Triathlons are a unique and challenging mix of three different disciplines in one event. During a triathlon you go from swimming to riding your bike, and finally running afterwards.
Each of these disciplines has a different movement pattern and demands on your body to the next one: often, a first-time triathlete will get dizzy going from swim to bike, and feel like their legs are bricks going from bike to run!
And that is where brick training can help. If you’re a rookie triathlete, the concept of brick training might seem foreign to you. But adding this to your program will pay dividends as you go further along in your triathlon journey.
What is Brick Training?
Brick training combines two of the three triathlon disciplines in a single workout. It helps you transition from one discipline to another. Most of the time people focus on the switch from biking to running, although there are also swim-bike and swim-run brick sessions. There are also enduro brick sessions which involve several repeats of the brick.
What does Brick Training teach your body?
Brick training allows your body to handle the aerobic, anaerobic, and muscular demands of a triathlon. A good training plan should include brick training as it helps your body effectively prepare for the next discipline while improving your recovery from the previous discipline.
Brick training also teaches you to properly pace yourself. It can be easy to accidentally go all-out at the start of the event. Doing so can cause fatigue, and you might not have enough energy to keep up the pace all the way to the finish line. Brick training can help you learn how hard you can push in one discipline without negatively affecting the following discipline.
Going from swimming (a horizontal body position) to biking or running (upright), many athletes report dizziness or loss of balance getting up and out of the water. A brick session involving swimming allows you to become familiar with this sensation. You also learn ways to deal with it or reduce it, like kicking harder in the final 100 meters of the swim to bring blood to your legs and prep you for standing up.
From bike to run, legs will feel heavy because athletes tend to push hard on the bike, building up fatigue and lactate in the legs. Cycling also tends to affect your running mechanics because the cycling posture keeps you hunched forward, shortening the hip flexors; pedaling also reduces flex through the ankles. Bike-to-run bricks help you learn to shake off the stiffness and build the muscle memory to get into good running posture; they also train you to aim for cadence rather than stride length in those early kilometers on the run until your body loosens up.
When in your program should you do brick training?
Brick sessions can be quite taxing on the body as well as time-consuming. You can also do shorter transition runs off the bike (lasting from 10 to 20 minutes) to teach your body the muscle memory to run well after pedaling. Long bricks are best done once a week until just before you start tapering for your target event, so you’re fresh come race day.