Brick Training Beginners: Why Brick Training Belongs in Your Triathlon Training Plan

I'm back in full swing for training this year and I just did completed my first, dreaded brick training session. As I obviously let the world know this on Instagram ... I received a few questions along the lines of - "What the hell is a brick session? Why do you do them?" 

A brick training session is a term used to describe a back to back training session that includes two or all three of the sports in a triathlon. This includes a bike session followed by a run, swim session followed by a bike, or a swim followed by a bike followed by a run (mini triathlon). It is typically used to refer to bike then run however.

When I started out training for my first triathlon, my plan never included a single brick session, in fact I didn't even know what it was. I trained all three sports individually and never practiced transitions. Huge mistake.

I wouldn't recommend this. It is an awful approach and you'll notice it most on the transition from the bike to the run. My first experience - pacing was awful, transition was slow and my muscles fought back in the form of immediate cramps as I pushed them to do things they'd never experienced before. 

Ever since that experience I've employed one Brick session a week into my training regime. I will tend to not do brick sessions during taper however.

Reasons to Employ Brick Sessions to Your Training

Brick sessions are good for two reasons in particular:

  • Developing Muscle Memory

    • When you get off your bike, there is a heavy feeling in your legs that can make running difficult.  I liken it to that experience of jumping on a trampoline for hours and then trying to jump normally on the ground - it feels weird and your body is not prepared for what is being asked of it. Training your legs for the task of getting off the bike and into the run is essential. The quick change of pace can throw your body for a spin, practicing this transition will help your body become familiar with the switch from biking to running, which in turn will help you develop the ability to pace your effort through this important transition in your race. Getting this right and becoming familiar with the demands will go a long way to set you up for success on the run.

  • Practicing Transitions

    • It is never a bad thing to practice transitions. It is a key element of triathlons and something that separates this sport from others. By employing a brick session or two, you'll be able to practice this fine art of transitioning and ultimately improve your times.

Tips on Adding Brick Sessions to Your Training

Incorporating brick sessions doesn't have to be difficult or stressful. Take a tiered approach and make sure you don't overdo it the first few times. Here are a few suggestions to add Bricks into your training plan:

  • One Brick session is likely enough
    • While it is important, brick sessions can be brutal. One a week is likely enough.
  • Start slow
    • If you're new to triathlon and transitions, start with taking a 1km walk or jog after your bike session. This will help you get a feel for the heavy leg syndrome and avoid any injuries from trying something new
  • Progress to longer and longer times
    • Once you get a feel for the transition, start uping your distance. Start with 1km and ramp up a km each week or at a pace your comfortable with for your training progress
  • Experiment
    • Experiment with your transitioning. Come off your bike in different states - spin your last 5 km easy, spin them hard. Start your run strong, start it slow. Find the combination that works best for you. By experimenting you'll be able to figure out what your body can handle, pace yourself and your body for the perfect race day combination. I'm a spin easy for the last few KM and come out at race pace type of transitioner in general.
  • Do Bricks when you have lots of time - Saturday or Sunday
    • I tend do do my brick sessions on the weekend. Why? Those are the days I'm not as rushed and can prepare for them appropriately, including having the extra time to put in a longer work out, proper warm up and cool down time and the ability to effectively plan recovery as they can be stressful on the body, especially if you're just starting to incorporate them into your regime.

Don't let the Brick Session scare you. Tackle it systematically and strategically for increased chances of success on race day.

Happy Training