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Running Speed Training for Triathlons

I decided to list a few interesting workouts to increase speed.

by Enrico Contolini

While some of us are getting ready for winter and snow, I decided to list a few interesting workouts to increase speed. Someone asked for them on the board, and I thought this could be a good time, as some of us are preparing their training schedule for the upcoming season.

The track is the best place to run them, to have an exact time and distance reference, but if you don’t have access to a track, other locations can be found, where distances can be accurately measured using, for example, a bike computer.

Track workouts are meant to make legs accumulate lactic acid and still be able to run and perform. They should always be run at slightly higher speed than race speed. They should also be paced, so that all repeats are completed with very similar times. Don’t run the first 400m repeat in 1’20” and the 5th in 1’30”. For ½ IM or IM racing, repeats should be longer: 800m, 1mile, 2miles, and 3miles.

I tried to categorize the workouts in easy, medium, hard, based on how I feel when I complete them. Of course it also depends on the number of repeats run and the speed they are run at.

Always warm up before a track workout, as it is very demanding on the muscles. At least 10 minutes jogging and 10 minutes stretching whenever possible. Also, remember to jog for a few minutes as a cool down at the end of the workout. My legs always thank me for that and recover faster, as the jog at the end of the workout help speed up the removal of lactic acid from the muscles.

I have also been asked what is the difference between repeats and ladders. I personally think they achieve similar results. I tend to use ladders to break the monotony of always running the same distance. Ladders may be mentally harder, as I may have to run a longer distance when I am already tired.

Finally: how often do I do a track workout? In the winter probably every 2 or 3 weeks, but as the race season approaches I try t o get to the track once a week. Being hard workouts, especially for newbies, I recommend to let at least a week go between two track workouts. Also, try and follow a track workout with an easy running day or swimming.

As usual if you have any questions, let me know.

Repeats on 400m on track with 400m recovery jog between repeats. Speed and number of repeats depending on the race distance and speed of repeats. Medium/hard depending on number, speed and recovery.

Repeat on 800m or 1 mile with 400m recovery jog between repeats. Speed and number of repeats depending on race distance and speed of repeats. Medium/hard depending on number, speed and recovery.

Repeats on 300m with 100m slooooow recovery walk between repeats. This is a very hard workout on my legs, but does increase overall speed. Hard

Repeats on 200m with 200m recovery jog between repeats. This is the speed workout I like to start my track season with, since it is the shortest and therefore least intense of all. Easy/Medium

Ladders examples: 

a) 200m, 400m, 800m, 800m, 400m, 200m (for a sprint tri or 5K race)

b) 400m, 800m, 1m, 1m, 800m, 400m (for 10K race)

c) 400m, 800m, 1mile, 2miles, 2miles, 1miles, 800m, 400m.

Recovery between repeats can vary, depending on the person.

To make ladders harder, for ladder c) for example try the following:

c1) 400m, 800m, 1mile, 2miles, 400m, 800m, 1mile, 400m, 800m, 400m

Ladders in my opinion are hard workouts


I use a hill where I can run up for about 1 minute (can also be up to 2 minutes for a harder workout). I jog down then run up again. I start with 4-5 hills and try to increase to 10-12 by end of season. Medium/Hard. I personally hate hills, because of how tired my body feels after them, but I try to do them, because of how important they are.  


I have not tried this yet, but it’s on my plan for this next season. Run half of the hills that I would do on a hills-only workout and then move to the track for a repeat workout. This should make my legs “scream” with lactic acid, but also get them used to go fast, when they really don’t want to (for example after getting off the bike)… Hard, I anticipate

Have a Merry and safe holiday season and happy training.

Enrico Contolini

ACE Certified Personal Trainer

Lakewood, CO

P.S. All information in this article is provided freely with the only goal of educating athletes accessing the website.  The article/workouts above are not meant to be exercise and/or personal recommendations, but only examples of workouts that I and/or other athletes have completed in the past. Enrico Contolini will not be responsible or liable for any injury, illness or death resulting from the use of the information contained in this article. Please, always remember to consult your physician before starting any exercise program.




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