Triathlon, duathlon and quadrathlon events are growing in popularity each year and more and more of us novice participants are looking to get on the band wagon.  To be honest the different variations and distances do allow for people of all ages and abilities to give multi-discipline events a go!  

So to go from never training to entering and preparing for an event like a triathlon might seem daunting to some or very simple to many depending on previous experience.  Being a personal trainer and a relatively strong runner and cyclist I thought preparing for a triathlon was easy.  You have to swim a bit, cycle a bit and run a bit and as a weak swimmer I figured that I would need to focus on that weakness and get in the pool.  The common misconception is that your training should be centred around a simple rotation between the three disciplines over the week; swim Monday, cycle Tuesday and run Wednesday seemed logical. 

But.....

This is all very well and sensible in theory until you actually come to the event!

Tell me if you're guilty of this:  I can swim 600m on a Monday session, cycle 20-30 miles on a Tuesday session and run 5k the next day but I will also have 24 hours between each of those sessions which allows my body and mind to recover and re focus. 

Now consider the following: In the interest of specificity (a primary element of fitness training) this is not the right way to go. When do you get that much recovery on the day of the event? Never! 

During a triathlon you will go through these steps-

  • After a swim, blood is rushing to all four limbs and due to the nature of swimming and being in water you are not weight bearing so your muscle groups are not working as if you were on land.  
  • You then have to get out of the water asap, out of your wet suit and onto a bike.  As soon as you get on the bike, you are now seated and your legs have to engage to push the pedals.  But all the oxygenated blood is elsewhere at the moment and you're struggling to get going.  
  • By the time you're legs wake up and you've done the ride you have to come in to the next transition and run.  Now you're on your feet and weight bearing so your core has to work harder.  Having been seated on the bike for a while you are not ready to run and you have jelly legs, making you run like a new born giraffe!  

You see where I am coming from?

Nothing will prepare your body and mind for transitioning from one part of the event to the next unless you practice doing it for real.  This is where "brick training" comes in. 

Consider an hour session and break it into 3 x15 minute "bricks" with time before to warm up and after to cool down. 

Warm up first! (Very important health and safety announcement) 

Brick 1: Go for a 10-15 min or set distance swim then get out and change asap and up into the gym.  

Brick 2: Get on an exercise bike, or if you are at home go out on your bike for 10-15 minutes or a set distance. 

Brick 3: Get off the bike and onto a treadmill or out for a run for 10-15 minutes or a set distance. Then cool down.

If you have no access to a pool then a rowing machine or Xtrainer will suffice and none of the exercises are set in stone but in the interest of triathlon they are specific. After this session you will have completed a simple brick session.  Easy.

Consider the change between each brick as the transition- plan it so you have your kit ready to go, water on hand and clothing and footwear laid out as much as possible.

Everything can be varied and altered depending on your weaknesses and goals.  If you are not competing for a place or time, just to finish, then try just doing the bricks for time.  If you are aiming to get rankings or beat a previous time then aim for distance based bricks. These variables will change the way you work out.

If you are a weaker runner then maybe try bricking differently such as- run then bike then run again.  Or adding bricks onto the session such as row, run, bike, run.  You could also make the runs longer to challenge yourself further.

Either way you do it you are preparing your body and mind for the change in demand that you place on it during a multi discipline event such as a triathlon. This is a great and specific way of improving fitness and specific endurance for such an event. 

I hope you have found this helpful and that you can use it in your training.  If you want any more advice then please get in touch: tom@tomcharman.com 

Have a great week.

Tom

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