Posted by: Joe English | June 3, 2008

Triathlon: Some easy workouts to help ease the bike-run transition (T2)

This past weekend, I spoke to a group of triathletes about the bike-run transition (AKA “T2”) in triathlon and I mentioned that there are two aspects to this transition: the gear change and the physical transition of the legs from biking to running. When I mentioned that leaving T2, a triathlete’s legs might feel like cement, most everyone nodded in agreement.

Changing the gear is the easy part. Transitioning the legs is a bit more difficult. The truth is with some practice, you’ll get used to the feeling and you should, over time, be able to run nearly as fast after riding your bike as you can when you haven’t been riding first. But there are some workouts that can help you learn this skill more quickly.

Here are three workouts to give you lots of practice with the bike-run transition:

In the gym — Go to your local gym and find a spin bike and a tread-mill that are near one another. Start by spinning on the bike for a period of time (say 15-20 minutes) long-enough to get your legs warm and into the feel of pedaling. Then hop off the bike and jump on the treadmill and run for 2-3 minutes. After that jump back onto the bike for 5 minutes or so and then get back on the treadmill for another 2-3 minutes. Repeat this back and forth process for 30-45 minutes and then cool-down on the treadmill. The nice thing about this workout is that if you have a spin bike with caged/strapped pedals, you can usually do it without having to change shoes for the transitions. This gives you quicker transitions between biking and running.

At the track — Working the T2 transition can also be done at your local track. Bring your bike and set it up on a stationary trainer next to the track. Just as you did in the gym workout, you’ll warm-up on the bike, change shoes, and then run 400M to 800M around the track. Then change shoes and get back on the bike again and repeat the process. In this workout, you’ll most likely have to change shoes between each transition, which is a good thing, since you’ll need to practice the gear change at some point anyway. The bonus to doing this workout using the stationary bike (rather than jumping on your bike and riding out onto the street), is that you will only have to change your shoes and not have to put on your helmet and other safety gear. Also, since you’re running on the track, you’ll know the exact length of the run intervals and you can work on your pacing at the same time.

The standard bike-run brick — the last workout I’ll mention is the tried and true standard bike-run brick workout in which you ride, change your gear and then run. When you do this workout, make sure to make the transition as quickly as possible between the bike and the run. I’ve often seen people take a long break between the two sports — to have a bite to eat or go to the bathroom — but this doesn’t really help your legs with the quick bike-run transition that you’ll need to do when you race. Also keep in mind that you’ll only get to practice the transition once during the workout — perhaps once per week — so this won’t give you a lot of practice. But on the flip side, this is the most similar workout to race conditions and will prepare you best for the complete gear change along with physical change between the sports.

The bottom-line is that practicing the bike-run transition is the best way to get used to it. I hope these workouts spur some thinking on how you can practice them and then you can apply your own creative juices to finding fun and interesting ways to make sure you get the practice that you need.

Have fun.

Coach Joe English, Portland Oregon USA
Running Advice and News


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