Thursday, July 22, 2010

THE wobbly position.

Let's talk about that thing called the "Brick" workout aka most referred to as the bike to run workout.There is a lot of controversy amongst the triathlon forums over the benefits or necessity of the brick workout. So here is my take:

I don't think they are necessary.

There, I said it!

Now, necessary means "absolutely essential" but also "needed to achieve a certain result or effect."

That is very interesting I find. I don't think they are absolutely essential, especially as your triathlon career progresses. My experience with them in my first days as a duathlete/triathlete are that they sucked and they were hard. I could ride strong, and I could run ok. But putting them together was a completely different experience. I figured that the more bricks that I did that that "feeling" of going from the bike to the run would improve or go away all together. It never did.


My overall bike and run fitness was crap. Yes, I could put up some decent times, but that deep down fitness level just wasn't there. I surely wasn't slacking! I was consistently working out 5-6 days a week putting up solid numbers.

Then it hit me. Achieving that level of fitness takes years to accomplish. It was just a matter of gradually increasing my bike and run fitness to the point that bricks became unneccesary and it boiled down to putting more and more time into the bike and run, usually as seperate workouts with appropriate recovery time between.

You CAN go an entire season of doing ZERO bricks and still be able to run off of the bike and PR a distance. I have done this!

Now for that second part of the necessary definition: "needed to achieve a certain result or effect."

I do think brick workouts ARE beneficial for other reasons. #1, doing them to understand how you are going to feel transitioning from bike to run, especially if you are a newer athlete. Yep, its gonna suck! Big time! But at least come race day, you know its gonna suck and that the feeling will disappear after that first mile when that "switch" goes off and its cruise control to the finish.

#2, for longer distances, figuring out your nutrition/hydration/pacing. Say you know how to fuel, hydrate and pace yourself for a 56 mile ride. Is that enough to get you off the bike and running? Did you go too hard on the bike? What then? When will you next start putting fuel and liquids inside of you on the run? I made the mistake of NOT practicing this prior to my first Half Ironman and I ATE it, literally and subsequently bonked and had one of the most miserable 13.1 miles of my life.

#3, time constraints: This morning I had to do a brick due to scheduling issues with work/life/etc this week. Hey, while you are out there all stinky and sweaty and your engine is all revved up, why not throw a 10K on top of that bike? No need to get all de-stinkified 2X a day if you can help it.

#4, you just wanna go fast! When I start a stand alone running workout, the first mile is always like running through molasses. The blood hasn't yet made it to my legs yet and my breathing is labored. I usually don't run super fast at first. BUT! After a swim or especially a bike when the blood has been flowing through my body for the past hour, my legs are revved and ready to rock it. This morning I knocked out a 50 min flat 10K due to the prior bike ride getting me all warmed up.

And now my reason for not doing a brick workout. Recovery time. Depending on the length and intensity (length x intensity = training load) of your brick workout, you could put yourself in the hole of recovery for longer than necessary. I am a big believer in taking your hardest or longest workouts and separating them a few days. Why have a shitty 10 mile run following a hard 60 mile bike ride that will take you 5 days to recover from when you could hammer the 60 mile ride, take a day or two to fully recover, then hammer out that 10 mile run at your desired intensity (recovered), and then be able to recover from that in a shorter time to continue on in your training schedule without needing to sit on your butt licking your wounds for days on end.

Like nutrition/hydration, a brick workout will be particular to YOU and YOU only. Only YOU will know what your body can handle and through trial and error and experimentation, you can figure out if a brick is good for you or not.

Save the brick for race day, I say!


  1. I have to say that I kind of agree with you. I do think Bricks are necessary to understand how your body is going to react coming off the bike and starting a run, because it's just a really weird feeling that's even weirder to explain. I also, think your point about doing a brick to figure out nutrition is key too. But, like you, I don't think I "need" to do them all the time. But, that's just me!

  2. I totally agree. I have done 2 bricks in training - 1 just because I wanted to see the Timberman run course, I only had a day, and had just ridden the bike course. The other, work made it necessary.

    AHH See you this weekend!

  3. I've heard coaches suggest doing bricks with just minimal running - gets you used to the sluggish feeling but doesn't add to the deficit you're building.

  4. My coach has me do short runs off the bike when a brick is on the schedule. I think the longest one I ever did was 40 minutes, but they are usually about 20-30 minutes.

    I don't mind them too much and I like anticipating when my legs finally switch over.

    With regards to separating the long, hard workouts. I think they are usually lumped together on the weekend when people have more time to get it done. It is sometimes hard to get a 3 hour bike ride in during the week or a two and half hour run. I'm all for separating them, but it isn't always possible. Throw a kid into the mix and things get even more complicated.

  5. I do one brick a week. Every Wednesday morning. But it is all Z2 effort as per my training plan. Yesterday was 1:00 on the bike and then :30 run ... I did toss in 5x20sec strides at the end just for kicks!! I also practice T2 while doing these wednesday bricks. Familiarity breeds confidence!

  6. Don't really have enought experience to comment on what I think or know...since I pretty much dont know anything!

    though you give me some good things to think about for Sunday race.

    have a great time in LP


  7. I'm not a big brick-worker at the shorter distances but I think I'll probably have to do more at the IM distance, I think the Brick takes on new meaning there. Other than that I agree with you, especially since I run better off the bike than I do running alone.

    Have fun at IMLP and you better be signing your life away Monday morning (or whenever it is!)!!


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