Podcast, Running

Q&A on run training (part 2) | EP#388

 May 1, 2023

By  Bernardo Gonçalves


David & Mikael - That Triathlon Show

Mikael and David Dhooge answer listener questions on the topic of run training for triathlon.

In this episode you'll learn about:

  • Running every day vs. 5-6 days a week
  • The long run - best practices
  • Can you run too slow?
  • Hill reps for VO2max development
  • Pacing and workout design of high-intensity intervals
  • Key differences between run training for triathletes vs. runners
  • Running form and biomechanics
  • Strength training for run performance and injury prevention
  • Best practices of using "super shoes"

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Running every day vs. 5-6 days a week


  • There is no evidence that running seven days a week is better than running five or six days.
  • Running seven days a week puts much stress on the legs, and recovery days are essential to prevent injury.
  • A streak of seven days of running is optional to achieve a sub-three-hour marathon.
  • Running consistently and achieving good volume is essential for runners.
  • It depends on the athlete, but in general, five to six days of running may be sufficient for a sub-three-hour marathon.
  • Mikael agrees that training every day with a high volume is not recommended.
  • He suggests running five days a week and cycling or swimming twice a week, even if the focus is on running.
  • Observational studies of elite runners show that some tend to have a rest day.
  • Many elite runners in East Africa tend to have one day completely off from running.
  • Coaching-wise, Mikael recommends five or six running days, six at most, for someone training for a three-hour marathon.

Long runs as a percentage of training volume

07:03 -

  • There is no specific evidence to prescribe a certain percentage of weekly training volume.
  • Athletes should exercise caution when doing sessions longer than three hours due to the risk of injury.
  • Long sessions should be limited to approximately 30 to 45 kilometres.
  • Consistent frequency, as well as total weekly and monthly volume, are more critical factors for training.
  • Monthly volume strongly predicts marathon time, but only if the long run is longer than 21km and the average run distance is longer than 10km.
  • Long sessions should have reduced volume and more race-specific intensity as the competition approaches, typically around 2h15 to 2h30.
  • The mix of sessions should also be considered when looking at weekly and monthly volume and consistent work.
  • Long runs are crucial, but it is advisable not to exceed three hours to prevent excessive stress on the body.
  • Diminishing returns exist in regard to the long run for athletes.
  • There is no evidence on the topic of long runs, so personal experimentation is critical.
  • Many athletes may focus too much on their long run.
  • It is optional to have a long run every week.
  • Length of the long run is subjective, with options such as a percentage of volume, as long as tolerated, or a maximum length.
  • The minimal effective dose should be the focus in the long run.
  • Consistency with the rest of your running is essential.
  • Boston Marathon was on April 18th, and I had one athlete that ran a successful marathon with the longest run being of 2 hours and 24 minutes.
  • The long run should generally be at most 2.30 hours unless training to complete rather than compete.
  • Distance training becomes essential when training for a marathon.
  • Finding what works best for you is vital.
  • The minimal effective dose should be kept in mind in the long run.
  • Therefore, focus on achieving goals with the minimum effort necessary.

Hill workouts and VO2max

12:33 –

  • Hill reps positively affect VO2, economy, speed endurance, and motor unit recruitment.
  • Engaging fibres and having good technique are essential in hill reps.
  • Thirty seconds on with one-minute recoveries not only improves VO2 but also has a strength component.
  • The technique is important in hill reps as it translates to flat running.
  • One-minute recoveries allow for better recovery and technique compared to 30-30s.
  • 30-30s or 30-15s are better for reaching more time at VO2.
  • Hill reps may not solely aim for VO2max or maximum time at VO2max.
  • Shorter recoveries are better for maximising time at VO2max.
  • Jogging back down the hill doesn't maximise time at VO2max.
  • Hill reps improve strength and motor unit recruitment economy.
  • They may improve VO2max utilisation and speed even without maximising time at VO2max and could have benefits beyond VO2max adaptations.
  • The grade of the hill affects the effectiveness of the session. A 10-12% grade hill may limit heart rate and ventilation.
  • Hill reps can be done on a treadmill or a long hill to minimise recoveries.
  • A mix of track and hill workouts is ideal.
  • Hills stress tendons. So recovery is important.

Zone-two training

16:33 -

  • The goal is to stress the body and improve mitochondrial efficiency.
  • Stay below the aerobic threshold (LTE) during training.
  • Running too slow is not a problem and will still have an effect.
  • Athletes with higher aerobic thresholds may need to run slower to avoid overstressing.
  • The entire training program must be considered when deciding on training intensity.
  • Low-volume athletes may benefit from more time in zone two.
  • Easy runs should allow for recovery.
  • Running faster may provide more benefits but stay below the aerobic threshold.
  • The approach is individualised and depends on the athlete's training program.

