Brick training sessions? What are they I hear you ask.
Last week I had a question from a client who’d entered her first half Ironman distance triathlon, the Boskman triathlon at New Forest.
She told me her biggest question was this about brick training sessions and transitions:
How do I deal with transitions successfully and also how do I build the stamina to keep going at a steady and decent pace?
So today I will attempt to answer these very good questions.
Use Brick Training Sessions And Achieve Smooth Transitions
Triathlon has three obvious disciplines – swim, bike and run. It would be a mistake to treat each sport as an individual sport though because a triathlon is a combined effort of all three sports.
If you are a superb runner but can’t run ‘off the bike’ for the last leg of the triathlon it would be a shame because you wouldn’t achieve your best performance.
Even if you consider yourself to be a novice triathlete, just looking to finish in one piece, it will make your whole race easier, more comfortable and enjoyable if you prepare for triathlon specifically, including transition training.
Benefits Of Doing Brick Training Sessions
Perform back-to-back, swim-bike and bike-run sessions on a regular basis. It may seem obvious but it is easy to overlook this method of training. By performing these sessions your body will adapt to the specific stresses of multis-port.
By swimming before your bike sessions your heart will learn to ‘shunt’ blood from upper to lower limbs, and maintain blood pressure during the transition from horizontal exercise to vertical.
By performing bike to run sessions you will learn to overcome the dead or jelly legged feeling that is common on the first five minutes or so of the run portion of your race.
By taking small quick steps and focusing on technique post-bike you will soon become accustomed to these brick sessions and your triathlon will become faster, more comfortable and more enjoyable.
Two Brick Training Sessions You Could Try
Race rehearsal training could include organising yourself to perform a swim to bike or a bike to run session.
Plan where you will transition, get your equipment ready and practice your smooth transition. Not only will this help you gain confidence in the transition, but you will also learn to work hard on the bike after being pre-exhaused in the swim first, or run off the bike.
If you train this way, a few options are available. You could try a race distance brick training session, at race pace and with the kit you intend to use.
You could benefit from a more intense and shorter than race distance brick training session.
And finally you could cycle two sports back to back, for multiple transition training opportunity in one session. An example could be bike 10 minutes on the turbo trainer or static bike at an RPE of say 7-8/10.
Follow this with a hard effort 5minute run at RPE 8 before jumping back on your bike to repeat the process. You could repeat a number of times depending on your time availability and you goal.
Just a note that it is a good idea to have your kit laid out as it would be in a triathlon. In addition I suggest doing this type of session on a static trainer for logistics and safety.
Build Your Triathlon Body
Build your body and train it to move well. When you are tired your form and movement patterns get sloppy, and effective gym-based exercises are a key to reducing fatigue.
Perform gym-based exercises such as:
- ‘Core’ exercises such as plank, fire hydrants and deadbugs. (
By performing these exercises you will be better able to keep your spine in a ‘neutral’ position during the latter stages of your triathlon, and the result will be improved bike and run technique, better efficiency and most importantly reduced back pain or risk of injury.
Build Stamina Above Race Pace To Maintain Your Race ‘Easy’ Pace
I often refer to the SAID principle (Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand) and this is what all your workouts should be based on. Making your workouts specific to your sport will ensure you get the results you want.
Building stamina does not mean you have to ‘plod’ for hours on end. In fact, you will get far superior results if you perform shorter sessions at well above your target race pace.
It was established well back in 1996 by Tabata et al that high intensity interval training stresses all the energy systems of the body, from low-intensity oxidative to high-intensity glycolytic and CP systems.
The tangible fitness results for you are far superior to what you’d get from going long and slow. Building your endurance need not mean hours of training, yet still I see people who think quantity counts more than intensity, which is a shame because it takes a lot of motivation and commitment to train this way for a long period of time.
In a nutshell my advice for you if you want to gain triathlon-specific fitness and endurance is to use the SAID principle to guide your training. And since most of us are extremely busy people, keep your training sessions as short as possible for as long as possible.
Intensity Based Training Approach
Adopting an intensity based training approach will help you with the reality of training for an Ironman alongside the real world commitments.
This may sound strange or unnatural, and I know it certainly goes against the traditional ‘more is better’ mentality of the endurance athlete but consider this:
Intensity is the easiest factor to adjust in your training. You can make a 1hour session have a completely different outcome by varying intensity. And from a logistics perspective, knowing you only have to plan the same period of time to train weekly makes it easier to be consistent.
This is a win-win for you if you apply this to your training because not only is consistency a very important factor of training for a triathlon, but you will save time too, leaving more time for your family, job, friends and life!
Training for a triathlon needn’t be antisocial with hours on end spent out on your own. Shorter high intensity sessions are far more effective.
So in conclusion, by performing high intensity interval training and shorter quality interval sessions you will build the foundations that will enable you to maintain a target race pace for your triathlon distance.
By training well above your target race pace and stressing all your energy systems you will adapt accordingly and find it much easier to cruise at a moderate race pace.
Don’t fall into the trap of training long and slow and expect to race fast! It won’t happen, so train above your target pace regularly.
In terms of running off the bike, and biking from the swim, it will help you if you perform swim to bike sessions and bike to run sessions with minimal resting time between them.
Try it with your full race kit on, and set up a transition area at home so you can do a race rehearsal. You might want to enter a couple of low-key events to practice before your main target race too.
I hope this answers some of your questions about brick training sessions and if you want further guidance please do grab your free triathlon training email course at the sidebar of this page or join the team here.
If you like the advice above or you have questions please do comment or share below! Happy training! Nico.