Leg it: Training for the running leg of the triathlon with wearables

We get the lowdown from professional triathlete India Lee
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It’s almost time for Team Wareable to take on the AJ Bell London Triathlon. And while it may only be the relay version of the big race that we’ll be competing in, we’ve not been taking our training lightly; we’re not running through injury, getting kicked in the water and falling off our bike just for the laughs and Instagram brag at the end.

We're packed with enthusiasm, but we’re by no means elite athletes. We can hardly be considered regular athletes, if we’re being honest, which is why we’ve spent some time speaking to the experts about how to train for each leg of the triathlon, and gathering some of their experiences in order to aid our own. Speedo swim coach Dan Bullock has already advised on the swimming portion, while British triathlete Lucy Charles walked us through some of her training tips for the cycling leg.

Read this: The best GPS sports watches

Our cynical quest to find the slightest competitive edge is only complete once we master a rapid running sector, though. And unlike the other two areas of the triathlon, running is perhaps where the standard is highest among the common entrant. Everybody runs, right? The bar for entry is just so much lower than cycling and swimming, since all you need is a pair of vaguely sporty shoes.

Leg it: Training for the running leg of the triathlon with wearables

Who run the world?

This tendency also extends to the professional circuit, too. Many professionals will start out competing within running before graduating to all three disciplines over time. And one of those is Saucony's India Lee (pictured above), the British triathlete who, just three years into competing in the field, went on to become the 2016 European Triathlete Champion. Wearable tech has been a factor along the journey for Lee, and we figure we can stand to learn a couple of tips and tricks from her training.

"I think the first sports watch I owned, or at least the first watch I used for sports tracking, was a really basic Casio one," Lee told us. "The only features it had was the standard stopwatch, an alarm that no one could work out how to turn off once set, and the classic backlight. It’s the type of watch that came back into fashion recently as kind of a throwback trend.

"Now, I use a variety of different watches. I have a Garmin Edge 810 on my bike, and for running I either wear a Polar M430 or an Apple Watch.

"I wouldn’t say one metric is more important than any other in my training, but one thing I do track religiously is my resting heart rate every morning. It’s a good way to keep track of tiredness, and potential over-training or illness. Once you have an idea of what it usually is, and then see it elevating for a few days in a row, that’s probably a time to evaluate whether you need to take a couple of days easy or rest," she said.

And despite lots of advanced metrics available through a number of top sports watches, Lee told us that the basic stopwatch feature found in her first Casio is still one of the things she interacts with most in a watch, and that she only pays attention to the rest of the data once a session is complete.

"When I’m out running, I tend to go more by feel and refer back to the data when I’ve finished a session. I like looking at pace and heart rate data, particularly – especially after tempo or threshold sessions as an indicator of my fitness level. It’s also good to have a record of all my times after interval sessions on the track."

Covering off the basics

As with many elite athletes, TrainingPeaks is the home for all the data collected during activity, while also providing a platform for coaches to help plan training sessions well in advance of key events. Lee describes how she and her trainer pick out specific races that she wants to peak for, before working backwards from there and building her training blocks – three weeks of training, one week of recovery – around those dates.

When I’m out running, I tend to go more by feel and refer back to the data when I’ve finished a session

It’s a comprehensive process, just as it is for any other athlete training in all three areas. But, as she tells us, there are also a few basic principles each racer can cover off in order to maximise their race.

"You have to establish a clear plan for race day. I find writing down key timings for collecting numbers, checking into transition and when your wave starts really helps give me focus. Even writing down timings for eating and drinking in the final few hours before a race start, and having a check list of everything you need on the day. There’s nothing worse than getting to a race and being thrown off because you forgot something.

"Then, once you are racing, I’d say the biggest tip I can give is to just focus on yourself. It’s easy to get carried away and distracted by crowds or people around you. You have to stick rigidly to your plan and just try to enjoy yourself at the same time," she continued.

Read this: Why we need a running watch with hydration tracking

This sentiment is echoed by Zwift Triathlon team member Bex Rimmington, who also told us the importance of joining a club to get the most out of training.

"I would really recommend joining a triathlon club or joining in sessions for the individual disciplines – it's great to share your triathlon journey with others and everyone is more than happy to help no matter what level you are at.

"Once you make it to race day, it’s all about routine and the little things. In transition, you want to know which order you’re doing everything, and it’s the same when you’re racing. Maybe when running, it’s about taking the quickest line around every corner. If you get all the things like that right, the bigger picture will take of itself," she said.

Armed with advice from the professionals and our wearable favourites, we'll be taking what we've learned from training into race day. And though it's only a paltry 5K we'll have to tackle, you better believe we'll be glancing furiously at our watch when trying to hit our split targets.

How we test

Conor Allison


Conor moved to Wareable Media Group in 2017, initially covering all the latest developments in smartwatches, fitness trackers, and VR. He made a name for himself writing about trying out translation earbuds on a first date and cycling with a wearable airbag, as well as covering the industry’s latest releases.

Following a stint as Reviews Editor at Pocket-lint, Conor returned to Wareable Media Group in 2022 as Editor-at-Large. Conor has become a wearables expert, and helps people get more from their wearable tech, via Wareable's considerable how-to-based guides. 

He has also contributed to British GQ, Wired, Metro, The Independent, and The Mirror. 

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