VO2max intervals target pace

21:00 -

  • Self-paced intervals are suitable for improving running speed.
  • Playing around with session design is important to see how well one can hold their running pace.
  • Lowering recoveries during intervals helps build fatigue resistance.
  • One's 5km ability may be more challenging than expected, even if they still need to run it.
  • For sprint triathlon training, focus on the specific sprint distance pace rather than the personal best on a 5km.
  • Four times one kilometre is too short for a VO2 session; aim for at least 20 minutes of work time.
  • VO2 max intervals do not have to be at a 5km pace.
  • Aim to go close to as hard as possible for a session, but leave one rep in the tank.
  • No need to intentionally slow down to be closer to the goal pace.

Differences between run training for runners and run training for triathletes

24:29 -

  • Standard run training involves just running and allows for more volume and recovery.
  • Triathletes need to consider all the sports they are doing, so they typically run less and cycle more.
  • Doing less volume and more frequency of running is recommended for runners.
  • The intensity of training will differ depending on the distance being trained.

Intervals or workouts triathletes should avoid

25:30 -

  • Triathletes typically require less high-intensity running than 1000m, 3000m, or 5km runners.
  • As a runner, you may want to incorporate more high-intensity running into your routine.
  • Triathletes should be cautious with high-intensity running.
  • For regular runners, the higher intensity may be suitable.

Run workouts or interval structures for triathletes

26:23 -

  • Triathletes may not do a brick run but have sessions similar to other triathletes.
  • Ironman pace runs are common for triathletes, while runners don't do them as much.
  • Runners tend to have a more polarised training approach, while triathletes may incorporate high endurance zone two sessions.
  • High zone two workouts may be added to runners' winter training, while triathletes may add them when preparing for races like Ironman or Half Ironman.
  • The race pace for running is higher than for triathlon because runners do it fresh.
  • Periodisation may differ between coaching for running and triathlon.
  • Triathletes always run tired and at threshold or sub-threshold levels.
  • The emphasis on going above the threshold in workouts is less for triathletes than runners.

Injury and long runs

29:30 -

  • Running twice daily could be a good warm-up before going longer, especially for injury-prone athletes.
  • Professional runners use this method to increase volume, but it's unnecessary for everyone.
  • Observational evidence shows that top runners run twice a day, but there is no conclusive evidence.
  • Long runs can be overemphasised and overestimated, and short-course triathletes are an excellent demographic to look at for training.
  • Long runs are only necessary when training for a specific race, and even then, they should be done sensibly and individually.
  • The run-walk strategy is underutilised, especially among injury-prone runners, and could be used during long runs.
  • More frequency instead of more volume in individual runs is generally better for runners.
  • Building up the long run should only be done when getting specific for racing.

Running shoes: racing and training

33:28 –

  • David uses carbon shoes but finds them expensive and uses them sparingly due to low mileage. He believes that carbon shoes are beneficial and necessary for running competitions.
  • Research suggests that carbon shoes have benefits even at low speeds.
  • Carbon shoes can provide a psychological benefit and improve running times.
  • However, carbon shoes can be unstable and potentially lead to injuries, such as navicular bone stress fractures.
  • To maximise performance, I suggest using carbon shoes in races and doing some training in them.
  • Carbon shoes are beneficial for speed intervals and recovery from big-mile sessions.
  • Many professional triathletes use carbon shoes in their key sessions to aid in recovery.
  • I have tried using carbon shoes for all of their fast workouts and found them to be a confidence boost in their training.

Non-carbon shoes for training

39:55 –

  • When choosing a carbon shoe, it is essential to consider its stability.
  • Carbon shoes can be less stable than traditional running shoes, so you must find a stable neutral shoe if that is what you are used to.
  • Finding a stable carbon shoe can be difficult, but trying to mimic the same type of shoe as your running shoes is important.
  • The Nike Alphafly and Adidas Prime X can be wobbly and are not ideal for running on cobblestones or uneven ground.
  • The Essex MetaSpeed shoes are a good option for twisty courses and uneven ground because they feel more like a traditional racing flat and are very stable.
  • I choose their shoes based on the terrain they will be running on, mainly whether they are cobblestones.
  • They are stable on uneven ground and feel more like a traditional racing flat.

Stabilisation demands of super shoes in a long race

42:23 -

  • The wobbling of shoes may cause cramping, but it's uncertain.
  • Strength training can help mitigate the effects of wobbling shoes by working on foot, ankle, and lower leg strength and mobility.
  • Plyometrics using a bosun ball can also help strengthen the ankles.
  • It may be helpful to search for a stable shoe.
  • Foot, ankle, and lower leg stability and strength work are recommended.
  • Training in wobbling shoes can also be beneficial.

Strength training: two must-do strength and conditioning exercises

43:49 -

  • It isn't easy to pick just two excellent exercises for hip and core stability, but I suggest working on hip stability and lower legs.
  • For hip stability, bridges are an excellent exercise for avoiding overusing certain muscle groups and becoming quad-dependent when running.
  • Bridges can be done with weights or on a Swiss ball.
  • Plyometrics are great for strengthening the lower legs, ankles and feet.
  • Jump squats are an example of plyometric exercises that focus on the bigger muscle groups.
  • Each person should pick exercises based on their weaknesses, but a hamstring exercise like Nordic hamstring curls or deadlifts can be helpful for injury prevention.
  • For performance, single-leg exercises like step-ups or split squats are practical.
  • Step-ups are gentler on the body than split squats and can help with proper pushes off the box.
  • Lunges are also practical exercises for single-leg, quad-dominant work.


