If you’re a multisport athlete or a triathlete, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of brick workouts.
Brick workouts are a staple in most triathlon training plans, as they stack together cycling and running back to back in one workout. By requiring you to complete a cycling portion and then hop off and move immediately into running, brick workouts replicate the difficult transition between these two disciplines in a triathlon.
But, besides giving you two different activities to post on Strava, what are the benefits of brick workouts? Should only triathletes do brick training or are there benefits for cyclists, runners, or everyday athletes?
And how do you actually do a brick workout?
In this guide, we’ll be looking at:
- What Is a Brick Workout?
- Why Is It Called a Brick Workout?
- Benefits of Brick Workouts
- Tips for Successful Brick Workouts
- Examples of Brick Workouts
Ready for the lowdown on brick training workouts?
Let’s jump in!
What Is a Brick Workout?
A brick workout refers to a workout that involves cycling and then running back to back in a single session.
The specific duration, intensity, and format of the portion on the bike and running can vary, depending on your fitness level, target race distance, goal of the workout, and overall training program.
For example, an endurance-based brick workout for long course racing might involve a four-hour steady-state ride followed immediately by a 10k run at threshold pace.
In contrast, a brick workout for a sprint triathlon might involve 15 minutes on the bike with 10 x 30 seconds max-effort intervals, followed by a one-mile run at your target race pace.
Moreover, brick workouts can be done indoors, outdoors, or a combination of both. For example, in the off-season, you can do a brick workout by putting your bike on a trainer indoors and then running outside or on the treadmill.
Alternatively, you can do a brick workout at the gym by riding on an indoor cycle or exercise bike and then jumping on the treadmill.
Why Is It Called a Brick Workout?
It’s certainly an intriguing name, but the exact reason these cycle-run workouts are called brick workouts, or brick training, is somewhat unclear.
Different triathletes will throw out one of several plausible reasons. Some feel that the word “brick” encapsulates the heavy, brick-like feeling of your legs when you transition to running right after cycling.
Others say that brick workouts should form the foundation, or bricks, of a triathlete’s training plan. Some triathletes believe “BRICK” is an acronym for “Bike-Run-In-Combination”, or even “Bike Run – It Can Kill!”
Benefits of Brick Workouts
There are several key benefits of brick training.
Some apply only to triathletes or multi-sport athletes who encounter the bike-to-run transition in their event, but others can improve the fitness and performance of single-sport athletes like cyclists and runners too.
Benefits of brick workouts include the following:
- Preparing your body for the bike-to-run transition
- Providing race specificity training
- Improving endurance and aerobic fitness
- Improving the biomechanical efficiency when transitioning between cycling and running
- Allowing for greater training volume while reducing the impact of running higher mileage
- Providing an opportunity to practice pacing
- Increasing metabolic efficiency
- Allowing triathletes to practice fueling strategies to prevent glycogen depletion
- Saving time over doing two separate workouts in one day
- Improving mental toughness and focus
- Building confidence
Ultimately, the primary purpose of brick training is to provide a better way to replicate triathlon race conditions than cycling and running in two distinct workout sessions.
Studies have shown that the transition between cycling and running has a significant impact on overall performance.
Physical efficiency during this transition can be improved by training the body to get accustomed to switching between cycling and running by using brick workouts.
Tips for Successful Brick Workouts
Brick workouts aren’t easy, yet with a little practice, you will come to find their benefits to well offset the physical and mental challenges they pose. Here are some tips for making brick workouts more effective:
Be Specific With Your Workouts
Structure your brick workouts in a way that best replicates the demands and format of your target race. For example, if you race the Olympic triathlon distance, incorporate rides and runs that mimic one or both distances you’ll cover in the race.
For a run-centric brick workout, for example, you might bike 5-10 miles and then get off and run 6 miles. On the other hand, you can do a bike-focused brick workout and do 25 miles or so on the bike with some pace work and intervals, and then hop off and get in a mile or two on the bike.
In both cases, you get to practice the bike-to-run transition while honing in on one of the two disciplines.
Keep It Varied
Once you start regularly incorporating brick training into your workout program, experiment with lots of different formats. Try an even split between the two sports in the brick workout, focusing on one over the other, intervals, etc.
Variety will prevent boredom and will allow you to reap a broad range of benefits from your run-off-the-bike workouts.
Prepare Your Transition Zone Ahead Of Time
One of the primary goals of brick workouts is to practice the transition from cycling to running.
This includes rehearsing the actual transition zone protocol, so that you can iron out any kinks in your approach to getting off the bike and onto the running course, as well as conditioning your body to efficiently switch between disciplines from a biomechanical standpoint.
