What Is Triathlon Brick Training? Why You Should Do It & How!


If you’ve searched through various triathlon training plans, you’ve likely come across the concept of a brick workout. But what exactly does that mean?

Brick training is when the athlete practices one exercise immediately followed by the other. It is most often done with the bike-to-run transition, but it’s also important to use for the swim-to-bike transition. This is to help practice the motion and to get the legs used to the feeling of coming off of a bike and heading straight onto the pavement.

We’ll explore what brick workouts are, why they are important, and how to incorporate them into your training plan.

What Does Brick Training Stand For?

The term brick training (or brick workout) was coined by Dr. Matt Brick when he was writing about bike-run or run-bike sessions as he trained for a duathlon (Source).

However, ask any triathlete what the “brick” in brick workout means and you’ll get a variety of answers like:

  • It comes from an acronym for bike-run-in-combination (BRIC)
  • When you come off of the bike and begin running, your legs feel heavy and immoveable like bricks
  • The workouts lay the “bricks” of a solid training foundation for the triathlon

In many ways, all of these sentiments are true (though “BRIC” may be a bit of a stretch). Brick workouts are a key component of any triathlon training plan, regardless of the distance you’re training for. They provide an opportunity to practice the transitions between disciplines and give your legs a chance to adapt to the changing stimulus.

Are Brick Workouts Important? (Benefits Listed)

Yes, brick workouts are very important. For many triathletes, the first time getting off the bike after a long ride and moving right into running is a bit of a wake-up call. After being in a cycling position for so long, your legs aren’t quite ready to switch to the movement of running. Your legs can truly feel like bricks as you try to ramp up to your normal (or race-pace) cadence.

You’ll often find brick workouts built into the later stages of a training plan, typically at the 12 week mark (Source).

However, if you have a lot of trouble with the bike-to-run transition, you can add in shorter brick workouts earlier in your plan – just take it easy. You should have a solid foundation of each of the individual disciplines under your belt before you start trying to combine them.

There are a lot of benefits to doing brick workouts. Let’s explore four of them:

Muscle adaptation

Brick workouts can help your muscles acclimate to the wobbly feeling your legs get when you start running after a bike ride (or the burning sensation your legs get when going from the water to the bike). It is a very different feeling than running on fresh legs and can take a little while to get used to.

It will also help you get a better gauge of what your race effort can be for the run portion, especially if it takes you more time than expected to get up to your desired pace.

Nutrition

A brick workout can also help you dial in your nutrition. You’ll likely notice pretty quickly into your run if you didn’t fuel enough on the bike ride. If you practice a swim-to-bike transition, you can get a better idea of how much you should be eating before the swim so you don’t feel gassed the second you hop on your bike.

Practicing transitions

Most brick training sessions focus on the bike-to-run portion, as that can feel the most taxing on the body. However, you can also practice the swim-to-bike transition in order to better get a handle on how to lay out your gear and change your clothes.

Transitions are a key part of any triathlon, so feeling confident during these moments will translate to a smoother race overall. And sometimes shaving off a few seconds in T1 and T2 can make all the difference.

Training stimulus

Brick workouts can also provide a great way to break up a monotonous training cycle. This is especially true for triathletes who are in cold climates and doing most of their training indoors on a stationary bike and treadmill. A workout session of back-to-back 30 minute cycling and run sessions can feel much faster and more engaging than another hours-long slog on the trainer.

How Long Should Brick Sessions Be?

Most brick workout sessions should last roughly 60 to 90 minutes, depending on the distance you’re training for. Runner’s World put together a helpful list of different brick training sessions; here are a few examples:

DISTANCEBIKERUN
Sprint/Super Sprint30 minute fartlek at 65-85% maximum heart rate15 minute fartlek at 65-85% maximum heart rate
Olympic70-90 minutes at 65-75% maximum heart rate30-50 minute run at 65-75% maximum heart rate
Ironman60-80 minute cycle20-30 minute run
Triathlon Brik Workout Duration

Source

You’ll also want to practice a few swim-to-bike sessions in order to get your body adjusted to the change in position. During the swim, blood accumulates in your arms, head, and shoulders due to the horizontal motion.

This blood will rush right out of your head and into your legs as you stand up out of the water, which can lead to dizziness that can result in stumbling. You can offset this by kicking hard in the last 50-100 meters of the swim in order to get the blood pumping through your entire body (Source).

It can be difficult to find a good place to practice the swim-to-bike transition, but generally, any open body of water off of a safe road will do. This can also be a good time to find a local triathlon training group, as they’ll often do brick sessions together.

How Often Should You Do a Brick Session?

The frequency of brick workouts will vary a lot depending on experience, training cycle, and race distance. However, triathletes should plan to do at least one brick workout a week. Athletes training for longer distance triathlons will usually incorporate fewer, but longer, brick workouts. On the other hand, athletes training for shorter distances may benefit from doing short brick workouts more often.

In fact, many athletes may benefit from doing short brick workouts more frequently as it can help lead to injury prevention

(Source)

However, longer triathlons require more endurance-focused training, so incorporating a bunch of short brick workouts may not be the most time-effective use of training. It’s always best to follow a pre-made (or tailor-made) training plan to make sure you’re getting the full range of what you need to prepare for race day.

How Do You Start a Brick Workout?

A brick workout should always start with a solid warmup of at least 10 minutes to get your blood flowing and increase the heart rate. Brick workouts tend to be shorter in duration overall because they are really meant to practice the transition and get the legs acclimated to the new discipline.

It can also help to start the brick workout by setting up your space like you would in your staging area. That way you can hone in your technique for transitioning between the different sports. The first few brick workouts should primarily be to get used to the physical sensations, but as you progress you can make the transition period more true to a race day setup.

Here is a video on how it’s done in practice,

Things to keep in mind

Brick workouts are key to any successful triathlon training plan, but be careful not to overdo it. While transitions are important, they aren’t the focus of the race. You should make sure you’re still getting adequate time at each individual discipline, too. It’s always best to follow a pre-made (or tailor-made) training plan to make sure you’re getting the full range of what you need to prepare for race day.

Aprill Emig

Based out of Duluth, MN Aprill loves to write about the outdoors, education, and all forms of adventure. You can find her mountain biking, running, or playing roller derby.

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