough power and speed which means you use slow-twitch muscles and more of your muscular system. It is more taxing on your muscular system and uses up your muscle glycogen faster. Compared to a higher RPM in a higher, easier gear, which utilizes more of the aerobic system/ cardiovascular system. Don’t worry you will still push the same amount of power and speed, the faster you move your legs the more power you generate. The cardiovascular system is a highly efficient system and it recovers a lot quicker than your muscular system. This means that you “save” your muscular system for the run.

Focus on fueling and hydration on the bike
It doesn’t matter how strong of a runner you are if you don’t nail (or at least come close to nailing) your fueling and hydration on the bike. If you don’t hydrate or fuel enough you will run out of energy to be able to hang on for the run. In actuality this starts with breakfast in the morning if you don’t eat enough calories for breakfast you immediately start at a deficit in calories and you won’t be able to catch up. During a triathlon you burn more calories than you can consume and if you get behind you won’t have the ability to play catch up with the calories you need to continue on.

Everyone’s nutrition plan is different and if you want more detail on race day nutrition check out this old blog post HERE.

Run Faster during Training
It’s easy to get into the groove of just running when you are training and stay in your comfort zone. However in order to get faster in anything, not just in running, you have to push yourself outside of your comfort zone. This doesn’t mean that you do it all the time in your training, your recovery runs should still be just that a recovery run, but when you have tough workouts such as interval runs, race pace effort runs, or speed workouts don’t just settle into what you are comfortable with but push yourself to be a little bit faster.

The more time you spend running “faster” the more your body will adapt to it physically and mentally so when you go to do it in a race you won’t throw your body out of control.

Running faster also helps to develop your fast twitch muscle fibers, build muscle, and train your body to recruit the appropriate muscles to do so. This process trains the body to get better at supplying oxygen to your muscles in a more efficient way so that when you go to be fast in your race it already knows how to do so. Throw in some speed work one to two days a week and it will yield huge benefits. On top of that when you do your speed work don’t necessarily only do it at your “goal” race pace but push yourself a little more to try to grow the boundaries of that pace.

Speed off the bike
This is very similar to the above but I made it a separate tip because it is very specific to running faster off the bike. What I am getting at here is to actually practice running fast off the bike, in an effort to get your body used to running fast off the bike. For example; during some of your brick workouts run for 5-10 minutes FAST off the bike, either your goal race pace or faster than your goal race pace with no warm up or settling in off the bike. These bouts of speed off the bike can help get the body adapted to the quick cadence and speed needed for the leg turnover to be fast off the bike. It also helps to make the other paces seem a lot easier. Again the more you practice being fast the easier it will seem on race day.

Small runs add up.  It may seem silly to only run for 15-25 minutes off the bike, but those small runs here and there can really add up. They add in mileage without beating your legs up, get your body used to running off the bike, and can help you have stamina and stability later in the race (builds resilience). Its easy to get caught up in this concept of needing to have these huge, epic sessions and while there is time for that but what really makes a difference is getting the little work done.

Consistency also is a key component in getting faster across all general disciplines.  The more consistent you are the more your body will become adapted, the stronger you will become, and the more confident you will become. It takes time, patience, and a willingness to learn to embrace the process.

Strength and mobility
Running is power and power comes from muscles on top of that strength training helps to prevent injury, protects the connective tissue in your body, and improves your neuromuscular coordination and power which then helps with running economy. Now it is hard to comprehend adding in something extra to our already busy schedule with swim, bike, run, recovery, nutrition, and trying to still maintain a semblance of a social life, family life, and work life. Adding in strength training and mobility doesn’t have to be time consuming nor does it have to be done 5-7 days a week, 20-30 minutes three times a week works great.

In your strength training you want to train for movement not necessarily for muscle bulk, to do that stick to compound, multi-joint exercises such as dead lifts, pull ups, bench press, and step-ups onto an elevated platform. You can then combine these exercises with lunges, planks, side planks, side leg lifts, and push ups for a great body weight complement.

One area of concern for runners is their hips, a majority of running injuries are caused by weak and tight hips. Having tight hips can impeded an athletes full range of motion. Force in running comes from hip extension and then gluteus maximus contraction, if you don’t have enough range of motion the gluteus maximus and surrounding stabilizer muscles cannot contract enough to generate full force forward.

Run Form
We always chase efficiency through improved technique in our swimming and good form through perfect bike fits but what about our running? It’s easy to forget about the importance of proper run technique because its something we often grew up doing and even if we aren’t “natural” runners it is something that comes more natural to us, we all can run. However, the same dedication to technique and form needs to take place in our run training as well. Good form helps improve natural run economy and train our bodies to be better able to recruit the muscles needed for running stronger and faster, on top of that it can help prevent injury.

Proper movements can be trained through drills such Bounds, Skips, A Skips, and B Skips.

Give some of these a try!! I hope that they help you to feel more confident in your abilities to run fast off the bike and crush the run portion of your next race!!!