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Optimizing Triathlon Transitions with Bricks

by Stephanie Jamain 17 May 2017
Optimizing Triathlon Transitions with Bricks

If you are new to triathlon training, “brick” workouts may be a foreign concept to you. The term “brick” in triathlon generally refers to transitioning from one sport to another with very little rest in between (typically bike-to-run). Imagine each sport as a building block that you place one over the other, building your multisport workout. Bricks are used in training to ease the transition between sports and help prepare your legs for race day. The duration of your brick workouts generally depends on the race distance you are training for.

Sprint and Olympic: BIKE: 15 min to 1:30; RUN: 5 to 15 min.

Short bricks are especially tailored to short-course athletes who start their run at a relatively fast pace. Multiple bricks of 5 to 10 minutes in duration can be superimposed to maximize both the cardiovascular and muscular work.  These types of bricks are also efficient in helping develop the comfort and agility required to transition quickly and efficiently between each sport, in short distances where every second counts. A short course triathlete will do a minimum of 1 to 2 brick sessions per week.

Half-Ironman and Ironman: BIKE: 2 to 6 hours; RUN: 15 to 45 min

Long bricks are generally integrated into a training plan once a week, as they are very demanding on the body and require more recovery time than a simple bike or run workout. The objective of this type of brick workout is to help the body get used to transition between the two sports as the posture and active muscles used in either sport are different. The first attempts of this type of brick have your legs feeling like concrete, but after a few weeks you should see the sensations changing, even reversing. In fact, once your body is trained to do this type of transition, you may even tend to start the run at too quick of a pace. This is logical, since your body is already warmed up, your heart and muscles are already working in the right zones and the changeover in sports recruits fresh muscle fibers. This happens to be one of the major errors athletes make when racing the full Ironman distance—taking off too fast on the marathon. Lengthening the brick up to 30 to 45 minutes also allows you to test your nutrition and analyze whether your bike nutrition and hydration were adequate or not.

Athlete: I don’t run well after my bike rides, I need to do longer bricks!

Coaches tip: To improve your running efficiency, you need to run with fresh legs. This is how your body effectively registers the training effects. If you struggle to keep the pace during a half-Ironman or Ironman, several aspects should be analyzed:

  • Muscle strength: A major element for running well off the bike. Hill repeats (both on the bike and running) and some strength training should be an integral part of your training plan.
  • Endurance: Are the duration of your long bike and run workouts and your total weekly training volume sufficient?
  • Nutrition: Is your nutrition plan adequate to start the run well hydrated and with enough energy?
  • Taper: It’s not easy to put the brakes on and taper 10 days prior to the race, but is your taper giving you enough rest to arrive “fresh” on race day?
  • Execution: A common error even amongst experienced athletes is to push too hard on the bike or start the run too fast, leading to increased fatigue during the run. Know your race pace and stick to it, especially during the first few kilometers!


Bart Rolet
Head Coach, Bart Coaching



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