August 30th 2017

By Martin
Categories: Triathlon Training


Triathlon, being a multisport event, requires a special kind of training approach…

When it comes to training for a triathlon, we religiously devote time to swimming sets in pools, spend time in the saddle and pounding the miles on roads or tracks – to build the single discipline conditioning.

But… is this individual session approach giving you the best performance experience / gains?

As mentioned in previous articles, triathlon is ONE sport, not three. In a race, the three disciplines flow from one to the next to the next – no rests, no recovery time, just go-go-go! If you have already done a triathlon (or any other multi-sport event) you will probably know how strange (and difficult) it can feel to swap from swim to bike, or bike to run – your body feeling like jelly, not responding, or your heart rate and breathing rate sky rocketing?

This go-go-go can be trained, just like other aspects of the sport (swim, bike, run, fuelling, hydration, etc).

Multi-discipline sessions – “BRICK” sessions…

Brick sessions are a combination of two disciplines, performed back-to-back, not only training the two individual disciplines, but also getting your body’s neuromuscular system accustomed to firing / communicating in different sequences on demand.

The movement patterns, physiological demands, pressure on the body, etc are different in each of the three sports, brick sessions help your body and mind adjust to these requirements. Brick sessions also allow you to develop swim/bike/run strategies, to minimise spikes in stress, and transition processes – the actual changing processes in T1 / T2.

Brick sessions can be as straight forward as swimming into biking or biking into running – in the “race sequence”. However, mixing up the order will train the body to function in different sequences, which can be just as useful. Some triathlons have long swim to bike transition distances, therefore a swim into run brick session can be a great addition to your training (this is especially specific to swimrun!).

Single or multiple rounds?

In a typical triathlon, there will be one swap from discipline to discipline, so the logical approach would be to do a single brick round – swim to bike or bike to run. However, for some rare triathlons as well a other multisports (swimrun) you might have more swaps to factor in…

Regardless of having a single or multiple swap event, performing multiple rounds within a brick session can provide more adaptations, transition practice, and, most importantly, it keeps sessions FUN!

Brick sessions are also great for time efficiency, fitting two disciplines into smaller amounts of time; you only have 75minutes available? Perfect, combine a bike/turbo with a run.

Sample brick session:

10min EASY on the bike to warm up

2x20min as:

15min bike as 10min EASY, 5min MEDIUM
5min run as 2min HARD, 3min EASY

10min bike EASY

This provides 60minutes of race specific training using two disciplines (if you plan to follow this suggested session, remember transitions will add more time to the total time – 60min activity, 5min more transition time?)

Take away point

In your race block of training, include brick sessions in your weekly plans. For example, every Wednesday have a brick session – train your body to swap movement patterns as you will need it to in a race. But be sure to plan an easier swim and/or bike the following day; brick sessions can be tough!