Whilst ‘Brick Sessions’ are a must for newcomers to triathlon, I believe that ‘Brick Sessions’ should be integral to a triathlon training programme whatever your standard or experience. A brick session is the combination of two or more disciplines in a single training session. Most triathletes focus on the bike to run transition (transition 2, or T2) however; swim to bike ‘Brick Sessions’ which focus on transition 1 or T1, are as important.
The purpose of a ‘Brick Session’ is to optimize your transition from one discipline to the next. In addition to practicing your strategy, speeding up your transition, ‘Brick Sessions’ also improve your ability to cope with the change in discipline physically and psychological, as well as develop your technical and tactical strategy making the transition to the next discipline faster and more economical (saving you time and energy).
If you are still not sold on the idea of ‘Brick Sessions’ in your programme, I like to think of it like this: How long does it take to improve your run time by 1 minute? Let’s speculate and say it is 1 month. If I was to tell you that I could improve your run time by 2 minutes without any extra training would you take my advice? Think about how many minutes are lost in T2 as you fumble around with your bike, helmet and shoes, followed by minutes lost in the first half of the run because you haven’t practiced your transition, and you can see how important ‘Brick Sessions’ are; they are months of training!
Bike to run transition (T2) is simpler to replicate in training, on the road or using your turbo trainer. Swim to bike transitions (T1) are a logistically trickier however, if you have an outdoor lido near you, it may be possible, with negotiation, to set up your turbo on pool side. Practicing T1 is incredibly valuable as wetsuit removal has been the undoing of many a triathlete!
I recommend that ‘Brick Sessions’ should be high intensity, race pace sessions. By making them tough you can replicate the physical and psychological pressure you will experience during racing, which will improve your preparation. Personally, I complete most of my ‘Brick Sessions’ at the gym, as it is much easier logistically, which gives me more time training and less time in setting up and packing away equipment. ‘Brick Sessions’ can be single efforts, for example a long bike followed immediately by a long run, however, I recommend multiple transitions with shorter, higher intensity, efforts for example, 10-minute bike followed by a 5-minute run, repeated 4 times. Having established your initial ‘Brick Session’ you can progress by increasing the duration of each discipline or increasing the number of repetitions.
Improving your transitions should be an integral part of your triathlon training whatever your standard. When I was physiologist to The National Triathlon Squad, ‘Brick Sessions’ were seen as key sessions, particularly during the pre-season and in-season meso-cycles. ‘Brick Sessions’ remain high on my training ‘Top-Tips’ and are an ever-present part of my personal triathlon training.