For your brick workouts, set up your transition area ahead of time, just as you would for a race.
Lay out your running shoes and gear, and have a place and plan for your helmet, bike, cycling shoes, etc. Try to get through the transition as quickly as possible to capitalize on the benefits of brick training.
Whether you’re an avid triathlete, a seasoned runner or cyclist, or a beginner just looking to get fit, start slow with brick workouts. Try just a few miles of cycling followed by 1-2 miles of walking or jogging, depending on your fitness level.
Gradually build up in the intensity and duration of the cycling and running portions of the workout.
Don’t Overdo It
Brick workouts are physically taxing so they should usually only be done once a week – unless you’re doing mini brick workouts or at the peak point in your training.
Fuel and Hydrate Properly
If you’re doing a longer brick workout, make sure you take in fluid and calories, especially on the bike portion. Glycogen depletion and dehydration of just 2% of your body weight can significantly reduce your performance.
Practice Your Mental Strength
Bricks can be stressful and mentally tough, but you can use this trepidation to your advantage by allowing it to build your confidence and self-efficacy for race day. In other words, if your workout looks daunting, challenge yourself to do it and stick with it, no matter how defeated you may feel.
By successfully completing tough brick workouts in training, you’ll feel that much more prepared for the challenges of race day.
Examples of Brick Workouts
There are countless ways to structure brick workouts. In fact, you don’t even have to do cycling and running in your brick. You can try swimming and then cycling, or any other combination. That said, bike-to-run bricks are the most common (and the focus here).
Here are a few brick workout ideas to try:
Indoor Brick Workout for Beginners
If you are used to doing cardio such as cycling or running, but have never done a run-off-the-bike, here’s a good brick workout to get you started:
- Hop on your bike or indoor cycle.
- Ride for 15 minutes at an RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion) of 7-8 out of 10.
- Get off on step on the treadmill or run outside for 10 minutes at an RPE of 7, trying to keep your transition between the two under five minutes.
Sprint Distance Endurance Brick Workout
Cycle 30 minutes at 65-80% of maximum heart rate (MHR) followed by running 15 minutes at 70-80% MHR.
Sprint Distance Speed Brick Workout
Cycle 20 minutes at 75-90% of maximum heart rate (MHR) followed by running 10 minutes as hard as possible.
Olympic Distance Endurance Brick Workout
Bike 75-90 minutes at 65-75% of MHR followed by a 30-45 minute run at 75-80% MHR, with a transition of 3 minutes or less.
Olympic Distance Speed Brick Workout
Bike 60 minutes. Start with 10 minutes at a conversational pace, then do 5 x 8 minutes at your target race pace with 2 minutes of easy recovery between efforts.
Then immediately transition to running 20 minutes with 4 x 4 minutes at target race pace, starting with one minute gently easing in and then hitting the first interval at the one-minute mark.
IRONMAN 70.3 Endurance Brick Workout
This workout is time-consuming and tiring, but it will help build your stamina for the 70.3 event.
Bike steady for two hours at 65-75% MHR then transition immediately into running one hour at 70-80% MHR.
IRONMAN 70.3 Speed Brick Workout
This is a challenging brick workout with pace work built-in.
Bike 90 minutes. Start with 15 minutes at a conversational pace, then do 3 x 22 minutes at your target race pace with 3 minutes of easy recovery between efforts.
Then immediately transition to running 30 minutes with 3 x 8 minutes at target race pace. Start with two minutes easing in, then hit the first interval at the two-minute mark.
IRONMAN 140.6 Endurance Brick Workout
Again, this brick workout is quite time-consuming and tiring, but it will help build your endurance base for the full IRONMAN distance.
Bike steady for three hours at 65-75% MHR, then transition immediately into running 90 minutes at 70-80% MHR.
IRONMAN 140.6 Speed Brick Workout
This brick workout is a good opportunity to move at faster paces than what you’ll be hitting during most of your training and racing.
Bike 60 minutes. Start with 10 minutes at a conversational pace, then do 5 x 8 minutes at Olympic distance race pace (or one-hour race pace) with 2 minutes of easy recovery between efforts.
Then immediately transition to running 30 minutes, with 3 x 8 minutes at 10k race pace. Start with two minutes easing in, then hit the first interval at the two-minute mark.
Remember to give your body time to adjust to the rigor of brick workouts, but the benefits will be worth the effort.
Now build your own brick workouts!
Now you know all about brick workouts and their benefits, it’s time to put them to use in your own training!
Whether you’re building up to a triathlon or just looking to add some variety to your training, brick workouts are a great way to change up your running and cycling game.