Adding a Triathlon or Running Event to Your Cycling Season

A female athlete runs through a triathlon transition zone.

If you are primarily a cyclist, adding a triathlon, duathlon, running or other multisport event to your year is a great way to cross train, refresh a season or just try something a little different. Some coaches may caution against adding any non-cycling-specific training or competition, and it is important to time your multisport adventures so as not to impair your performance in your cycling events, many pros will admit to including multisport training and events when they are allowed. With an appropriate training plan, most endurance-focused athletes can include a few multisport events timed strategically in the year, without negative repercussions. This can be a change in thinking for many coaches and athletes, who believe that serious cyclists must stick to only cycling.

It’s elementary that most triathletes participate in separate cycling, swimming and running events as preparation for the triathlon race season. Different length events teach pacing and build strength in each sport, and they also keep the entire season interesting. It makes sense that recreational racing and non-racing cyclists could benefit by using multisport events as a training tool, especially after several years of semi-repetitive seasonal training for a singular sport and specialty.

An athlete runs with a backpack on a trail during winter

Timing Multisport Event Training

During the cycling off-season for most, training efforts are focused on base development and strength, as well as raising threshold for some. The more even pace of base training allows the opportunity to cross train and to try different endurance sports, including skiing, running. It is also a good time to consider if you are interested in trying a duathlon or triathlon and to incorporate running, biking or swimming into your base training routine. There are many benefits from cross training, including reduced injuries and training alternatives for bad weather and travel. In fact, the research says that so long as adequate time is devoted to the main actvity, cross training improves performance in that sport.

Once you decide to add multisport to your training calendar, it is important to slowly add the new sport(s) into your training routine, allowing enough time to reach the needed distances for your multisport event. Ramping up intensity and distances too quickly can cause injury and setbacks in your training. Adding a new sport can be frustrating because, although the cardiovascular system is well trained, the muscles needed for the new sport may not be. Adding 10% weekly in time/distance is a good way to slowly increase volume.

Keeping the Balance and Your Primary Sport Strengths

Finding the right event at the right time of the season is important in order not to compromise your main focus/sport. Adding running to a bike racing season can take the snap out of the legs. Planning your multisport event(s) at the beginning of your season (when you are still lifting and don’t need to be in top race form) or at the end of your season will allow you to get the most out of both race disciplines. If you are a runner and adding cycling to your routine, there is more flexibility with when and where to schedule your multisport events.

Choose race distances that compliment your main sport and allow enough recovery before important races. Keep the distances conservative, especially when adding running into your cycling season. It is not just the event from which your legs will need to recover, but also the training distances. As a competitor y0u are likely to want to do ‘hard’ events in your new sport but remember, if it is your first season of trying multisport, there is always the next season to add longer races.

If you feel as if your results have begun to plateau or that boredom is starting to be a factor as the early season begins, you should speak to your coach about multisport. Multisport is another way of saying “adding a little spice into your routine.”

Associate Coach Liz Varner has been riding, running and swimming for over 20 years. She works with cyclists and triathletes who balance a mix of events throughout the year. 

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