A “Brick” workout is a bike ride, immediately followed by a run in a single training session.
A “combo” workout is a combination of two sports in a single workout that are not bike-run ordered.
Examples of combo workouts include swim-to-bike, run-to-bike, bike-to-swim, swim-to-run and run-to-swim.
The most obvious reason to do a brick or a swim-to-bike workout is the “Specificity” principle of training. The activity change from swimming to cycling (transition one or T1) and from cycling to running (transition two or T2) is specific to the sport of triathlon. For the swim to bike workout, some athletes have a tough time making the change from a prone position to an upright position. The body can be trained to deal with this change in workouts to minimize symptoms of dizziness and fatigue on the bike.
Brick workouts help athletes be more comfortable, and efficient, making the change from the circular motion of cycling to the ground-tapping cadence of running. While this change is never easy, doing brick workouts can improve the speed at which the athlete settles into a comfortable, and fast, running pace.
Additionally, bricks and swim-to-bike combos are excellent sessions to work on transitions. Organized and completely automatic transitions help generate fast race times. I encourage athletes to video these practice transitions in order to look for ways to improve, make them smooth and speed T-time.
Most of the time, I begin multiple-sport workout sequences with aerobic brick and combo workouts. Depending on how much time I have available in the training plan and the needs of the specific athlete, I will progress to using intervals or steady-state time trials in the sport where the athlete needs the most sport development in order to reach race goals. If time allows, I will progress to a portion of speed work in both sports; but this is generally only done with swim-to-bike and brick workouts.
In the case of run-to-bike combos, I will use this format to build endurance volume if the athlete has a low running fitness, compared to the other sports or is returning to training after an injury that affects running volume. I begin with small amounts of running, immediately followed by a bike ride. As the training plan progresses, run time increases and cycling time decreases within this combo workout sequence. In some cases the cycling disappears altogether and in other cases I keep some cycling after the run, or runs, right up to race day.
For bike-to-swim or run-to-swim combos, these workouts are most often utilized for strong swimmers to be efficient with time or to aid recovery from a cycling or running workout. Weak swimmers should not try to put a key swimming workout immediately after a bike ride or a swim. It is more important for weak swimmers to improve technique and that is near impossible to do if the athlete is tired.
I have found, however, that an easy swim workout after a tough bike or run session can help athletes recover more quickly. The cool water and gentle body movements seem to speed recovery.
Swim-to-run combos are most often done for athletes participating in splash-and-dash, or swim-run, races. Some athletes enjoy using swim-run races as a compliment to triathlon training.
In summary, you can use brick workouts or combo workouts to improve your race-specific efficiency and speed – both for the individual sport segments and for transition times. These workouts can be used to lower your perceived exertion and comfort for changing from one sport to another. Finally, combo workouts can be used to improve recovery.
Use two-sport workouts to your advantage ~
Gale Bernhardt was the 2003 USA Triathlon Pan American Games and 2004 USA Triathlon Olympic coach for both the men’s and women’s teams.
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Gale Bernhardt ©2008