March Triathlon Training Chat with Coach AJ

author : Coach AJ
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Discussion on the walk/run technique, run injury and cadence, barefoot running, staying aero on long climbs and HIM preparation

[Coach AJ] Hi guys and gals. So, what questions do you have for me tonight?


[chirunner134] If you are doing a walk/run method to get faster how much should decrease the walk before you go to switch to all run?


[Coach AJ] Good question. It depends on where you are starting from in fitness terms. I would start out at 8 min. run and 2 min walk. From there you can steadily decrease the walking in terms of how many walk breaks you take rather than the duration of the walking periods. I know some VERY fast marathoners that walk in all of their long runs. Take it slow and steady, maybe take out 1 walk break per week.

[Gina76] No questions but I had to take a week off from running and was so fatigued today that I could barely do 4 miles and I have a half mary in two weeks and now I'm worried that I will not be able to do it.

[Coach AJ] Gina, Don't fret about it. The running will come back around quickly, the key is not to try and force it. Just be steady and the form and fitness will return.

[rkreuser] Any data on injuries from run/walk? I ask because...I'd never been injured running before....I decided to pace some folks last fall using run/walk. At MCM I ended up with huge knee issues....requiring rehab. I don't know if I can attribute it to the mileage, or the run/walk. Curious to get your take.

[Coach AJ] When you were pacing the others, were you running slower than normal?

[rkreuser] Yes. Like 2 min/mile. Or more.

[Coach AJ] My guess is that you slowed down your cadence a lot to decrease the speed. That caused you to make a greater impact when your feet landed, thus the pain. The key to slower running is just less push, not a slow cadence.

[Gina76] Could you please explain the less push, cadence thing.

[Coach AJ] Basically, you need to keep your cadence the same, preferably 90 RPM (revolution per minute) and up. When you slow down, you don't toe off as much or try to produce as much propulsion. Think of it like high cadence on your bike. The legs turn quick, but there isn't really much force. Does that make sense?

[Gina76] How do you know what your cadence is?


[Coach AJ] What I do is I count my left foot strikes for 15 seconds. I shoot for 23+ strikes. If I quadruple that to equal the left footstrikes per minute, I get 92 RPM's, my sweet spot. Running cadence is key. By keeping the cadence high you minimize the impact of each foot strike. That's why the elite runners can do 100+ mile weeks.

[rkreuser] Sounds wuss, from a sub 4:00 marathoner, but the pull on the knees was really tough.

[Coach AJ] Don't worry about being a wuss or anything like that. The goal is to go faster. Fast runners don't look fast because they are so efficient. Then you see that they are running 5 min. miles and you can't believe it. That's why they are elite. Personally, my cadence when cruising is 90-92, when running tempo it's 95+

[chirunner134] I was doing some shallow water pool running while I was hurt. Now that my knee is better would it be good to have a session or 2 a week in the pool?


[Coach AJ] I love aqua jogging, especially during big mileage weeks. It gets the blood flowing with no impact. Sure, it's boring, but I can handle 30 minutes or so. Add in a good stretch after and I am great.
[Gina76] So is the key to take shorter strides?

[Coach AJ] Short strides help, but what you want is to have your foot landing underneath you, not in front. This keeps the momentum forward and your feet automatically pick up quickly.

[sappho96] AJ, what about the benefits of running barefoot?

[Coach AJ] Barefoot running can be good. First, the surface has to be soft and free of debris, that's hard to find. It helps build the small muscles in the feet and helps with foot stability. Do you want to run 10 miles on concrete barefoot? Probably not. But after a track workout on the infield, or doing barefoot warm-up strides before a track workout wouldn't be bad.

[sappho96] What about no a treadmill? It's the only safe surface around here! And is it any good for ITB? 

[Coach AJ] It could work on a treadmill, but you don't have the small variations that promote the stability. The treadmill is completely flat.  Not sure about ITB, but I wouldn't see where it would be a benefit.

[Gina76] How about Astro turf?

[Coach AJ] Astro turf is great. The track I run at has artificial grass inside and I run barefoot and do run drills on it all the time.

But what about if you are just getting back into running and shouldn't be doing drills. Can you start doing your normal runs barefoot on Astro?

[Coach AJ] I would work it in slowly. Start w/ 2-3 miles and add maybe 5% from there. No reason to get an injury right away.

[chirunner134] Is there a good place to find running drills?

[Coach AJ] The best running drills I know of are from Bobby McGee. He is a phenomenal run coach. He doesn't have the drills on his website, so you have to make a trip to Boulder, CO. to see him. If you are SERIOUS about getting better at running, it's worth it. Other than that, I would find a track coach in your area. Having someone there to make sure you do them correctly is very important, like it is in swimming. You can look at the books and online, but make sure it's from a reputable source.

[jldicarlo] I second the Bobby McGee recommendation....

[Coach AJ] Alright, so do any of you do climbing in the aerobars at all?

[jldicarlo] Only if it's not very steep.

[chirunner134] Never used aero bars.

[ImTriing] I try to stay aero as long as possible on hills.