47:34 –

  • Overdoing running is not advisable, and gradually building up frequency and volume is essential to avoid tendon issues.
  • Awareness of technique while running is crucial, and strength exercises help in general, but a good technique is still necessary to avoid tendon injuries.
  • Eccentric work like simple step downs, strengthening exercises in general, barefoot walking, and running on even ground or trails are effective in strengthening tendons.
  • Tendons adapt slowly; progressing is important to avoid issues because tendons don't adapt as quickly as muscles or the cardiovascular system.
  • Applying gradual progression is the key to avoiding tendon injuries rather than actively strengthening tendons.
  • Hill work is practical, but puts a lot of stress on tendons, so one should be cautious.
  • Running on trails is an effective way to strengthen the lower leg, but one should avoid spraining their ankle.
  • Different body systems adapt at different rates, which is important to remember while running.
  • Tendons will adapt slowly, so it's necessary to progress slowly and avoid doing anything stupid to avoid injury.

Running form analysis

52:25 –

  • Moderately experienced runners with a decent base level of fitness and no obvious glaring mistakes in their running form should not consider changing their running habits.
  • It may not make sense for many runners to overthink changing or analysing their running form as their bodies have adapted to their current style.
  • Instead of focusing on changing running form, I recommend doing strength training and mobility exercises to give the body the tools it needs to find its optimal running style.
  • The body will adapt to converge towards something that works for the individual, so it's best to give the body the tools and let it find its way.
  • Running gait analysis services are only helpful for some runners as their bodies have already adapted to their running form.
  • To avoid injury and improve running economy, I suggest increasing the running frequency and doing something repetitive to allow the body to adapt.
  • We must be careful when changing how we run, as the body can react differently, and you may get injured, especially if you've been running in a certain way for a long time.
  • If you want to change your running form, it's best to do so slowly and work with slight differences.
  • I agree that the body is adapted to a particular run form and suggests being careful when making changes to avoid injury.

Optimal biomechanics for running

56:55 –

  • One of the common mistakes to avoid is overstriding, which can be achieved by avoiding too low a stride rate and breaking.
  • When landing on the foot, it should be in the central part of the body mass and not too far in front.
  • Avoiding excessive rotation and focusing on hip stability is also essential to maintain forward velocity.
  • Optimal knee bends should be achieved by having a smaller angle, but not too small, that would be hard on the quadriceps.
  • It's essential to maintain an upright position and have some stiffness in the lower leg while running.
  • The concept of optimal biomechanics in the running is inconclusive and may differ for different individuals and speeds.
  • Following Max Paquette, a biomechanist and researcher, on Twitter and listening to his podcast episode can provide valuable insights on the topic.
  • Giving the body a certain base level of strength and mobility and running more frequently can help it adapt over time.
  • While there may not be a clear answer on what is optimal, avoiding common mistakes can help improve running form.

Natural run form

1:01:55 -

  • Running with a swinging arm at a fast pace is okay and natural.
  • Over-rotating in the upper body due to the swinging arm might be an issue, but it's not a big deal.
  • Running faster is better than trying to be more efficient if it means sacrificing speed.
  • An efficient form may make you slower, which is not ideal.
  • Haile Gebrselassie also had one arm swinging out more than the other.
  • Changing the natural running style is unnecessary if it works well for you.
  • Speed is the ultimate factor in running.

Modifying an athlete's run technique

1:03:38 -

  • I prefer to keep an athlete's running technique the same as it is individual and has developed over a long time.
  • Strides, hill strides, and hill sprints can be used to work on specific aspects of technique but only partially change it.
  • I prefer to focus on giving the body tools through strength training and mobility and then letting the body take care of the rest.
  • Cadence is individual, and increasing it can be helpful instead of overstriding.
  • Landing under central mass is also an excellent primary point for technique.
  • Focusing on breathing patterns can help athletes be more relaxed and more efficient.
  • I think focusing on hip and glute stability for power is essential during hill strides and bridge exercises.
  • Athletes' use of quads versus glutes and hamstrings may differ on the bike in triathlon and can impact the best way to run in the race.
  • Brick runs help focus on fatigue levels in different muscle groups and adjust running techniques to avoid injury and overusing certain muscle groups.

Scientific Triathlon pre-run mobility routine

1:09:45 –

  • I don't have any updates or a link to a pre-run mobility routine.
  • The routine consisted of a few dynamic movements to awaken different muscle groups for running.
  • I suggest continuing the routine if it has been effective in the past.


Bernardo Gonçalves

Bernardo is a Portuguese elite cyclist and co-founder of SpeedEdge Performance, a company focused on optimising cycling and triathlon performance. He writes the shownotes for That Triathlon Show, and also produces social media content for each new episode.

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