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  • Writer's pictureSwimBikeRun Fun

What is Brick Training & Do You Need it to Succeed in Triathlon?

You’ve probably been searching around the web for quite some time now, trying to learn as much as you can about brick training for your triathlons, duathlons and swim-run events. Or maybe you’ve even tried to run quickly straight off the bike or swim on race day, but it didn’t turn out as well as you hoped.

Indeed, if you’re like a lot of our beginner triathlete & multisport buddies, then you probably ended up with heavy legs, bonking on the course and having to walk/run slower than anticipated or in some cases crawl to the finish line.

Don’t despair. You can start increasing your triathlon and duathlon success, and all you have to do is tweak your triathlon/multisport training strategy a bit. Generally, that means you need to add brick training to your regiment.

Let’s get our read on…

What is a Brick/Brick Training?

Most beginners enter the world of multisport; triathlons & duathlons for example, coming from running, cycling, and sometimes even a swimming background. If you are new to the multisport endurance world — then you should quickly get familiar with Bricks or Brick Training.

It is a game changer!

Success in triathlons, duathlons and swim-run (aka splash & dashes) events on race day is predicated on adding bricks to your training plan and practicing transitions from one sport to another.

Bricks are training sessions where you perform 2 sports back to back. In the case of triathlon training, it’s when an athlete mixes two of the three triathlon legs in one workout.

Brick Training is essential for your race-day success in triathlons, duathlons, splash & dashes and swim-run events.

Especially if you are a beginner triathlete, you can experience some “strange things” after swimming horizontally for some time and upon exiting the water your attempt to get vertically positioned quickly — things could feel kind of “wonky.” After all think about it — you've been moving — but you have not really used your large leg muscles - so, they are kind of asleep when you pop out the water.

Similarly, when you are getting off the bike after completing a cycling leg of a triathlon or duathlon, you are a bit wobbly on your feet generally. Akin to having, “bricks” as legs.

Your body is like — “WTH”!! Meanwhile, your mind is like “move b*tch.”

It’s one of those things athletes only get better at with proper training and practice.

Swimbikerun Fun wants to share with you how to add brick training into your triathlon or multisport training plan, some best practices for doing bricks, and what mistakes to avoid.

The Swim → Bike → Run Switcheroo!

Changing disciplines is hard yet necessary in multisport racing. Pushing too hard in switching disciplines can literally blow you up physically & mentally without practice. It’s so easy to shift too hard into cycling coming out the swim and get a rude awakening coming off the bike onto the run.

At the Cap Tex Tri, we heard an athlete coming out T2 — yell — “I can’t feel my legs. I feel like I got cinder blocks on instead of these Nike’s.”

When you first start triathlon or duathlon training — you will start out by performing each discipline individually. The moment your plan calls for a brick you will gain insight on how your body responds to the switch. Generally speaking your legs will feel slow & heavy going from swim to bike or bike to run.

Brick training is a way of grasping how to string two disciplines together to build familiarity, work on your pacing and figuring out how to handle your mind and body on race day.

One person on our team said Bricks remind them of Peanut butter & jelly. Say what now?? We asked them why? They shared - “ My brain is like jelly coming out the water the first few miles on the bike; my legs feel like thick chunky peanut butter when coming of the bike; & by the time I reach the finish line I’m hungry & need some bread” 😂

Takeaway: Changing Disciplines affects both your mental, and physical sensibilities

Triathlon & Multisport Transitions - Practice Them!

Speaking to the beginner triathlete - we want to take a moment to define the multisport term transition” because it really has four meanings - kinda sorta😜.

Transition (T1 + T2)

#1: Area where your bike and gear are stored throughout the race. Racers return to their assigned transition spot to swap equipment before heading back onto the race course.

#2: The act of moving from one sport to immediately performing another during training & in a race.

#3: T1 the fist switch you do in a race. In the case of triathlon, its when an athlete moves from swim → bike or if you duathlete — it's the first time you move from running → cycling.

#4: T2 customarily is when you perform your second to change over to the final leg of your race. Traditionally in both triathlons & duathlons, T2 is when you move from cycling to running.

So an athlete can be in transition, transitioning lol😂😂.

We recommend practicing both swim/bike, bike/run, swim/run, run/bike. The transition part of your race is perhaps the easiest place to gain or lose time, so it should not be overlooked.

By going directly from one sport to the other, you not only train your body and mind to adapt, you also get to practice tasks like removing your goggles/cap, wetsuit stripping, putting on your helmet/shades, running with your bike in hand, and putting on sneakers standing up.

The ultimate goal is to decrease the time lag that your body takes to transition to each discipline.

Easy Ways to Begin Brick Workouts

Typically, beginner brick workouts consist of performing the first discipline for 30mins — 1 hour, and then practice doing another for 5-10 minutes immediately afterwards. This strategy works for almost all brick combinations with the most common brick workout being a bike/run combo.

Strive to do it at least once a week if at all possible, and you are not following a plan. Remember this is all about just conditioning the legs and getting the brain & body used to transitions between swim→ bike → run.

We recommend for beginner triathletes to do their first swim/bike brick at their own gym. Swim in the pool then head to a spin or stationary bike.

Bike/run bricks can be done at your local gym just as well, using spin bikes and treadmills.

If you plan to do your brick entirely or partly outdoors, you will do best by setting up a mock transition area in your driveway, trunk of car or throwing a towel down on the grass in a park to simulate race day.

Two of our team's best 30 – 45 minutes beginner brick workouts consists of:

  • 15 min swim (500 or less yards) followed up by a 15 min bike

  • 30 min bike followed up by a 15 min run

By doing these recommended workouts, you'll teach your legs to adapt to transitions more quickly. You'll also be able to practice setting up your gear, getting your swim gear off and putting on shoes and socks while wet.

Brick training is a vital part of any multisport/triathlon-training program, especially for beginners. While going immediately from one sport to the next may not feel comfortable at first, eventually, it will get easier. And by the time race day rolls around, you can be confident that you're as prepared to handle the challenges that come along with racing (swim→ bike → run) three different disciplines.

In summary…

An effective brick session is more about the smooth transition between sports & building confidence more than anything else. If you are training for a sprint triathlon or duathlon, you don't need to be doing 3-hour brick sessions and killing yourself. Build up slowly by doing a short cycle followed by a short run and go from there.

Yes, it’s true — you can easily increase your triathlon and duathlon comfort & success, by adding brick training to your workouts and perform them once a week. Try it out next workout to prove it to yourself!


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