Clever Training

Duathlon Training Tips That Get Results

Duathlon Training Tips That Get Results
Clever Training Staff

So you’ve decided to go for the run-bike-run. Our running hats off to you. Racing in a duathlon is one of the most challenging endeavors an athlete can take on. The good news? You get to bypass the swimming leg that most triathletes quite frankly dread, with the added benefit of beginning your race with a run, when you’re most pumped and ready to fly. But you’ll need that same amount energy later for the possibly lengthier run that ends the race. So how do you get to there? We’re going to share the best duathlon tips for beginners that will yield the kind of results you’re hoping for. From now until race day, here’s a glance at the most critical training elements at your level:

  • Establishing a solid foundation split between both disciplines (bike & run)
  • Preventing injury
  • Building endurance
  • Tracking your stats
  • Training dually in both disciplines on the same day

Triathlon Tips To Get You Started

Whether you’re training for your first or eleventh duathlon, you’ll want to focus on increasing your endurance and performance within both running and biking by focusing on them as two separate entities for a while. Yep, that means you’re not going to jog 5k and bike 10k all in the same day. Not yet, at least. For the first 8-12 weeks, you’ll work within each discipline on separate training days before attempting to combine the two, with the goal of eventually riding and running on the same days. Remember: the very idea of training means to work toward something and gain knowledge, skill and momentum along the way. Then when you’re approximately 8-12 weeks from the race, you can begin to choreograph the two together once or twice a week. For this very reason, we’ve split our running and biking tips to help you view them as separate training regimines for the time being.


523Duathlon Endurance Tips

Though they very widely in mileage range, duathlons typically include two 5-10k running legs with a 16k-60k bike leg in between. While your upcoming duathlon might fall short in a total distance comparison to the average triathlon, many argue that two running spurts in which you’re essentially exhausting the same group of muscles twice is more physically taxing. For this reason, endurance (a.k.a. your ability to run for an extended period of time) is arguably the foremost priority during your first (or first handful of) duathlon(s). So how do you go about improving your endurance? There are several components to running endurance that you’ll want to consider as you train. Clever Training Tip: Begin in Your Comfort Zone. You’ve heard the phrase slow and steady wins the race? This aphorism has endured for a reason. If you focus on incorporating too much too soon, you burn out, and in running, you expose yourself to injury to a much greater degree. In addition to pain, injury slows you down. So why not just start out slow and build up steadily in a healthy, pain-free way? Slow and steady is different for everyone, so we personally don’t ascribe to a one-size-fits-all training regimen. The best way to begin is to assess what you’re capable of doing in a fairly comfortable capacity that doesn’t quickly drain or hurt you. For some beginning duathletes, this might entail running for 3 minutes and walking for 5-10 minutes for a total of 30-minute running sessions, while more experienced duathletes might start out at a faster-paced 5-10 minute run, interlaced with 3 minutes jogs, on and off for 45 minutes. The most important lesson here is not to focus on what every other beginner duathlete might be doing. Remember, you’re only in competition with yourself, and with persistence, you will improve over time. You will get there. No matter what conditioning level you’re currently at, only two things matter: finding your initial comfort zone and logging your efforts. From there, simply tack on extra mileage each week, so you’re slowly building toward the distance of the sum of both running legs of your duathlon or beyond. For example, if your duathlon is a 5x20x10, then ideally you’ll want to build up so you’re comfortably running 15k.

Increasing Mileage

Clever Training Tip: Use the 10% or One-Mile Rule. As you train, the idea is to integrate additional mileage each week. However, this concept gets a lot of beginner duathletes into trouble. During the initial stages of training, after the first few weeks or so, many beginner duathletes start to get a little, ahem, ahead of themselves. They’re feeling confident, they’re ambitious, and so up goes the mileage without any real thought or planning. And with that mileage, more intensity. It’s an injury just waiting to happen. Literally. Whatever you do, don’t increase your mileage by more than one mile a week. Any more than that is just too much. And for many people, one additional mile per week is very ambitious. For that reason, we strongly recommend sticking to the 10% or less rule. Don’t increase by more than 10% in your distance goals. So if you’re covering 3 miles a day, the next week would include an extra 1/3 of a mile. Yes, really. You’ll be building your endurance in a natural way, with your body thanking you in the form of pain-free joints and muscles.

Screen Shot 2016-03-25 at 12.01.33 PMDuathlon Speed Tips

At some point in your beginning duathlon training, and that point varies from athlete to athlete, you’re going to feel the need for speed. To a certain extent, this calling is instinctual. Your body is ready to go faster. But how fast? Clever Training Tip: Pace Yourself. Pacing yourself (no pun intended) is critical. One thing you never want to do is dramatically increase your speed from one day to the next. Like mileage, increase your speed in small increments. You want—and need—to play it safe. Doing so makes you a clever trainer. It means you’re not willing to feed your ego at the expense of your muscles and joints. While very novice runners or duathletes may be comfortable with logging their speed over time and letting it naturally build alongside endurance, if you’ve already been running for a while and you’re truly comfortable taking on more of a speed-oriented game plan, you can incorporate tempo running or interval training into your training mix.

