Have you ever heard someone refer to a brick workout? Not sure what exactly that means, or how to start incorporating it into your triathlon training? Well here’s some background on the brick workout and how to work it into your routine.
Why do a brick workout?
Although most triathlon training is spent on the primary disciplines of swimming, cycling, and running, the transitions that occur between disciplines are also important, as they are the easiest place to lose or gain time. The logistics of the transition need to be practiced: equipment organization, sequence of movement, speed of transition, and simply finding one’s spot in the transition area.
Practicing two sports back to back helps the body learn to change both mentally and physically from discipline to discipline, as each sport puts different demands on the athlete’s body. Plus, practicing two disciplines together builds muscle memory and neural pathways to help regulate the pace and effort needed to complete the length of a multidisciplinary race. The most common combination used by triathletes is the “brick workout” which often consists of a bike to run. Athletes can also practice a “combo” workout for swim to bike (or run to bike for duathletes.)
How to do a brick workout?
A small portion of triathletes experience some lightheadedness when transitioning from the horizontal position of swimming to the vertical position of running to the transition area and then biking. Some athletes also experience leg fatigue when going between these two disciplines, since swimming requires relatively little leg work compared to cycling. To practice for this, set up a bike on a trainer on the pool deck. Do an easy swim (500 yards or so) and then an easy 10 minute spin. Repeat two to four times for a workout. As the athlete adapts to this workout, increase the intensity of the swimming and cycling.
Where did the term brick come from?
No one knows for sure why bike to run workouts are called bricks, but one theory is that when triathletes go from cycling to running, their legs feel like bricks, since they are going from non-weight-bearing to weight-bearing exercise. Brick workouts help athletes adapt to the change of body movement and muscle recruitment, and the feeling this change produces.
When & how to do a brick workout?
No standard has been set on how often to perform brick workouts; some do them weekly, some do them once a month, and others do them only at certain points in their training plan. Bricks can be structured in multiple ways:
- Aerobic ride followed by an aerobic run
- Aerobic ride followed by an interval run
- Interval ride followed by an aerobic run
- Interval ride followed by an interval run
A brick workout can be adapted for fitness and experience levels, as well as the terrain of the race course. Whatever the level of the triathlete or the distance of the race, an organized, practiced process for the transition is helpful. Combo and brick workouts done with a specific purpose and goal will help smart racers improve race time, maximize their training time, and practice their transitions. Both beginners and experienced triathletes will benefit from incorporating brick workouts into their training plans.
Written by Jessica Heller, Aquatics Director at Elite Sports Club-Mequon
- 20 years experience as swim instructor and lifeguard
- 16 years experience as an Aquatic Exercise Instructor
- Water Safety Instructor (since 1996)
- Lifeguard/CPR/First Aid Instructor (since 2010)
- Red Cross Babysitting Instructor (since 2015)
- Certified Pool Operator (since 2013)
- Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (since 2006)
- Aquatic Exercise Association Aquatic Fitness Professional (since 2008)
- Arthritis Foundation Aquatics Program Instructor (since 2011)
- B.S. in Biological Sciences, minor in Spanish (UW-Milwaukee, 1999)
- Doctor of Chiropractic (Northwestern Health Sciences University, 2002)
- Post-graduate continuing education focused mostly on rehabilitative exercise, sports injuries, and nutrition