Any triathlete will tell you how important incorporating triathlon brick training sessions into your training plan is but it’s only when you do the first race that you’ll understand why!
A triathlon brick session is any session where you include two or more activities in the same training session and it’s designed to get you used to the weird and potentially painful sensation caused by moving from one event to another when your muscles and nervous system just aren’t ready for it.
What is a brick training?
Brick training sessions get their name from the heavy sensation that settles into your legs when you start the run, making you feel like your legs are made of bricks. Each of the events in triathlon use very different muscle groups, so, to increase performance and save energy your body will focus blood flow only to those muscles that you need for the specific event, and effectively switch off those it’s not using.
If you know what it’s like trying to stand up when your legs have gone to sleep, then imagine trying to run like that! When you start to run, your body will start to trigger the relevant muscles and divert blood flow to them, but this takes time, and, as you are likely to be operating at a high intensity, this puts additional pressure on your heart, causing your heart rate to jump, which can push you into your anaerobic zone.
Whilst cycling and running use the same muscles, the level of engagement differs. Cycling uses the Glutes as the main source of power, supported by the Quads and hamstrings, but in running, the majority of the power comes from the thighs, and the hamstring, in particular, is used much more.
Running also uses the calves significantly more, and this is often where you will feel the most, and this can lead to cramping early in the run leg which will have a major impact on the rest of your run.
The dizziness and wobbly legs at the end of a swim are the same mechanics, and it’ worth doing a couple of sessions where you jump out of the pol after a hard interval, just to see what it’s like and get your body used to the transition.
If you do experience the brick in a race, there is very little you can do other than running or walking through it. the main thing is to keep moving to ensure that the blood continues to flow to where it’s needed but at a slower pace, focussing on your breathing which will calm you down, get oxygen to the relevant muscles and reduce your heart rate. Once you drop to a more aerobic heart rate, you’ll find it a lot easier to get back into the run.
What does a brick Training session look like.
A good brick session will focus on the transition between the two events, and, if you can repeat in a session, then that will increase the effectiveness. How you do it is entirely up to you but here are a few options.
- at the end of a long ride add on a 5-10 minute run. This shouldn’t be after a very strenuous ride, as that might increase fatigue and potential injury
- A 30-minute bike at a higher intensity followed by a 5-10 minute run
- 20-minute high-intensity bike followed by a 5-10 minute run, repeated two or three times.
- Add a cycle before a run session. If you train at a track, cycling instead of driving will be an efficient way to add brick training into your routine.
If you are in a gym, this is obviously easier, but doing sessions on a trainer or the open road are fine, just make sure you have all your kit ready and that your bike is left in a safe place when you are running.
It’s also a good time to practice taking your helmet off before the run because you’ll be surprised how often people forget