Improve Bike-to-Run Efficiency with a Brick Workout
By David Burgess
One of USA Triathlon’s Facebook fans posted this question on the USAT page:
“I am a runner/swimmer type. How can I help my legs from feeling like jelly after getting off the bike? They always feel like that for half a mile to a full mile into the run and it is slowing me down! Any help would be appreciated!”
Great question, as this is a common issue amongst triathletes and nobody is really immune. Coming off the bike in T2 and having your legs feel “rubbery” or like “jelly” is standard fare. Depending on the individual, I’ve heard of some people going well over a mile into their run before their legs begin to feel normal.
What can you do to make this muscular transition from bike to run as short and quick as possible?
The best way to ensure that your legs come around quickly off the bike is to structure your brick workouts in such a way that you train your running muscle groups to adapt more efficiently.
The most common method of doing a brick workout is to wrap up your training ride and then do a run off the bike. The mileage for these efforts will vary, but it’s usually a 1:1 ratio (one ride, one run). This is still a good training session that you should incorporate early in your season. It allows you to get a higher intensity workout in, as well as keeping the muscle memory of transitioning from bike to run somewhat fresh.
However, as you progress deeper into your season and your training plan begins to incorporate more race specifics and higher intensity workouts, you should change the way you approach your brick sessions. Ideally, you would turn that 1:1 ratio of bike to run into a 3:3 ratio — for example, ride 15 minutes, run 7-8 minutes off the bike and repeat three times.
How does this help?
This type of brick session will help your legs switch over to running-specific muscle groups more quickly and effectively. It does this by forcing your muscle groups to continually switch back and forth from cycling to running. By forcing the change to occur more often, you will be training your muscles to be more efficient and able to adapt to the change out of T2 as well as doing so in a shorter period of time.
Again, early in the season doing brick workouts that involve a single session on the bike followed by a single session on the run is still a great idea. But by adding in higher intensity, multiple repetition (higher ratio) brick workouts, you’ll very likely see an improvement in the time required for your legs to feel solid on the run.
Dave Burgess is a USA Triathlon Level I Certified Coach, a USA Cycling certified coach, and competitive age group triathlete. He is the founder and head coach of Podium Training Systems, based in Westchester, N.Y. For more information visit www.podiumtraining.com or email Dave at firstname.lastname@example.org.