Essential guide to triathlon brick workouts – including 8 of the best sessions
A brick triathlon workout involves training in one discipline, straight into another, with no significant gap or rest period in between. In this blog, we’ll focus on how to do bike to run brick sessions. Triathlon brick sessions are effective for three main reasons:
a) They are time efficient.
Every individual swim, bike or run workout you do involves a certain amount of time-wasting. For example getting changed, showering or driving to a pool. Brick workouts allow you to group some of your sessions together and cut down on the time consuming logistics. In effect, you can fit more training into less time.
b) They prepare your body for the specific race-day requirements of a triathlon.
Bike to run brick workouts help you adapt to the feeling of running straight after cycling. After all, it’s not just about how fast you can run, but how fast you can run AFTER a swim and a bike. For example, when you jump off your bike and start running in a triathlon, your legs will feel heavy and tired. Brick sessions help you get used to that feeling, and teach you how to manage it better.
c) They boost your confidence.
Once you’ve done a few good brick sessions in the lead up to a race, it really boosts your confidence. You’ll feel like you know what to expect on race day. And during the race itself you’ll think “I’ve got this covered”, as soon as you start running with heavy legs. It’s a great feeling.
How To Do A Brick Workout
Brick workouts can be done indoors or outdoors. For shorter, high intensity brick workouts it’s usually better to ride indoors on a static trainer, so that traffic and junctions don’t get in the way of your faster efforts. You can either run outside, or on a treadmill, depending on your preference. If you train indoors, have a fan pointed at you, so that heat-stress doesn’t become a limiting factor.
For longer, lower intensity brick workouts you can easily do the whole session outdoors (or indoors if you prefer). Traffic and junctions aren’t such an issue when you’re riding at lower intensity.
Take the time to set the whole thing up beforehand. Have your running shoes ready, drinks, towel and a dry t-shirt to run in (your shirt will get damp from cycling indoors). Try to avoid delays between cycling and running (such as looking for your front door keys). You want to get running as soon as you hop off the bike.
Below are some of the best brick workouts for each triathlon distance – Sprint, Olympic, IRONMAN 70.3 and IRONMAN 140.6. They are designed for seasoned triathletes. If you’re new to the sport, start by halving these workouts and build up gradually from there.
8 Best Triathlon Brick Workouts
Session 1. Sprint distance triathlon. Endurance brick workout:
This is a session you can do without it causing you excess fatigue. It will help you get used to running off the bike, while building your aerobic endurance. You can do this session outdoors, or indoors.
- Bike 60 to 90 minutes at steady chatting pace
- Straight into run 20 minutes at a steady chatting pace
Session 2. Sprint distance triathlon. Speed brick workout:
This session is best done using an indoor bike trainer, with a fan pointing at you to keep you cool. There are two main blocks of hard work to done at your approximate race pace, plus a warm up and warm down. The workout will help you get accustomed to the demands of sprint triathlon race-day.
- Bike 15 mins easy as a warm up
- Bike 8 mins at target sprint triathlon race pace
- Run 4 mins at target sprint triathlon race pace
- Recover for 3 mins
- Bike 7 mins at target sprint triathlon race pace
- Run 3 mins at target sprint triathlon race pace
- Recover for 60 secs
- Bike 5-10 mins easy
Session 3. Olympic distance triathlon. Endurance brick workout:
This workout replicates the demands of an Olympic triathlon, but done at an easier pace, and with a shorter run. It’s the kind of session you could do every week, without it causing you too much fatigue. It will boost your aerobic endurance, and help you get used to running with heavy legs.
- Bike 90 minutes to 2 hours at steady chatting pace
- Straight into run 30 minutes at steady chatting pace.
Session 4. Olympic distance triathlon. Speed brick workout:
This workout is tougher than session 3 – you might feel a little tired for the next 48 hours. After you’re warmed up, you’ll do some Olympic race-pace efforts on the bike, followed by a “fast at first” 20-minute run. It’s a great way of replicating the demands of an Olympic triathlon, broken up into manageable chunks. Check out this blog to learn about Olympic distance race pacing.
- Bike 1 hour as: 20 mins steady chatting pace, 2 x 12mins at your target race pace + 3-minutes recovery, 12 mins steady chatting pace.
- Straight into run 20 minutes, fast at first (10mins at target race pace, 10mins easy jog).
Session 5. IRONMAN 70.3. Endurance brick workout:
This brick workout is like two sessions in one – a long ride, and a long run. You can build it up over time, so in the weeks leading to your target race, you’re doing 3 hours of cycling and 90 minutes of running. Keep it all at a nice steady pace, which will boost your aerobic capacity and leave you feeling relatively fresh for the remainder of the week. You’ll need to keep on top of your nutrition for this one, with a carbohydrate snack every 30 minutes.
- Bike 2 hours at steady chatting pace
- Straight into run 1 hour at steady chatting pace
Session 6. IRONMAN 70.3 – Speed brick workout:
You’ll be working at IRONMAN 70.3 race pace for this session, so don’t be tempted to go any harder. The aim is to get used to your race-pace, and what your legs might feel like when you start running. You can progress this workout over time, so you’re eventually able to ride for 2 hours (with 1 hour at race pace), and run for 40 minutes (with 25 minutes at race pace).
- Bike 1 hour 25 as: 20 mins steady, 2 x 2o mins at target race pace + 5 mins recovery, 20 mins steady
- Straight into run 20 minutes, fast at first (15 mins at target race pace, 5mins easy jog)
Session 7. IRONMAN 140.6 – Endurance brick workout:
All of this workout is done at IRONMAN race pace. The session below can be progressed over time, so you’re eventually able to cover 4-5 hours on the bike and 1 hour 30 on the run. These are tiring workouts, so don’t be tempted to make them too long, otherwise you’ll lose days to recovery time. And make sure you take plenty of nutrition along with you (for example, 2 or 3 energy gels per hour, or equivalent).
- Bike 3 hours at target race pace
- Straight into run 1 hour at target race pace
Session 8. IRONMAN 140.6 – Speed brick workout:
When you’re training for an IRONMAN, it’s still important to include some speed work. This keeps your thresholds nice and high, which raises the ceiling on your IRONMAN race pace. This brick workout involves some efforts at your 1-hour race pace (or slightly below). An indoor bike trainer works well for this session.
- Bike 1 hour as: (15 mins steady, 2 x 15mins at your approx 1-hour race pace +3 mins recovery, 15 mins steady)
- Straight into run 30 minutes, fast at first (10 mins at your approx half-marathon race pace, 20 mins easy jog)
Brick sessions are an important part of your triathlon training. Just be careful not to overdo them, because they can cause more fatigue than single-discipline workouts. In our triathlon training plans, we tend to prioritise the brick workouts in the last 12 weeks of training for an event. And one per week is usually enough.
Good luck with your training,
Coach Phil Mosley
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