Bricks are a very important part of triathlon (and duathlon) training and they are sometimes overlooked. A brick workout refers to combining two disciplines during the same workout, one after the other with minimal to no interruption in between. As you switch modes of exercise, the body needs to effectively and efficiently prepare for the next demand while recovering from the previous exercise demand. Your heart rate increases significantly as the body tries to shift the blood flow from the muscles of the first exercise to the demands of the muscles of the next. Brick workouts help your body handle the aerobic, anaerobic, and muscular demands of a triathlon event.
The reason for doing brick sessions is to help your body get used to switching from one discipline immediately to another. Brick sessions are vital if you want to improve your running off the bike. You might have put in hours and hours on the bike and completed tons of hard run sessions but neglect brick sessions at your peril. This is exactly what happened to my friend Martin during a recent session. He regularly runs around the low 4min/km pace but after a tough ride he struggled to hit 5min/km.
Neuromuscular adaptation, mental preparation and fluidity are results of the bike-run brick. Without preparing the mind and body for the demands of running immediately after a bike ride at race pace, you are sure to find yourself cramping on the side of the road wondering if someone played a sick prank and actually put bricks in your shoes. They’re sessions that offer endurance and strength all in one intense and slightly masochistic package.
First, and most obvious, bricks give you a “mental map” of what to expect on race day – how your legs, body and mind will feel as you transition from bike to run, my biggest piece of advice is ‘never do anything you haven’t done in training’ .
Always ride your tri bike during your brick workouts. While the road bike is an important tool even during the season you’ll gain the most benefits from your brick session by replicating race conditions… so use your TT bike.
An important factor on the run is the intensity; you’ll see the greatest benefit by varying your pace both slower and faster than your projected race pace, throughout the brick run. I find that this is invaluable for teaching proper pacing in simulated racing conditions. It also helps your body get accustomed to difficult sub-threshold surges that you often experience in competition. You’ll be recruiting those fast twitch muscle fibers that have a high contractile force and can burn glycogen at a higher rate.
So the more you practice the more the body will adapt and become what we are all train for………faster! Keep mixing it up but remain consistent and remember to recover.