Brick Training for Triathlon - Some Ideas - Coach Marty Gaal

So you heard about these brick things and want to try one out. Good for you. Since a triathlon consists of a swim followed by a bike followed by a run, it would behoove you to teach your body how to quickly switch from one to the next.

Swim - bike bricks are useful but are not as necessary as bike-run bricks. I would recommend that you practice a couple swim-bike workouts prior to racing in a triathlon (or before your important race) in order to have some idea of what it feels like to quickly switch from swimming, to running (to the bike), to cycling.

When you swim, a lot of blood will go to your upper body. When you exit the water, it will take a little while for that blood to figure out it needs to go to your lower body. The more you practice this, the quicker your body will respond. End of story.

Bike run bricks are important if you want to be able to run fast after a hard bike ride. But let's explain a couple things first.

  1. The more you cycle and run, the easier both will be for you
  2. The best way to be able to run fast off the bike is to be in such great cycling shape that you don't have to kill yourself to go fast during the cycling portion - thus saving energy and keeping lactate buildup low heading into the run
  3. Running after riding will be a little awkward or uncomfortable as you move through your learning curve.

Now that you understand that, let's discuss a few different ways to do brick workouts. The first and simplest way:

The point of this is to simply get your body used to the feeling. You're not shooting for gold medals with this workout.

Next - ride 30 min easy (Z1), 30min fast (Z3-Z4), run 2 miles fast. Let's say you're just training for a sprint triathlon. In that race, you're going to ride about 30 minutes fast and then run 3 miles or 5k fast (or as fast as you can). In order to prepare - practice doing it fast. Nothing like the real thing.

Too simple for you? Ok, how about:

Now you're building effort in your brick.

Still too easy? OK, how about a broken brick. Ride 30 min, run 10 minutes, and repeat that 3 times. Make the last time through harder (Z4/5a) than the first time through. This is a 'long' transition workout, and useful for Olympic and half-IM races.

More? How about you drag your bike trainer to the track:

This is more useful for sprint or Olympic-distance races.

More? How about a 60 mile ride, build efforts by 10 mile breaks. Then get off and run 6-10 miles, build into your LD race pace and hold it for the last 30 minutes. Obviously, for long races.

Another - ride 1 hr, run 20 minutes, repeat 3-4 times. Stay in Z2 all day. Great for endurance and teaching the body to switch gears.

You see, you can be as creative with bricks as you want. For beginners, I would suggest sticking with 'easier' efforts off the bike your first few times around. More advanced athletes can move into 'faster' efforts. I wouldn't recommend more than 1 or 2 brick workouts a week, and if you do two, one run should be a Z2 run and the other session can be Z4-5 stuff.

That's a very quick summary of what bricks are all about. Enjoy.

Marty Gaal, CSCS

Marty and his wife Brianne coach triathletes and swimmers through their coaching company, One Step Beyond. In 2009, One Step Beyond produced the Powerstroke®: Speed through force and form freestyle technique DVD for triathletes and open water swimmers. The DVD includes more than two hours of analysis and swim technique information.