Session for Triathletes


Dave Green is one of the leading triathlon and run coaches in the NW England. Since he started coaching triathletes and duathletes in 1997 he has coached several leading competitors who have represented GB at elite and age group level including age group world champions in Duathlon and Triathlon.

The Long Run - also known as the cornerstone of distance running training, done weekly by most runners and triathletes, loved by some, hated by others.

Some of you may be competing in long run events (10k, half/full marathons) Some of you may need to be economical with your running as you are carrying out longer distance triathlons (half/full ironman distance) and have other disciplines to consider. As such, you know that there is always a need to do a ‘long steady’ run. Generally, it’s a case of starting with a longish (relative) distance and keep adding on the miles or duration. This can be a little hard going if not boring and so Dave suggests that playing around with the long run a little will help keep you motivated.

For the sessions to be carried out in the way that Dave trains his athletes, you would need to know your specific heart rate zones in order to know that you are remaining in that all important aerobic zone.

Long runs sit fairly and squarely in the ‘aerobic conditioning zone’ that is between 55 – 75% of Vo2 max and around 70 -82% maximum heart rate.

We all know how important the ‘long run’ is but what benefits do we gain from it?

  1. Improved oxidative capacity in cardiac muscle and the muscles used when running.

  2. Improved joint and tendon strength.

  3. Increased capacity to store fuels [carbohydrates and fatty acids].

  4. Increased number and size of mitochondria [the powerhouse of cells]

  5. Improved O2 delivery and CO2 removal through increased blood flow and capillary density.

These benefits are accrued in all steady state running, but for this article we focus on the long run which can be anywhere between 45 minutes and 150 minutes.

OK, how should we accomplish the long run?

Dave uses four slight variations of ‘runs’ all staying within the designated zones or paces.

  • Run type one – The Standard Long Run where you stay within 70 – 80% max heart rate for the designated duration.

  • Run type two - As for the above, but generally done as:

80% at 70-78% max heart rate and

20% at 79-82% max heart rate

So this would work in a 90 minute run as 72/18 split, or round it up to 70mins/20mins.

  • Run type three – This would be a little more detailed

Dave calls this the 4-3-2-1 split, where 4 = 40%, 3 = 30% etc.

So in theory the run would be split as:

40% @ 70-75%,

30% at 75-78%,

20% at 79-82%, and

10% as a cool down at 60-70% max heart rate

  • Run type 4 – this would be an out and back run. 50% running ‘out’, holding 70-75% max heart rate, and 50% running ‘back’ holding 76 – 80% max heart rate: sometimes known as negative split training if you increase your pace on the way back.

These run types can be used as an alternative to ‘just another long steady run’ to add variety and some worthwhile purpose to your long run whilst still remaining within the aerobic zone.

Spend a little time getting to know your heart rate zones and then everything becomes much easier and training is more qualitative.

It's slightly more technical to use your pace, but use this calculator to find your 'Long Run Pace' based on a recent race (calculator). You are already aware that your running should be in different zones when training and this will remind you of what your 'easy, tempo, VO2 max, speed form, and long' paces currently are.

Dave suggests that pace wise, if you prefer using pace over or alongside heart rate zones, he would suggest making;

70% of your run at your baseline pace

75% would be around 20 seconds per km faster

78% would be a further10 seconds per km faster

80% another 10 seconds per km faster

82% would be 10-15 sec per km faster again

So as you can see, 70 – 82% should indicate a band of approximately 60 seconds per kilometre

Write up your heart rate zones and/or pace zones and get mixing up your ‘long’ runs a little

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