Many Ironman® athletes, training plans, and coaches schedule the weekly long run on Sunday after a long bike on Saturday. The reason is often given as “you need to practice running on tired legs.”
This is NOT a good idea and here’s why:
- A long run on tired legs is just another opportunity to practice running slowly on tired legs vs running more quickly on fresher legs. The best way to become a faster runner is to create opportunities in your training week for you to…run faster, not slog through a run on wooden legs!
- The recovery cost of a long run done on Sunday, for example, after a long Saturday bike is much greater than that same run done mid-week. The net is that Monday, often Tuesday, and sometimes Wednesday’s workouts begin to become compromised, especially as that weekend volume gets up to a 4-6hrs long bike on Saturday and 2.5-3hr long run.
- Any long run in training will have at least an hour or more where your legs feel Ok. That is, they feel like you’re starting a long run after a long bike the day before. Contrast this to Ironman® race day, where you’re coming right off a 112 mi bike after a 2.4mi swim. After you get your legs back a bit, by about mile 6 or 7, your legs will now feel like, at best, about mile 15 of your best long run…then it just gets harder. My point is that your tired legs on Sunday long run isn’t even close to what it’s going to feel like on race day…so why bother?
I made the switch with my athletes to a mid week (Thursday or Tuesday) long run in ’02 or ’03, I believe, and never looked back. By separating the long bike from the long run:
- The long run can now accommodate some get-faster work.
- We can separate the long run from the long bike with a no-legs day on Friday.
- We weight the cycling to the weekend. A 3hr semi-long ride on Sunday has a MUCH lower recovery cost than a hard 2.5hr Sunday run = much lower chance that it, and it’s combination with the Saturday ride, will affect your early week workouts the following week.
- Finally, it may create a social opportunity for you on the bike on Sunday — a Sunday ride with friends. Riding with other athletes, especially those stronger than you, is a very, very valuable opportunity that we encourage our athletes to seek out.