How to Run Faster in an Olympic-Distance Triathlon

How to Run Faster in an Olympic-Distance Triathlon

Power through the run leg of your next olympic-distance triathlon with these 3 skills.

Most Olympic distance triathletes strive for a faster run split. Who doesn’t want to get off the bike and feel both strong AND fast on the run? Here are a few relatively easy, non-traditional ways to keep the legs primed and ready to pound pavement out of T2.

Breathing Exercises 

Yup, you read correctly! Many of us may think “well if I’m not dead, I must be breathing correctly.” But in fact, how we breathe has a huge impact on our ability to produce force, especially after being in the scrunched up TT position!

Posture and breathing patterns tie together directly and can either help or hinder one another. Basic breathing exercises that open tight muscles, as well as improve posture, can be a huge boon to your abilities on the run course. 

Try adding one arm deep squat breathing to your brick practices, and before each of your runs. This will improve your posture, and the ability of your lat (latissimus dorsi) muscles to relax, and stay open for the run.

Try one-to-two sets of five big, deep, full breaths, focusing on mid-back expansion while keeping relaxed shoulders.

Agility & Multi-Directional Work

In order to improve at the sport of triathlon, we cannot endlessly repeat the exact motions required for our sport. If you’re REALLY serious about improving, you should incorporate agility work or multi-planar work in your pre-run warmups. 

These movements don’t need to take up a ton of time or add much complexity. They activate muscles in different ways from how they ordinarily do with running, as well as improve proprioceptive abilities. These will not only help your running economy, but they’re also fantastic for injury prevention.

Explosive Hill Sprints

Every runner’s most hated foe, the hill sprint! When done properly, these can fuel your speed for a number of reasons. 

Not only do hill sprints hit your higher intensity energy systems, but they also recruit more muscle fibers than you’d get just executing tempo or threshold runs. When done properly, they have a significantly lower risk of injury when compared to other forms of speed work—so it’s a big win-win. 

That being said, don’t go too crazy! One-to-two workouts a week, spaced 48-72 hours apart should do it, and keep it under 45 minutes. It’s not the quantity that counts it’s the quality! Here’s an eight-week progression for hill sprints:

Week ## of series per
workout
# of sets per
seriesw/ 60sec rest in between
# reps per setWorkRestTime in between
series
Week 12268 sec60 sec10 min
easy run
Week 222610sec40sec10min
easy run
Week 322612 sec30 sec10 min
easy run
Week 423810 sec60 sec8 min
easy run
Week 523812 sec40 sec8 min
easy run
Week 623815 sec30 sec8 min
easy run
Week 723108 sec60 sec8 min
easy run
Week 8231012 sec40 sec8 min
easy run

How to do it:

Each one of these hill sprints needs to be MAX EXPLOSIVE POWER, and should be done a hill 5-8% grade. 

A “series” is a small group of sets that are to be done together with minimal rest in between sets—in this case, 60 seconds passive- aka standing around- rest.

So week 1 would look like this:

2 series, built up of 2 sets per series, with 60 seconds rest between sets, and 10 min easy run between series:

Series 1, Set 1:

8-sec SPRINT, 60-sec rest 

(repeat 6x total)

60 seconds standing and taking deep breaths.

Series 1, Set 2:

8-sec SPRINT, 60-sec rest

(repeat 6x total)

END SERIES 1

10 min EASY Running

Series 2, Set 1:

8-sec SPRINT, 60-sec rest

(repeat 6x total)

60 seconds standing and taking deep breaths.

Series 2, Set 2:

8-sec SPRINT, 60-sec rest

(repeat 6x total)

END SERIES 2

5-10 min easy cooldown

Strength Training

Of course, we cannot neglect the value of an intelligently designed strength training program. Unfortunately many triathletes, and endurance athletes as a whole, still view strength training as a “transition” or “base period” only type of training. This, however, is just like doing swimming training only in transition or base, and then not touching the water for the rest of the year. 

Strength training is best built via consistent efforts throughout a training week, but not so frequent that the adaptations don’t have time to take hold. This is a primary problem many triathletes have, as the “more is more” mentality is so pervasive in our sport. 

Strength training works best when done 3 days a week, with the breakdown as follows:

Day 1: Monday- Movement session 

Day 2: Tuesday- Heavier session

Day 3: Wednesday- No strength training

Day 4: Thursday- Moderate session

By doing a recovery style session on Monday after a heavy weekend training load, we balance out the repetitive movements and push forward the recovery process in the body. And performing the challenging strength training day after recovery style session “primes the pump,” giving the body a small sampling of what it needs to perform on day 2. 

Wednesday is a fantastic opportunity to challenge the body in the focus sport, with an endurance or tempo workout. This will contribute to specific metabolic and neuromuscular adaptations you’re looking for. Day 3’s lift will be a medium intensity or challenge and should be paired with a workout in your strongest sport.

While these aren’t “hard rules,” they work well for 70% of the athletes I’ve worked with. Combined with life stress management, quality sleep and great nutrition you’ll bang out a new run split PB in no time. 
You can learn more about Strength Training for Triathlon in my Strength Training for Triathlon Success Course on Training Peaks University.


Menachem Brodie is a USA Cycling Expert Level & Power Based Training Certified Coach, Training Peaks Level 1 Coach, SICI Bike Fitter, and Strength Coach who holds the NSCA-CSCS Certification. Since 2007 he he has been helping endurance athletes from around the world to increase their in-sport abilities, return from injury, and attain new levels of performance. He has worked with Professional Cyclists, Triathletes, NBA players, EuroLeague Players, USA National Champions, and Amateur athletes from around the globe. Learn more from Coach Brodie at www.HumanVortexTraining.com or by purchasing one of his Pre-made Training Plans offered exclusively on TrainingPeaks.com!