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Duathlon Season - training tips for beginners

by Tribesports

For those who have never heard of duathlon, it is a mixed discipline event which goes run, cycle, run. Although many think of duathlon as a training tool for a triathlon, the sport is becoming ever more popular in its own right.

So, what can you expect from a duathlon?

They come in different distances for you to try out and, as with most developing sports, duathlon appeals to all fitness levels, from grass roots fitness to elite athletes.

Which duathlon is right for you?

As a beginner, this will depend on your current level of fitness and where you want your fitness to progress to. If you currently include running and cycling into your routine, whether it's as a commuter or as part of an exercise program, look at what distances you're covering in your average week.

If you are comfortably running the combined distance of the 2 runs and cycling more than the cycle distance in a week, then consider that as a good foundation for you to aim for in the race (e.g. if you run 10km in a week and cycle over 20km in a week then you are in good stead to train for a Sprint distance).

If you currently are not including any running or cycling training into your fitness routine, you may wish to start off with a Super sprint distance which is half the length of a sprint duathlon and will get you accustomed to the transitions and adjustment between the different stages of the duathlon. You'll need to put in the leg work and get running and cycling to really make the most out of the Super sprint duathlon distance!

If you are currently training for a marathon, then your fitness level should be up for a Standard distance - 10km run, 40km cycle, 10km run.

Tips for how to train for a duathlon

The key to success in any event is the right training. For duathlon, there are some simple ways that you can prepare yourself for race day success:

Get confident at each distance in each discipline - may seem obvious but if you have trained to the point of comfortably running or cycling the individual distances, you will find your duathlon race day more enjoyable

Bricks Sessions - training back-to-back between disciplines is vital for race day success in duathlon. The different muscles used in running and cycling mean that your legs can feel like lead when you get off the bike and start to run that final distance; prepare yourself for this

Essential advice on how to maximise your performance during two-discipline racing from pro Jez Cox.

There are a few tweaks you can still make to ensure sure you race faster than ever without actually having to be any fitter. Duathlons are the perfect way to get race fit ahead of the tri season but they also make for an incredibly rewarding challenge in themselves. In fact, ask most experienced triathletes which mode is harder and most will say duathlon. The reason for this is almost certainly due to the feeling induced by having to return to running for a second time. It has been described as not unlike running with a bear on your back at first but thankfully, with time, the imaginary bear will lose its grip and the final run can become more enjoyable as you start to relax into it. The following duathlon-specific tips should see you get a head start on your amphibious competitors.

1. Don’t start too hard – The mass run start of a duathlon is like a red rag to a bull for many duathletes who, all of a sudden, are offered the chance to be in the lead even if just for a few seconds. However, all too often they spend the rest of the run paying for it and end up being slower overall as a result. It is a problem rarely experienced in triathlon with its swim start. For novice duathletes the start can conjure memories of school running races all over again and the nerves can get the better of you. Start calmly; measure out your effort in order to finish strongly and leave the glory chasers to fade later in the race.

2. Always think ahead – Once racing, never ever look back or even think about those behind you. It’s amazing how many people focus on those behind them rather than those ahead. Looking back ruins your running form and gives hope to those behind you but more importantly it’s negative. Whether you are winning or you are in last place, looking back or even just thinking about those behind you serves no purpose at all. Think of those ahead of you as tracks that you are literally eating up over time. Even if in reality you are slipping backwards, always think ‘ahead’.

3. Practise your transitions repeatedly for 40 minutes – Set up a mini transition area somewhere safe and mark out an entry and exit line. Once warmed up, repeat running in, changing shoes, putting your helmet on and running out to mount your bike. Each time you exit or enter hit the lap timer on your stopwatch or have someone time you. You only need to ride or run gently for a short distance out and back and as you do, think over what went well and what didn’t in the last transition and then aim to keep getting quicker and quicker in transition during the session. For really fine improvements, see if you can film yourself doing it. You would be surprised how much ‘flapping’ we all do.

4. Use two pairs of trainers – To shave even more off your transition times, a duathlon-specific trick is to use a separate pair of shoes for each run. That way, your second pair will be open and perfectly positioned in transition to be slipped on rather than thrown where they were left after the first run as often happens with just one pair. It goes without saying that having elastic laces in both pairs of shoes is an absolute must in order for this tactic to fully pay off.

5. Run, then bike – Going for a short, sharp run straight after a bike ride is a common add-on session for many duathletes and it should be a regular part of your training. However, most athletes don’t think of going for a short run just before a ride so that you get used to riding having run already. It’s all about making sure your body isn’t caught out on race day and if your body comes to expect to ride after a run then you’ll be much more efficient in the race.

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