Not Just Another Brick in the Wall: Being Creative with Combinations
For Inside Triathlon
© 2005 by Joe Friel and Chuck Graziano
The combination workout, or brick, is a great way to prepare for Multisports racing. A
workout that combines two or more disciplines into one training session pays big
dividends, providing physiological as well as psychological training for the stresses of
race day. In large part, this is due to the very sport-specific nature of the combination.
Many athletes use the “same old brick” as a staple in their training plan, however,
workouts can be combined in an infinite number of ways and should be structured to
make them suitable given a variety of factors that should be considered.
Accumulated Volume: Combinations do not need to be stressful or very long to be
effective. More importantly, they should reflect the volume of training that’s been
completed to date. A short ride followed by a short run early in the season is very
effective in developing the leg turnover that will be required later on in the season.
Training Phase: During base building periods, you are building a strong aerobic base,
therefore, combination workouts at or just below your aerobic threshold will be your key
to success. Later in the season, as your begin your pre-competitive phase, you’ll want to
build some intervals into your brick to develop speed as well as to build confidence,
focus and psychological stamina.
Race Distance: Include combinations that practice your race transition. Training for a
sprint or Olympic distance event requires being focused and moving with speed and
efficiency. Iron-distance training will shift your emphasis in the transition area to moves
which are slow and intentional, practicing all of the steps included in these distancespecific
transitions. In both situations, practices that emphasize the transition rather than
the swim-bike-run segments will save valuable seconds or minutes come race day.
While the ways you can mix a combination workout are endless, here are some
examples that can be incorporated into your training plan, or be used to stimulate your
creativity. Plan carefully, bearing in mind the factors previously discussed.
This is the one most thought of as “the brick”. It’s good for developing your endurance
base and can be used effectively later in the season by building in some intervals or
segments to strengthen your limiters (e.g. hill repeats).
Ride a moderate to long ride (1 to 5 hours) over terrain that simulates your next “A” race.
Transition from the bike to run quickly, ending with a 15 to 40 minute run. Keep Heart
Rate (HR) to Zones 1 and 2.
Variation: Break it in two. Cut the distances in half and do two sets.
Best suited for base building early in the season.
Double Your Pleasure
The idea is to run in minutes the number that you rode in miles, starting early in the
season with low numbers and building to higher combinations in zones 2 and 3. For
example, ride 30 miles and transition to a 30 minute run. Later in the season, increase
the combination to a 40 mile ride and 40 minute run, 50/50 and so forth up to a 70/70
combination for those Iron-training.
This is a great progression for your endurance base building.
Warm up with a short to moderate distance run. Transition to the bike for a moderate
distance ride. Finish with a strong run which is slightly shorter (but quicker) than your
first run. Stay in HR zones 1 and 2 until the last run and then increase intensity to zone 3.
Variation: The Double Du. Run, bike, run, bike, run. Keep your distances appropriately
short for each segment and maintain HR zones 1 and 2 until the last bike and run
segments and then build into zone 3.
This is a good workout for the middle and later stages of your base building periods.
Warm up on the bike for 15-20 minutes, building HR slowly into zone 3. Then do 3-4
intervals for your major limiter (e.g. speed or hills) of 3-6 minutes each, building into
zones 4 and 5a. Recover for 2-4 minutes between each. Finish off with another 30
minutes in zones 2 and 3. Transition to a run of 15-30 minutes.
Variation: Start with a run. Warm up well and then do 6-8 x 800 yards building into
zones 5a-5b. Walk/jog your recovery for a time equal to your 800 yard interval time.
Finish with a steady paced run for 15 minutes recovering to zone 2. Transition to the
bike and ride for 1 _ hours in zone 2 to 3.
This workout is best suited for your build or pre-competitive training periods.
Combine your swim workout with a fast transition onto the road for a moderate distance
ride. Your planned swim workout is the focus, with a quick transition. A quick transition
onto the road will help develop the feel for transitioning from being in the “horizontal,
non-weight bearing” position.
Variation: Transition from the swim to run.
Keep this combination in mind for any phase of your training.
The focus of this combination is the transition. Plan and set up your transition area the
way you will at you’re A-priority race. Do several intervals practicing short durations in
the water or on the bike (best if done on a stationary trainer) and practicing T-1 and T-2.
As example, for sprints or Olympic distance events, do 4 to 6 sets of 5-10 minutes on the
bike in zone 4-5a. Do a quick transition to the track and run 800-1200 yards at the same
intensity. Recover fully between sets and reorganize your transition area.
This is an important combination to include in your pre-competitive and competitive
phases of training.
Bricks, or combination workouts are more than just doing a long ride followed by a short
run. When done in conjunction with good planning and timing, you’ll see significant
results in your physiological and psychological abilities to handle race conditions when
the time comes.
Joe Friel is the author of The Triathlete’s Training Bible. Chuck Graziano is an Ultrafit
Associate and a USA Triathlon Level II Certified Coach. For more information, Chuck
can be contacted at Chuckg@ultrafit.com.
• Plan your combination workouts to fit into your annual training plan incorporating
appropriate distance, intensity and race specific needs.
• Mix up your combinations to make things interesting. You are only limited to the extent
of your own creativity.
• As the season progresses, add some interval work to your bricks and incorporate
transition practice combinations as the race season nears.