With the limited training time of most triathletes and the need to train in all three sports, it is often very difficult to dedicate enough time (in the short run) to make big gains in any one sport. However, if you can take the time to train as a single sport athlete, there is a chance to see significant gains in the chosen sport. This focus is often called a “Specific-Sport Block Training.” This article will focus on the considerations and options for setting up a Run-Specific Training Block.

Important considerations before you begin.

An important consideration when beginning a specific training block is that you can’t just add more intense workouts. If you are already training at your allotted hours per week, your number of key intensity sessions can’t be increased. Since gains are made during recovery just adding more intensity will result in sacrificing recovery. With that in mind, you will have to shift your key intensity sessions to the run. And, while you won’t eliminate the other two disciplines, they will mostly be used for active recovery and technique sessions.

Additionally, make the block fun. Find a 5K, 10K or ½ Marathon to work towards. There is nothing like sharpening up your run and following it up with a fast race at the end. Pick a race 6-12 weeks out and get to work.

What does the block look like?

At the start of each block, you should start with a test to measure your Functional Threshold Pace and Heart Rate. This test will give a benchmark to compare to at the end of the block to measure any improvement.

A good time period for the block is 6 weeks, and during that time you will likely aim for three quality run sessions/week. For the first 3 weeks, you will want to work on increasing your volume at a low intensity. This will help prepare your muscle-skeletal system for the added stress and pounding of additional running. Once your body has adapted to the additional running load, you can begin to increase intensity.

For the next 3 weeks, you can begin to add in additional work at threshold by adding an additional higher intensity workout. If you are aiming at three key intensity workouts, they might include one workout with longer intervals at threshold, one workout with shorter intervals slightly above threshold, and one longer run (goal would be 75-90 minutes if your fitness allows). In between these harder efforts, you would bike and swim at easier intensities in order to actively recover from your run workouts while still maintaining some bike and swim fitness. As is the case with your triathlon training, a knowledgeable coach can help you navigate the different workouts and recovery times needed to stay both healthy and motivated.

At the end of this 6-week block, you can retest to measure your improvements and decide if you would like to add in one more block to further improve your run. The benefit of adding another 4-6 week block would be you do not need to spend the first 3 weeks building up your ability to handle the added run workload.

Swim and Bike workouts during the run block.

While you have moved your higher intensity workouts to running during this time period you still can get quality work on your other two sports. During your swim workouts, you can focus on form and technique. On the bike, you might work on improving your pedaling technique while still working at an aerobic pace. Due to the non-impact nature of these two sports, we can still maintain good work while being able to come back the next day and have a quality run session.

Single-sport training offers an opportunity to make solid gains in one sport while maintaining fitness in the other two disciplines. As the weather gets colder and riding outside and heading to the pool on cold mornings becomes harder, give this training method a try and set yourself up for faster run times next season and beyond.

The D3 Coaches offer a hearty selection of Sport-Specific Pre-Built Training Plans that will help you organize your off-season training.

Bill Ledden is both a USAT and USATF Certified Coach. He views consistency as one of the most important variables in determining success. He knows that doing the hard work of committing to a training plan and communicating regularly with your coach reduces the likelihood of injury, accelerates progress and keeps you motivated.

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