[Coach AJ] Same here. Long, steady climbs glued to the saddle and aerobars will really help you build strength, especially if you've been in the weight room. Try to keep the hips stable and cadence up.

[ImTriing] I'm ok as long as the cadence is higher, otherwise there is a huge power drop-off if I stay too long.

[Coach AJ] Exactly. You don't want to mash on the pedals, it's a hugely inefficient way to go uphill. When the RPM's come down, shift down or sit up. Just don't try to stomp on the pedals. Lots of work, little gain.

[jldicarlo] I want to hit Ward this summer...would you ride Ward in your aerobars? Is that not steep enough, ya think?


[Coach AJ] I have ridden Ward in my aerobars, big ring all the way. The last 2 miles HURT!! I heard that Tim DeBoom rode Ward in his aero bars twice last weekend. It's all about strength. By the way, Ward is a 17 mile climb from about 5500 ft to nearly 8500. Steady, but the last 2 miles are STEEP.


[jldicarlo] You did it in your big ring?


[Coach AJ] Yeah, the big ring! The wind was with me the whole way though. I thought I would go as far as I could, when I hit mile 10 I figured I had to go for it. The last 2 miles, or 20 minutes, HURT!!

[jldicarlo] Standing?

[Coach AJ] NO STANDING! All seated with hands on the extensions.  Not crazy, just motivated. There is a level of strength gained not just in the legs and back, but between the ears as well. Don't underestimate the power of your mind and doing something you thought impossible.

[chirunner134] Is there anything you recommend for heat training in cold climates?


[Coach AJ] The best way to acclimate to the warmer climate is extra layers and sitting in a steam room if it's going to be humid. If you are doing IMAZ, add an extra undershirt and long sleeves.


[chirunner134] I am currently about 17 mph biker and 12 min/mil runner. Which would be easier to achieve 21 mph for 25 miles on the bike or 9 min/min for a 10k?


[Coach AJ] For the biking and running, its hard to say. If you have good run form, I would say the run. Plus, your mentality plays a big part. Most people have a favorite discipline, usually the bike. Plus, if your current bike set up is a road bike, and you switch to a tri specific bike, that alone can give you some extra MPH's. I would focus on the bike for 3 weeks and build your strength there. Then after a rest week, flip it and focus on the run. You can't get faster at all 3 simultaneously.

[ImTriing] I have found the ability to ride in aero is the first to go when getting tired. I rode my first 56 mile ride on Friday and felt like my legs were going to blow, am I crazy to think I will be ready for a HIM by June 6th?  I was able to do an 8 mile run Saturday, but my legs really tight today.


[Coach AJ] Not at all. You have April and May still, plus the rest of this month. Keep it steady and don't try to do some heroic, epic ride. Just a steady progression of overload will get you ready. What I would do is ride 56 again, then ride 56 w/ some tempo. Then do 65, then 65 with some tempo. See the pattern? Your aerobic fitness comes from consistency, not 1 single big day.

[ImTriing] Thanks, Friday was a big wake-up call. I haven't been able to do a few of my long rides due to weather conditions as I live in ND and trainer rides of over 2 hrs kill me.

[Coach AJ] 2 hr trainer rides hurt everyone. Stick with the plan and you will be ready. Don't do some big crazy ride only to have to sit for 3-4 days to recovery. Consistency is key.

[ImTriing] I am following the HIM plan you wrote up for this site and like it if I could consistently get outside for the long rides.

[Coach AJ] Getting outside makes a huge difference mentally. But remember, you put the time in and have the base necessary for a great race.

[Coach AJ] For kicks, here was my weekend training. 2.5k AM swim, 5hr ride in the mountains on TT bike in aerobars w/ some tempo sections followed with 35 minute steady run. Today was an easy 1 hr run, moderate 3 hour bike and 30 minute of core. Great weather, great weekend. Tomorrow is a swim and 2 hour run and massage!

[ImTriing] After that I think the only part I could do tomorrow is the massage :)

[jldicarlo] What are you training for, AJ?

[Coach AJ] I am racing the Lonestar Tri at the end of the month, the sprint on Sat and 1/2 on Sun. Then i'ts Wildflower 1/2, Eagleman 1/2, Quelle Challenge Roth(German IM), 5430 long course, IM Canada and hopefully Hawaii. Long year, lots of racing, lots of fun.

[jldicarlo] Wow...three IM'

[Coach AJ] Like Lance said, it hurts bad now, but on race day it hurts GOOD

[Coach AJ] If you guys get bored, check out It's my personal blog and you can follow my training, racing and life in general. Well, it's 7 and I got to go stretch, finish some work and go to bed. I hope I have answered your questions. Have a great week. Train hard, rest harder, race hardest, COACH AJ.


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date: April 11, 2007

Coach AJ

USAT Level 1 Coach
"My coaching philosophy can be summed up in two words: listening and balance. By combining these two elements I feel I can help each athlete achieve their full potential."

avatarCoach AJ

USAT Level 1 Coach
"My coaching philosophy can be summed up in two words: listening and balance. By combining these two elements I feel I can help each athlete achieve their full potential."

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