Perhaps the most psychologically challenging aspect of any triathlon is the transition from sport to sport. The shorter the distance and the more competitive the athlete, the more important it is to reach your best effort race pace quickly out of T1 and T2. An Ironman athlete whose goal is to finish can walk several minutes and jog several miles out of T2 to allow for recovery. The age-grouper hoping to get on the podium at the local sprint needs to find her 5K pace immediately out of transition, or risk losing the few seconds that may make the difference in achieving her goal.
Training for this transition is as much psychological as physiological. Getting your legs going when all the blood is in your upper body after the swim is challenging. Running after putting out a big effort on the bike is even more difficult. The harder or longer the bike effort, the more difficult the transition becomes. How can you prepare yourself to successfully deal with these challenges?
Enter the “brick” workout. The origin of the term “brick” is debatable: personally, I think it refers to how your legs feel when you start running after riding hard; I’ve also read that it’s more along the lines of “Bike. Run. ICK.” Either way, the point is the same!
Simply put, the brick is a workout where you conduct two sports back-to-back with as short a transition as possible, simulating a race scenario. The most common is the bike-run (or bike-run-bike-run-bike-run…) brick, but I’ve played around with swim-bike bricks as well. I find the former of the most value in my training.
I think any triathlete should add brick workouts early in their training plans (starting in the offseason/base phases) and often (weekly). Performing bricks with this frequency makes the transition from sport to sport second nature on race day. Psychologically, you know your legs are capable of more than they feel like immediately off the bike because you have pushed them in training under similar stress. This is where the mantra “Shut up, legs!” comes in handy. As I wrote last season, your legs lie to you coming out of T2.
Below are some ideas for workouts you can implement in training for your next event:
During my self-experiment with CrossFit Endurance (CFE) last year, I struggled with running out of T2 in my first several races. My wife pointed out that I hadn’t done any brick work all season, and she was right. Once I implemented a few brick sessions (and after moving away from the CFE protocol), my run times improved quickly. I think the bricks were the key to making that happen. This season, my coach started my brick work about a month into my training plan. Now several months into my base-building foundational work, the bricks have gotten a bit faster and I feel much more mentally prepared for the rigors of next week’s first race of the season. It’s never too late to bring bricks into your training!
Do you have any brick workouts you like? I’m always interested in new ideas – leave a comment!