The Good, Bad and Ugly of Your Brick Workout

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Triathlete Running in Black Skinsuit

Every triathlete has a love-hate relationship with their brick workout. Some go so far as to sacrifice a pre-dinner cocktail (gasp!) for fear of becoming dehydrated or forgetting to set up their practice transition area before going to bed. Why? Well, they're scheduled to head off on a four-hour bike ride followed by a one-hour run, of course.

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The quintessential "brick" workout—consisting of a bike ride then a run, is undoubtedly a standard weekly workout for most triathletes and certainly justifiable. Some may up the ante and do two, three or four a week. Surely confidence and physical preparation for the races ahead is the desired outcome.  However, think again when adding that second and third one. Burnout, injury and plateau could be waiting to toast you just a few weeks down the road.

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The Pros of Brick Runs

Neuromuscular adaptation, mental preparation and fluidity are results of an athlete's implementation of the bike-run brick. Without preparing the mind and body for the demands of running immediately after a bike ride at race pace, let alone at a leisurely pace, one is sure to find themselves cramping on the side of the road wondering if someone played a sick prank and actually put bricks in their shoes. For the time-crunched triathlete, brick workouts provide some of the best returns on investment. They're sessions that offer endurance and strength all in one intense and slightly masochistic package.

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The Cons of Brick Runs

Bike-run brick workouts are considerably taxing and require a subsequent commitment to recovery time. Not an easy thing for triathletes. For the most part, consistency and experience come with time and allow for the manipulation of intensity and duration.  In addition, running immediately after a "hammer session" on the bike or truly any cycling session does create fatigue. Running with fatigue can positively improve strength and endurance but it can also cause running form and gait to break down, increasing an athlete's risk for injury and longer recovery times. Any gains in run fitness and technique are questionable.

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Brick Mistakes

There's a time and place for everything. Take the mullet, for instance; everyday hairstyle or Halloween? And in athletics, purpose is paramount. Always ask yourself and your coach, "What is the purpose of this workout?" Because every training session must have a purpose. All too often, I hear athletes talk about their weekend bricks and breakthrough workouts that resemble an actual race—an epic five-hour bike ride followed by a two-hour run.

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