Cross-Train Like A Triathlete

To simulate races, triathletes will often do brick workouts that consist of two exercises back to back — like a bike, followed by a run. Photo:

Modified Brick Workouts

To prepare for multisport races, triathletes and duathletes typically do “brick” workouts, which combine two disciplines in succession to simulate the conditions they’ll encounter during a race. The most common types of bricks involve cycling-running workouts, which often entail running at race pace (or faster) immediately after finishing a ride.

Although those workouts primarily benefit someone who is training for a triathlon and wants to replicate what it feels like to run off the bike, bricks can also simulate the feeling of heavy legs late in a running race without the pounding and total depletion of a long run. For example, a marathon runner could ride at a moderate pace for 60 to 90 minutes and then run a 5-mile tempo run or a 10-mile progression run. This would simulate running at race pace with a high cadence and good form despite having tired legs from the ride.

Triathletes often go beyond the traditional bike-run brick by going on long runs followed by long bike rides, or by practicing interval workouts that switch off between running and biking several times. Zucco is fond of the run-bike brick, saying it is especially helpful for his 4-hour-plus marathoners.

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“I’ll have them do a 2.5-hour run, or, very rarely, a 3-hour run, and then get on the bike for an hour to an hour and a half,” he says. The length of the workout prepares the athletes for the length of the actual race without causing the undue damage inevitably wrought by a 4-hour run.

Murr has his cross-training marathon runners mix in a brick workout after a weekend of long singular workouts. For example, if a runner does a long run between 13 and 18 miles on a Saturday, then does a 2- to 3-hour recovery-oriented ride on Sunday, he’ll often prescribe a bike-run-bike workout for Monday so as to reduce the negative impacts of another run on tired legs. That workout might entail riding easy for 15 minutes with a high cadence, then getting off the bike to immediately run 2 to 3 miles at a comfortably hard tempo pace before finishing with another 15 minutes of easy spinning on the bike.

“You’re getting your leg turnover going fast before you run. Then you go run and match that turnover, then you get back to your cycling to finish up without the impact,” he says. “It’s great for runners because runners like to run, and it’s a 45- to 50-minute workout that stresses the individual cardiovascularly, where they’re getting a little of that running fix with some of the weight-bearing sensation from running, without totally beating up their legs.”

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