Brick Workouts to Build Speed
By Bill Floyd
Ever since triathlon began in 1974 (and the Ironman not long after that), triathletes have been trying to finds ways to get faster, stronger and to not tire so easily. Triathlon coaches and athletes around the world have put their heads together to create new ways to be faster with less energy and hopefully progressively better results.
Bricks are one way to build your speed. As you know, bricks are when a triathlete places two of the sports together for a workout at the same time to create strength and speed for the race. This might be swim-bike, bike-run or swim-run, but for now, let’s focus on the simple— but highly effective — bike-run brick.
Whether you are a beginner or intermediate, these brick workouts will help you to build your speed for your upcoming multisport event. Even advanced triathletes can make use of a brick workout with a season full of racing ahead.
Let’s start with a sprint-distance brick. If your race is a .25-mile swim, 10-mile bike and 3-mile run, try doing a 10-mile bike, 3-mile run brick as a starter. That is the simplest way to begin. As a coach, I would always assign a percentage of your top-end speed with it, so you can steadily progress toward a decent race pace. That percentage is generally around 80 percent. The workout would read 10-mile bike, 3-mile run at 80 percent max.
However, if you are a beginner, I might not assign you a percentage quite that high at the start of our working together. You will be pushing fairly hard on the bike and when you get off your bike, your legs will either feel really weak or you will already be somewhat tired. This would impact your 80 percent effort for the workout, because as a beginner, you may not have worked up to that level just yet.
For a beginner, I would recommend starting with a 10-mile bike x 3-mile run at 60 percent effort for a couple weeks to allow your body to acclimate to it. Then I would increase it to 70 percent for two weeks. Then, one or two weeks before the race, you can increase your effort to 80 percent so your body has the opportunity to build into that level of a percentage.
You can also split the percentages in order to build to 80 percent in a little different manner. You may be stronger on the bike, and your run may be lacking. Then you may design the workout this way: 10-mile bike at 60 percent x 3-mile run at 70 percent. With this configuration, you just placed an emphasis on the run where you need to build confidence. Plus, it helps you build the leg strength you’ve already shown you have on the bike. When you get the run percentage up and speed is approaching 80 percent, then increase the bike to 70 percent so you can build them together.
You can also try what I call Preparation Bricks. Those are structured this way for an Olympic-distance event: 25-mile bike x 2-mile run at 60/70/80 percent — the same effort levels outlined above in the sprint progression or graduated method. At this point, you are already running 5-7 miles for a longer run, so your body is strong. With just a 2-mile run following the Olympic-distance bike mileage, you can run it knowing you reached a higher percentage of speed a little sooner, you will not feel as tired and there will be less chance of injury.
Once you understand the graduated method, you can take it a step further. When you finish a long bike and switch to running, there’s no question your legs will be somewhat tired. To keep your speed up on the bike in a way that creates sustainable speed for the race, and to keep your run speed up for the entire distance, you can design a brick this way: 12-mile bike x 2-mile run x 12-mile bike x 2-mile run at 60/70/80 percent effort. Remember to place the higher percentage of effort on the sport you feel you need to focus on most. In this dual brick format, the first format may be at 60 percent and the second format at 70 percent. By keeping the higher percentage at the end, you teach your body not to tire as easily towards the end of the race or workout.
A graduated method when using bricks can help you to augment your strength and your speed in a progressive manner and you will learn to keep going longer and faster.
Bill Floyd is the owner of TriFloyd with Bill Floyd Coaching, operating out of Tampa, Fla. He is a USA Triathlon Level II Certified Coach, Level II USA Cycling Certified Coach and a TEAM in Training National Certified Coach. Bill is a two-time Team USA member. You can find out more at www.TriFloyd.com or by emailing BFloydPres@aol.com.