Red Bull athlete & double-world champion Lucy Charles shares her bike/run triathlon tips.
No one discipline in triathlon is more important than the other. But out of swimming, cycling and running, it’s on the bike where competitors really have to put in the long hours. In an Ironman-distance triathlon, the sport’s most extreme format, competitors swim 3.8km, run 42km… but bike a massive 180km.
Cycling requires skill, balance, strength and determination in order to power through and get it done well.
PREPARATION Knowing and trusting your kit is important especially when you have fast descents and tough climbs. One of the things I swear by is a power meter in my cranks which gives me feedback on power. It means I can make sure I am not going too hard on the climbs or free wheeling too much on the descents.
For long rides, you need to make sure you are comfortable and aerodynamic. I use pads on my handlebars which help me with both of those things. Padding in your shorts is crucial… otherwise you are in for uncomfortable ride.
TECHNIQUE You want the bike to be an extension of yourself so that you can control the power you are putting through the bike. If you are new to cycling, like I was in 2014, it may take a lot of hours in the saddle to feel comfortable. Every week I will do at least one long ride which is a minimum of three hours but it is good to mix up your training with a spin class and a group ride as well. I absolutely love group rides, they make a really long session go a lot quicker.
Using turbo trainers – a stationary bike – can help with your cycling strength and if you throw in things like Zwift to the mix, you can make training more exciting by racing in a virtual world. Time spent in the gym is time shaved off your bike split.
BIKE FITNESS You want to make sure you are supplementing your riding with specific gym work that will help you see improvements when you are out on the bike. I typically spend one to two hours in the gym solely dedicated to cycling. These exercises include leg extensions, hamstring curls, squats. The other key is single leg work because you need to have a good left-right balance.
In order to get the right output, you need to get the right input. Nutrition is key – and entirely unique to each person. It is a case of trying something, seeing if it works for you and then sticking to that formula. I typically have 60-90g of carbs per hour during a ride which makes sure m energy levels are topped up and I don’t have any flat points at any stage during a ride. If I do feel like I need that little bit extra then I top up with caffeine.
Once you have found that perfect balance of what works for you nutritionally, it is great to focus on other parts of your training like max interval training between 10-60 seconds. It is also good to find a nice loop and really perfect your cornering skills, doing time trial races can really see what you are capable of and put down your max power output. There is always a percentage to be gained.
RECOVERY Riding on the road is really gruelling, particularly if you out on the saddle for up to six hours exposed to the elements. It is really important to get that relaxation and recovery going straight away after a ride. You need to stretch out the leg muscles and your back so that you do not stiffen up. Get your nutrition on board within the magic 30-minute window to replace all that you have spent on the bike.
It is not enough to go out and ust train, you need to reflect on the data that you have collected and review what you have done to learn from it for the next session
PREPARATION Ensure you are wearing the correct shoes for your run. If you are running of- road, trail shoes will give you that stability and grip that you need on the more uneven terrain.
The other shoes that I have are race flats. They have not got as much support in them or as much cushioning but they are a lot faster, so when I am racing, road running or on the track, I wear the flats. You don’t have too much other kit to think about in running but you might as well be comfortable. So make sure you are wearing breathable layers, you don’t want to be damp when you are running.
A heart rate monitor will link up to your watch and let you see your pace as well as your heart rate. This is crucial to make sure that you are not surging on climbs or slowing down but keeping a nice, even pace.
REFINING TECHNIQUE Running is really pure and simple – but when you start to explore it there is a lot going on.
Working on things like stride length (EW says: improve stride length and frequency by running on the hills), cadence, body position and breathing will make your running easier and more efficient.
Stay relaxed by focusing on breathing properly, don’t exhaust yourself by taking shallow breaths. Stay nice a relaxed and get the oxygen.
Build up your running mileage gradually by setting goals and targets and ticking them off – this keeps you motivated to keep getting better.
Mix up the terrain – choose from road, trail or treadmill, I find this changes things up nicely and also helps to keep me motivated.
STRENGTH TRAINING There are loads of things you can do in the gym that are going to complement your running without having to go and smashout loads of miles. But, don’t worry a gym membership isn’t required, bodyweight squats and lunges are all going to help with your running.
The key things that will see you notice improvements when you are running are core strength, stability, leg strength and plyometrics (aka explosive movement).
Working on box jumps, planks, side planks and flutter kicks will help you build your core strength. Make sure you do not neglect your glutes, they’re the key to stability while running.
ACCELERATE PERFORMANCE GAINS The key thing is to stay dedicated to your plan, work up your training gradually and you’ll begin to notice the gains. If you get sued to a regular routine of runs, try adding in extra workouts that can give you a performance boost. Incorporating a tempo run – running at near-race pace – into your training can also help get the competitive juices flowing.
Doing at least one long run a week helps build endurance. This might be the run where you are likely to be bored, try running with music or with a friend to give you some distractions and extra motivation. But if you are struggling with the regularity of your breathing, forget the music and focus on the rhythm of your breathing.If you’re running for more than an hour, carry water with you, ideally in something like a Camelbak to spread the weight around evenly.
RECOVERY As soon as your run is finished, focus on rehydrating, stretching, controlling your heart rate with proper breathing and getting warm.
Stretch for 10-15 minutes at the end of the run, holding the stretches for 15-30 seconds for each muscle group.
If you’ve got a heart rate monitor, use the stretching time to begin analysing your running data. Get some protein on board within 30 minutes of the run – ideally, prep what you’ll need for your post-run meal before you head out.