Running easy as a triathlete


As a long course triathlete i’m experimenting by following mid volume TR cycle plans and just running easy miles alongside this with the hope of developing bike strength whilst competitions are postponed.

Hoping to hear if other triathletes have done similar and how keeping most/all intensity to the bike affects run performance.

I’m running 25-30 miles per week but pretty much all at an easy pace.

Thanks for any insight :+1:


I run even less often, because I practically do not leave my house because of quarantine.

Yeah that’s a fair comment, I should probably add that I’m fortunate to live out in the countryside with trails on my doorstep and we are allowed out to exercise in the UK currently…

But under normal circumstances do you need hard running as a triathlete or can you get the same adaptations primarily from the bike?

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I figure you do need hard running to get the adaptations because of the high impact and because the contractions are (partly) eccentric, as is widely known.

Nonetheless, I haven’t tested this approach. In my five years of tri training, I needed a certain amount of high intensity running to put together semi decent runs (both in triathlons and saute), so anecdotally I would say there is a strong positive relationship between including high intensity running and better run performance (other things, such as a bike that includes high intensity, being equal).

About 3 weeks ago I started the Barry P training plan (you’ll find a link in the ironman thread) I am running 6 times a week 3 5k, 2 10k, 1 20k all at an easy pace. My easy run pace has just gotten faster each week. This week I am adding 10% onto everything I do.

Sadly, not from my experience. I have been training both for the past few years but easily getting injured or having some pain (mainly Achilles’ tendon) running being open loop weight bearing while biking is the opposite, most of the main muscles for each sports are not helping on the other.

I have lately realized that shortened hip flexor caused by the aero positionning is an issue when I start running. I tend to lean forward making my stride choppy and heavy.

On the low volume/intensity while focusing on bike training, I have been doing this since February with fairly good success. Working on running form and economy is now paying dividends. Running is, for myself, a high stressor and needs to be trained with caution.

I would like to hear some more info from @Nate_Pearson and @chad on how to use a Tri plan and if one (average Joe) can improve running at the same time as bike split while staying injury free

Thanks, keep getting faster!

I am fairly new to the sport (1y) but figured out a routine that works well for me:

For cycling my choice of plans is SSBMV2, SSBHV1, SSBHV2, and SPBMV. I leave the high volume plans unchanged but add easy endurance volume to the mid volume plans. So far I have seen steady gains.

While I ran every other week last year, I got more serious about it this year. I mostly focus on easy Z1/Z2 routines. Currently, I am doing about 2 runs per week ranging somewhere between 30 to 90 minutes. I schedule those runs for the hard days. So the days where I also do VO2/Threshold stuff on the bike. I aim on getting 4-5 hours of running in per week. Guess I am halfway there by now. From what I have seen in the last couple of months I am getting better at it too. Recovery is fairly short and performance is fairly nice.

This. /thread (although according to the BarryP plan, the one long run above should be 15k, not 20. But extra volume is good)

If you are looking to increase your bike fitness, and have no races coming up, it makes all the sense in the world to run easy. The key is to run consistently and, eventually, a fair amount (which it sounds like you already are at 25-30 miles / wk)

You are still training your higher end aerobic systems through your bike work…that will help increase your run capabilities to some degree, just not as specifically. But the easy run volume you are doing helps keep your body used to the rigors of running and also contributed to your overall training volume.

Keep at it and enjoy the running…when I was doing tri’s, I was an injury prone runner so rarely ran “fast” (once I discovered BarryP’s plan). Never quite put it together for a full, but did manage to qualify for 70.3 Worlds in Chatty. I relied on volume, not intensity to build my run fitness.

Using this time off to focus on building bike strength is a great idea and your strategy of easy runs is solid. Reap the benefits next year!!


I have been doing just this. Doing 2 hour tr rides in the morning. Alertnating hard and easy days. But have added in a 60 min low zone 2 run everyday day at lunch. One month great success. Ramo test up from 302 to 318 and hit a 1/2 marathon pr

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I have upped my biking to the MV plan. I am trying to keep the runs at 4x a week. Sometimes the motivation is not there. (esp as the weather has gone nasty periodically - and w low motivation, the treadmill is even LESS inviting).

I can tell my run is doing better overall, as I ran easy for my brick and was >10 sec per mile faster than I was over the winter.

Now, if I could only get myself to do the dry-swim stuff. …

Thanks so much for the feedback and advice! Glad to hear that it makes some sense :+1:

I tried incorporating hard V02 and threshold runs into the SSBMV plan and it was just too tiring for my current fitness levels.

I’ve scaled back to a long moderate run and one easy run per week. This has stopped me feeling tired during my hard bike sessions and my bike is improving quickly. My running is getting better but of course its not improving drastically.

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Assuming easy really is easy, do your bike sessions early morning, do your easy runs in the evening and you’ll be fine.

Hmm. That’s probably going to depend on how many weeks you plan to spend just running easy, and your prior experience (If you’re already a fairly “advanced” runner with a lot of speedwork under your belt, I think intensity becomes more necessary to maintain that level)
In any case, if you’ve reached your limits to adapt and recover from the intensity in the bike plan, there’s no point in adding more on the run. It’s also worth noting that top end fitness general deteriorates more quickly than your aerobic base, however it also takes less time to build up again. Given most of us are in something of a base phase due to having no events on the immediate horizon, it might not be necessary (or even preferable) to maintain that fitness.

Personally i’m still including some time at intensity as I prefer a lower-volume approach and I generally find easy running alone isn’t enough to maintain in that case, but I’ve also scaled it back a fair bit, and shifted the focus to more ‘early season’ workouts like hill sprints. More aimed at improving form and mechanics for the harder sessions to come. :slightly_smiling_face:

I posed this question myself earlier in the year, but I don’t think the science is there yet.

My personal experience as a long course athlete and a weak runner is that my running didn’t really improve when all I did was easy aerobic running. I changed that up with all hard running on the RLRF plan and saw big improvements.

I would say it’s a reasonable basis for training to exercise all systems in all sports, so a lot of aerobic, a lot of sweet spot, a fair bit of threshold and a limited amount of VO2max & anaerobic.

Then you need to look at your own strengths and weaknesses and tailor that base accordingly…or just follow a TR Tri plan :sweat_smile:

And that’s where everybody is different in how they respond to training. I’m actually finding great gains from going slow and easy but 6 days a week a-la the Barry P plan. I always thought I responded better to hard training like hill and intervals, but my “easy” pace has gone down from around 5:10/km to 4:40/km in around 10 weeks. And that rare day that I do a tempo run I find myself with a couple new KOM’s :smiley:

I say to pick a strategy, go with it, see how it works, and after the season is over re-evaluate. The only way I think you can go wrong is if you start switching haphazardly between plans/philosophies.