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Workout Wednesday: Three brick workouts for a stronger run split

Mix up your brick workout this week with three variations intended to help your legs feel better running off the bike.

Holly Lawrence is all smiles for her win!

— By Michael Liberzon

There’s a reason for the “brick” moniker: when you first try ‘running off the bike’ your legs may feel – well – like bricks. It’s as if your body has forgotten how to run! An activity that seemed so very natural the last time you tied your laces suddenly feels surprisingly unfamiliar.

But why?

The cause of your forgetting how to run has to do with patterning. Cranking out all those perfect pedal circles in the ride you just finished has your brain in a bit of a rut. You may be running, but your motor cortex is still pedaling. It takes some time for it to “switch gears” – to fire your muscles in sequence for running rather than cycling. The good news is that these neuromuscular patterns are fairly easy to reprogram.

How, you ask? Practice!

Here are three variations on the brick workout to help you prepare for a strong run split in your next race:

The post-long-ride easy brick:

As a coach, the majority of the brick workouts I prescribe are easy bricks. These are short (typically 30 minutes or less) and easy (typically at long run pace) run efforts immediately following a long ride. The idea here is to get enough duration to regain that comfortable running feeling without adding much to the fatigue of the long run. That way you get the benefits of the neuromuscular adaptation without excess fatigue. Remember that you (may) have a long run to do the next day, so cooking your legs on a low quality run the day before makes little sense.

The post-long-ride long / race-pace brick:

These runs are similar to the first workout, but differ in one very important aspect: they are faster (and typically longer). The idea here is to simulate the intensity of race day by pushing the pace on the run. These are best done in combination with a race-intensity bike. The intensity and duration will, of course, vary depending on the goal race.

Now the key component of this workout is its frequency. Rather, the lack of its frequency. These should be used sparingly: no more than one in a typical 4-week build cycle. It may also make sense to modify the subsequent long run to avoid too substantial a hike in weekly volume.

The interval brick:

These are among my favourites and should be on the menu for all short course athletes. These may vary widely in duration and number of intervals, but typically go something like this: ride hard for 5 to 10 minutes, transition quickly to your run gear, run hard for 3 to 6 minutes, take your recovery period, and then repeat. Typically, we prefer shorter, more intense bouts.

Do these. Do them often. Very soon, you will find that these workouts will quickly become ‘bricks’ in name only.

Happy training.

Michael is an NCCP trained triathlon coach, certified personal trainer, and kettlebell instructor. His degree in mechanical engineering supports his evidence-based approach to coaching.

Michael is also the owner and head coach of the X3 Training Lab in Toronto.