What is a Brick Workout?
If you have recently joined the ranks of the triathlon world you may have heard the term “Brick Workout” thrown around. Brick workouts (or bricks) are when an athlete completes at least two of the triathlon disciplines back to back, with as little time in between as possible.
Why do them?
First, consider the mental aspect of a triathlon, your mind needs to know what it feels like to transition from a different movement. Going from laying horizontal in the water swimming to upright on a bike can be disorienting. I’ve always noticed that when I start running off of the bike my legs feel “dead” for the first 10-20 minutes, but if I just keep running that passes as the body adjusts to the new movement. It’s important to know what that feels like before race day so that you can mentally prepare yourself for each transition. The other reasons to do brick workouts surround the physical conditioning. For one, your body will make the adjustment between events much more quickly as you practice them. Second, you’ll be able to test the effectiveness of your nutrition and hydration better when you are putting two events back to back.
Coach Lloyd Henry of OnPoint Fitness adds his two cents: Bricks give you a chance to test out your fitness and to get a feel for how your body is going to respond to the second event. You’re fresh and comfortable for the first event, but the second event is a different story.
How to do them?
I recommend doing the disciplines back to back in the order you’d do them in the race to get the mental and the physical benefits. You might complete a swim followed by a bike ride, or a bike ride followed by a run. You can get crazy and do a brick that includes a run followed by a swim, or heck, a swim followed by a few rounds of tennis for physical conditioning.
When you’re planning out your bricks consider your goals for the workout and how many bricks you’ve done. If it is your first one, you’ll want to keep the length of each fairly short. You may even want to repeat them a few times as if doing interval training with breaks between each round. If you’ve had a chance to practice a few bricks, you can extend the time out for each event, or increase the pace to be closer to what you’d do on race day.
Lloyd Henry says: The hard part with transitioning from swim to run is the act of the transition itself, a lot of athletes lose time in this transition. If you’re at the pool, lay out your clothes on the pool deck in a mock transition to see what it’s like. As for how long to do the brick workout, just start with just a 30 minute bike ride after a regular swim workout. For the bike to run workouts it’s easy to transition, you just need your running shoes. Try a 10-15 minute run for a sprint or 20-30 minute run for an Olympic distance race.
When to do them?
Typically I’ve heard coaches and experts recommend to do them once a week, but some athletes end up doing them more often due to a crunched schedule. This is one best left to an expert:
Lloyd Henry says: You want to do brick workouts every 3-4 weeks in a training cycle of 12-14 weeks. Build up the foundation first, and then test yourself out, including your transitions. This means about 3 bricks in your cycle, I’d suggest doing two bike to run and one swim to bike bricks. Brick workouts aside, every time you get off the bike you should run 5-10 minutes to accustom your brain to the change.