Best Way To Train For Triathlons & Duathlons
Updated: Jun 20
What Beginner Triathlete & Duathletes Need To Know
Most new athletes entering the sport of triathlon come as a runner, cyclist, swimmer and are complete rookies to endurance sports. The major training key to be successful in the sport of triathlon/duathlon is Brick Training. Probably a term or new concept foregin to the beginners who have signed up for a bucket list Ironman or registered for their local triathlon or duathlon race.
What is Brick Training?
Brick Training is when you perform 2 or more disciplines in succession. We view it as the workout you'll want to incorporate into your weekly training routine to be successful on race day.
Bricks, is what we call it when you combine two of the three triathlon/duathlon sports in a single workout - they properly prepare you for the changing demands on the body of each sport and play an one of the most important roles in your race-day success.
Body Responses To Switching Sports in Triathlon/Duathlon?
Lead legs, heavy as a brick, feels like you are running through peanut butter. Some of the references that athletes in our tribe use to describe going from swimming horizontally without excessive leg movements to being vertical on the bike, which is largely reliant on your leg muscles, can be particularly jolting for the body and dizzying for your cranium.
Similarly, while the pedaling on the bike may be similar to the motions performed on the run, triathletes/duathletes often share that the first few times they have an unsteady feeling underfoot when they transition from bike to run and their legs feel like cement blocks.
"When you switch disciples right away, your mind & body is confused and doesn't like huge changes in demand on it’s nervous functions and your major limbs, so the brain has to tell your body - it’s okay you can do it - here is the command to go be great," says Camille Baptiste, a triathlete & race director for SwimBikeRunFun Events . "Your body adapts through training - It's one of those things where practice makes perfect and over time your body is so familiar with the physiological changes that it becomes easier and easier to transition between swimming, biking and running.
Use these multisport training tips to learn how to ease into brick training and make it a part of your regular triathlon & duathlon training regimen.
Switching Between Disciplines
Teaching your body (mainly your legs and lungs) to control it’s pace when going from one discipline to another is particularly important in triathlon/duathlon training. It can be easy to push too hard at the beginning of the bike or run only to get resistance from your body, which can cause you to fatigue or blow up.
While training for each discipline individually - when it’s time to switch- you may find that your legs simply feel slow going from swim to bike or bike to run - that’s common, that’s natural - that is brick training.
Brick training, in a nutshell, is a way of performing two disciplines together in order to build muscle memory and neural pathways that will help you regulate pace and effort as you leave transition.
We hear from a lot of new triathletes that they find that after the swim, it can take a good portion of the bike course to feel like they are getting their regular use of their legs pedaling, so it's important to train the legs for that task. Listen to what one of our Duathlete club members had to say about how they felt after doing their first ever Brick workout. Can you relate?
Multisport #1 Tip: Practice the Transitions
While it's advantageous to try to to both swim/bike and bike/run bricks, the latter tends to be less of a logistical challenge. For the swim/bike bricks, one approach is to swim using the indoor pool at your local gym then head to the spin room or floor exercise bikes, which needs little or no time to[“transition” from point A to point B. [Remember to bring a towel - they don’t like wet gym floors :-) ]
Bike/run bricks are easier because both sports are done on land and can be done easily outdoors & indoors . Experienced triathletes will often create a mock transition area in their driveway or garage to simulate a race and help them to practice going immediately from the bike to the run.
BONUS, brick workouts offer you the opportunity to practice transitions where vital seconds are often gained or lost. By going directly from one sport to the next leg in your race , you not only train your body and mind to adapt, you furthermore may get to practice tasks like putting on your socks, getting your helmet and sunglasses on, and changing your shoes.
The idea is to try to keep that time in between legs to a minimum. You should be focused and methodical and have your gear laid out right there and ready. The transition is perhaps the easiest place in triathlons/duathlons that you can gain or lose time, so practice your efficiency during your brick sessions.
The transition is probably the easiest & simplest place to lose time or shave off secs/minutes off your overall time , so it shouldn't be overlooked. "The idea is to move quickly through transition and keep that time to a minimum.. You should be focused and methodical and have your gear right there laid out and prepared for the next leg. We’ve seen some folks eat a sandwich and coffee in transition and miss the cut-off in a race one time.
Quick Easy Beginner Brick Workouts
We suggest that you ease into the world of brick workouts with a bike/run transition training session. For example, do an hour bike ride (indoor/outdoor) and then practice running 5 to 10 minutes right afterwards. Voila - you just Brick’d. 😎
New triathletes and beginners should probably practice that about once a week or every other week when you are first starting out. This is all about just learning how to turn the legs over and getting the body & mind used to running off the bike.
Next up - when you are comfortable with this kind of brick workout, give the swim/bike brick transition a try. Here is a good beginner swim-bike brick workout to try: 300-500 yard swim and then jump out of the pool - grab your bike shoes on and go at race pace for 15 minutes on the bike - you can also do this workout using a spin bike.
By doing this, you'll teach your legs to adapt to pedaling on the bike more quickly. You'll also be able to practice things like getting your wetsuit off, feeling chilly coming out of the water, getting socks onto wet feet and riding while wet,
Since the body and brain learns through practice and repetition, brick training is essentially a vital part of any triathlon-training program, especially for the uninitiated. While going immediately from one sport to subsequent might not feel comfortable initially , eventually it'll get easier. And by the time race day rolls around, you'll be confident that you're as prepared as possible to handle the challenges that come along side racing three different disciplines.