Brick Sessions In Triathlon Training

Guest post by competition triathlete Dan Millington, who blogs at GoCaveman.co.uk.

For those who are new to the world of triathlon, the term ‘brick’ might be a strange one. Brick training is essentially the practising of two disciplines, one after the other, in one session. It can be in any order but is most useful if you bike after you swim or run after you bike (for obvious reasons).

Why Do Triathlon Brick Sessions?

Now there are multiple reasons as to why you need to incorporate some brick sessions into your weekly training schedule, not least that practising quick transitions is essential for gaining what is known as ‘free time’. But by far the most important issue is how your body transitions from one discipline to the other. Being horizontal and submerged in water for an extended period of time (whilst being kicked and punched in a mass start) can be slightly disorientating, thus it can take a little while to get into your ‘rhythm’ on the bike. However, in my opinion the most important brick is the bike to run.

Dan's pre-brick session kit (Photo copyright (c)2013 Dan Millington)
Dan’s pre-brick session kit (Photo copyright (c)2013 Dan Millington. Reproduced with permission.)

For those who have participated in Duathlons or Triathlons, you will have experienced the fairly disconcerting ‘jelly legs’ when you get off the bike and attempt to run. I can assure you that if you have not done any brick sessions in training then your run leg will be much slower than you originally may have anticipated. A bike to run brick session will not actually ‘cure’ jelly legs, but instead you should view it as a way of lessening the effects.

There are two main factors to running off the bike (and triathlon in general)…..physical and mental. And a lot of it is mental. When you are in an event your mind doesn’t work the way you would anticipate it, the pressure is on, you are tired, sweaty and small things can lead to panic. So imagine if you have never done a brick session and during your first triathlon you get off the bike and suddenly realise that your legs don’t work! The good news is that the ‘jelly leg’ feeling eventually passes (after a few kilometres) but you need to have run off the bike in training to know this. You also need to train your mind so that you can deal with the funny feeling, and it is a very funny feeling indeed.

Let’s Get Physical

Now to the physical part. When you train your muscles in a specific way, they naturally get more efficient at whatever exercise you are conducting. Thus if you train your body to run 10km after a 40km bike then it stands to reason that you will be better at running off the bike than if you didn’t train this discipline. That does not necessarily mean that you have to run 10km after every single bike ride. Like training the other disciplines you can vary the distances – just make sure that after one of your bike rides each week you are running at least 3km straight away.

(Ed: here’s a quick intro video – not of Dan – briefly discussing bike-run brick training and the role of cadence.)

Bear in mind that it is all too easy to come back from a bike ride and ‘chill’ for a few minutes, which turns into 10 minutes and then into hours. A brick session is most effective when the transition is done quickly. As mentioned earlier it is also a great way to practice transitions. So set out your run shoes/clothes and any gels needed and get out there!

It is one of the less enjoyable runs you will have but believe me, it will pay dividends in the race itself. Unfortunately it is one of those necessary evils in order to succeed in hitting whatever goal you might have set yourself for your triathlon. Brick sessions are not just for the novice triathlete, the pros still have to go through the process so you are not alone!

Author Bio

The ramblings of Dan Millington, triathlete, runner, natural fitness enthusiast and wannabe pro surfer at http://www.gocaveman.co.uk/

For more information on triathlon transitions, read my article: The Fourth Discipline – Getting Set For Triathlon Transitions

Ironman

Neil (nickname Ironman) is an avid runner and sports fan, who writes about all things triathlon-related, especially running and cycling. He also writes about sports injuries and regaining fitness - mainly from personal experience rather than academic knowledge - although he does study that too!

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