T1 4 With Me­lanie McQuaid

Tran­si­tion work­outs (of­ten re­ferred to as “brick” work­outs) are com­bined train­ing ses­sions of swim/bike or bike/ run. These work­outs are used to tar­get race-spe­cific en­durance, strength, pac­ing and skills work. Part of a brick work­out in­cludes prac­tic­ing

Triathlon Magazine Canada - - DEPARTMENT -


Brick work­outs build en­durance, pac­ing and strength. Train­ing race spe­cific brick work­outs also ad­dress the neu­ro­log­i­cal re­cruit­ment re­quired to ef­fec­tively “switch gears” be­tween the sports. Ex­e­cut­ing brick work­outs at the cor­rect in­ten­sity wires the ner­vous sys­tem to fire at the pace de­sired on race day.

For longer dis­tance ath­letes, the pace is sig­nif­i­cantly slower than in short cour­ses, so a fast pace af­ter the tran­si­tion is less of a lim­iter to over­all race suc­cess. For long course rac­ing, bricks are more use­ful for race-spe­cific load­ing of the legs. Brick work­outs are de­signed to mimic rid­ing af­ter a long swim and run­ning on tired legs. Since the amount of time in tran­si­tion is small rel­a­tive to the length of the race, tran­si­tion rou­tines and shift­ing gears be­tween sports isn’t as im­por­tant in long course rac­ing.

In con­trast, for stan­dard- or sprint-dis­tance ath­letes, brick work­outs train the body to quickly shift be­tween sports into race-spe­cific speed. Short course ath­letes train to im­me­di­ately switch at each tran­si­tion to race pace as there is less time to get up to speed. In draft-le­gal rac­ing, a slow start on the bike can mean miss­ing the pack al­to­gether. Sim­i­larly, in sprint-dis­tance rac­ing, start­ing slowly on the run can be 30 sec­onds per kilo­me­tre off race pace, and that 30 sec­onds can make a huge dif­fer­ence when you’re com­pet­ing at the front of the pack. Us­ing brick work­outs with the cor­rect in­ten­sity pat­terns helps transitions.

Cre­at­ing a rou­tine for transitions is the key to ex­e­cut­ing them faster. Prac­tic­ing a rou­tine makes the move­ments au­to­matic and builds con­fi­dence that noth­ing has been for­got­ten in tran­si­tion (or at home) on race day. A sim­ple and quick tran­si­tion can save time that costs zero en­ergy, which is im­por­tant when seek­ing a podium spot.


The vol­ume and in­ten­sity of the in­ter­vals in the work­out are de­signed to re­flect the race dis­tance and ath­lete ex­pe­ri­ence. Sprint races re­quire shorter and harder in­ter­vals than stan­dard-dis­tance races for elite and ex­pe­ri­enced ath­letes. First-time ath­letes rac­ing a sprint should fo­cus on skills ex­e­cu­tion rather than speed or in­ten­sity.

Swim/Bike Brick (T1)

With a bike set up on a trainer near the pool deck, cre­ate your “tran­si­tion” area. Be­gin with a race-spe­cific swim warmup (some­thing you can re­peat on race day). The fol­low­ing sug­gested work­out is a short race pace swim set fol­lowed by a tran­si­tion to five min­utes at race pace on the bike.


• 10 min­utes choice of race spe­cific warmup

• 2 to 5 times through:

• 50 all out/100 race pace with 30 sec­onds rest

• (ITU ath­letes should prac­tice div­ing in the wa­ter to re­hearse a pon­toon start)

• Run to the bike

• 5 min­utes race pace

• 5 to 10 min­utes easy spin re­cov­ery

• Re­peat the brick 3 to 5 times, start­ing with the 50 m all out

Bike/Run Brick (T2)

To prac­tice T2 you can set the bike up on a trainer at the track and des­ig­nate an area where you set up your run tran­si­tion gear. The work­out will be race pace in­ter­vals on the bike straight into the bike to run tran­si­tion area into run race pace in­ter­vals. The fo­cus of the work­out would be the ex­e­cu­tion of the tran­si­tion and ap­pro­pri­ate pac­ing go­ing into the run on the track (rather than blast­ing out at per­sonal best 400 m pace when you mean to be run­ning 5 km pace off the bike).


• 10 min­utes warmup on the bike

• 5 min­utes as 20 sec­onds hard/40 sec­onds easy ef­fort

• 3–5 min­utes easy ped­al­ing be­fore start­ing

• 5 min­utes of hard race pace

• Tran­si­tion to run (putting on shoes/hat/glasses)

• 400 m to 800 m of 5 or 10 km race pace (de­pend­ing on length of next race)

• Set up the run tran­si­tion again and ride 10 min­utes of easy ped­al­ing

• 3 to 5 re­peats

The tran­si­tion be­tween sports is what makes triathlon rac­ing dif­fer­ent from rac­ing the in­di­vid­ual dis­ci­plines of swim­ming, cy­cling and run­ning. Brick work­outs ad­dress triathlon-spe­cific en­durance, tech­nique, strength and pac­ing for ath­letes of all lev­els and are key to train­ing ef­fec­tively for triathlon.

Me­lanie McQuaid is a reg­u­lar con­trib­u­tor to Triathlon Mag­a­zine

Canada. Last year’s ITU Cross Triathlon world cham­pion, she coaches MelRad Mul­ti­sport and lives in Vic­to­ria, B.C.

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