Train For Speed Option 1: Tempo Running

Tempo running increases your lactate threshold, which essentially allows you to run faster with less effort. That’s why it’s a great duathlon training tool to consider in your plan. Tempo running is to simply run hard (following a warm-up and preceding a cool down) for a specific time or mileage (anywhere from 5-20 minutes, and approximately 1-5 miles). This “hard” pace should be a sweet spot right between your comfort level and all out exhaustive, wanting to die efforts. You’ll know you’re there when you can talk, but barely – your words are broken up. If you can’t talk at all, you’re outdoing it and you won’t reap the benefits. Start incorporating tempo running once a week, and increase from there. Unlike mileage, you don’t have to increase the number of tempo sessions with each week. Focus on getting better within one weekly session before increasing the number of tempo sessions.

Train For Speed Option 2: Interval Training

Interval training is highly beneficial for a myriad of reasons, so if you haven’t considered it before, seriously rethink your training regimen to incorporate this strategy once you’ve built that solid foundation we mentioned earlier. Sometimes runners aren’t overly welcome to the concept of interval training because, well, you just want to run, and most likely at a more consistent pace mixed in with some speed when you need to pick things up. Why not choose the kind of conditioning that improves both endurance and speed simultaneously? Interval training is more than jog, race, jog, race or jog, walk, race, walk, depending on your current level of conditioning. The key to integrating the benefits of interval training into your duathlon training regimen is to create interval sessions that closely simulate race-day mileage. In other words, you don’t want to create intervals that are too short to actually help you out on race day. Endurance should trump speed for beginner duathletes, since your immediate goal is to simply finish. So rather than more Tabata-style intervals, think in terms of minute chunks, such as 5 minutes hard, 10 minutes moderate, completing 3 sets each time you interval train (which can be up to 3 days per week, though we highly recommend beginning once per week and tweaking from that point). You can always increase your time or speed within one weekly session as you improve.

Tracking Your Runs

Improving your endurance and speed not only takes time and arming yourself with tried and true duathlon training tips, but a willingness to track your data. How else will you know what’s improving and what’s not? Foregoing data tracking is like trying to develop a Nobel-Peace-winning elixir without the use of lab equipment and logging. Tracking your running metrics such as distance and speed over time not only keeps you informed but motivated. If you aren’t doing as well as you thought, you’ve got newfound inspiration to enhance your performance. If you’re doing as well or better than you thought, these results will continue to fuel, if not boost, your performance up until race day. Either way, it’s a win-win. Download Our Duathlon Training Log


Best Gear For CyclistsEndurance

The true key to endurance is to monitor your power output or watts; you want to keep this consistent and fairly light throughout much of each ride (at least the first half). If you’re unsure of your consistency, that’s where a power meter can come in handy. Though it’s not as accurate, you can also just go by the feeling of your legs and breath. If you’re panting or riding with heavy legs within 5 minutes of your ride, slow down the intensity. Intense cycling won’t build endurance but will lead to injury.

As with running, pick either a time frame or mileage that you’re comfortable with, and build from there. Obviously you won’t be able to ride more than 60-90 minutes max, given most people’s schedules, and that’s okay, since you want to train, not exhaust, your muscles. If you want, you can use your bike computer to make sure you’re maintaining a certain speed throughout your ride, and use that data as part of your training log. The key is to make sure you’re making gains.


Hills are good. Don’t fear them…even if you’re not planning to encounter them during your duathlon. If you can, incorporate a hill climb into your training once a week. To directly tackle a hill is to erase your fear of hills. A lot of novice riders do the opposite of how you should truly handle a hill: they kick up their gear and/or begin pedaling fiercely right as the incline begins. Then half-way through the climb, they’re exhausted and defeated, at the exact place they should feel their most empowered. Instead, start out slow and watch your lactate threshold. You don’t want to bypass it, particularly in the first half of the climb. Why? Because moving beyond your lactate threshold forces you to slow down. Plain and simple. Next, watch your gears. You’re actually far better off to stay in a smaller gear and increase your intensity as you climb. A larger gear will cause leg fatigue much quicker. In many respects, the hill itself is symbolic of your efforts. As you climb, your intensity should increase. So you don’t want to start off at peak performance, so to speak. Finally, as tempting as it will be, stay seated most of the climb, which is much easier on your heart. When you do stand, increase your gearing, since you’re applying more power to your pedals.

Group Training

If you haven’t tried it before, consider group training. First, numerous studies have highlighted the motivational benefits of training with friends or even people you don’t know. One study by the Society of Behavioral Medicine found that working out with just one partner significantly approved duration of exercise, meaning you’ll be far more likely to put in a longer ride if you join up with a group. Groups hold you more accountable, enhance your training through the great feeling that only camaraderie can elicit, and add a little competition into the mix, urging you to keep up. Clever Training Tip: Group Biking. It’s not a race, so stay in line with your partner (groups typically ride in rows of two). When you’re tired, communicate this to the rider beside you. Then, the two of you can safely ride to the outside, which indicates to the pair of riders behind you to move up and replace you. But you never want to just suddenly turn off; someone could be close behind you, leading to a painful collision.

Tracking Your Cycling Workouts

Each riding session should end with logging your performance data, including distance, time, an intensity scale (you can use 1-10, the data from your power meter, etc), and your average and max heart rate. You may even want to add extra notes about your mood, the weather that day, how you felt in general, etc. That way, when you’re analyzing your past performance and a particular day looks really good or very off, the comment section might help reveal breaks in patterns. You might even consider adding your nutrition or total calories for the day. Download Our Duathlon Training Log

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