I was asked a question the other day about how many runs in a week is enough for a triathlete, given the need to swim and bike, especially when preparing for a half or full Ironman. It's an interesting question, and one which is entirely dependent on the athlete's strengths, weaknesses and goals.
However, most athletes are time crunched, and looking for the minimum needed to get by and compete sufficiently, and I do believe that number is 3. Here are a few key points to this:
- For most time-crunched Ironman athletes, the easiest training session to get completed is the run. Pool sessions require going to a pool and then returning, and a minimum of time in the pool needed to do well is about 45-60 minutes, but most likely 60 minutes will do better than 45. Biking for 60 mins doesn't give you much, unless on a trainer. So adding a run should be the easiest part of training.
- 3 is a good number, but 4 is better. 5 is better than 4, but this is not universal. The key is consistency, as missing just one run means reducing the training load by about 33%, or more. The less runs you do, the more important each run is. You can't afford to miss them.
- 3 is a good number if one of the runs is a long run. How long is a long run? That depends again on the athlete, but a minimum of 90 mins, and as much as 2-3 hours, if the athlete can handle it.
- 3 is a good number if another one of the runs is a medium distance run, perhaps with some tempo effort in it. This means about 80% of the long run.
- 3 is a good number if the third run is high intensity intervals! As an athlete gets closer to race day, these intervals should get longer and longer, generally speaking.
- If you can get a 4th run in, what should it be? I think it should be a zone 1 economy building run, or something which addresses the key weaknesses of the athlete.