Benefits of a Brick Workout for Triathlon Training

I have my first triathlon Saturday.  Llast Sunday night, with less than a week until the race, I decided to do my one and only bike-to-run brick workout. This is not ideal, but one brick is better than none.

What is a Brick Workout?

A brick workout for triathlon training describes any time you do two sports back to back with no or very little time in between: running immediately after biking, or biking right after a swim. In this post, though, I’m mainly referring to the bike-to-run brick.
If you’ve never done a triathlon, doing a brick workout during training is a must, according to Cary, North Carolina-based USA Triathlon coach Marty Gaal, CSCS, and owner of One Step Beyond.

“When you switch from cycling to running, you are using many of the same muscles but in slightly different movement patterns (legs) or entirely different movement patterns (arms),” he writes in “Brick Training for Beginners” on USATriathlon.org. “That is why the first time you hop off the bike and run should not be in a race.”

What are the Benefits of a Brick Workout?

Sunday night was not the first time I’d ever done a brick workout. I did a few last year when I was cross training. I’d go for a short run right after mountain biking. So, I knew what to expect when I got off my trainer Sunday, changed my shoes and hopped on the treadmill. I knew my feet would feel like cement blocks and my legs would be very tight.

“When you stop biking and start running the legs feel ‘strange’ and heavy (this is why they call these workouts bricks!) and the heart rate goes up, as our body tries to switch the blood from flowing into the muscles used for biking to those used for running,” writes personal trainer Enrico Contolini in the article “Introduction to Bricks” on BeginnerTriathlete.com. “Brick workouts help shorten the time our legs take to start feeling more normal thus allowing us to run better and faster.”

Sunday, I made myself run at my desired pace, and by the end of the mile, I felt pretty good. It was confidence-boosting–which is another benefit of brick workouts.

Not only do you train your body to get faster after transitioning from one sport to the next, but brick workouts in triathlon training also help get you mentally prepared for your race…and the pain.

What is HIIT Training and Why You Should be Doing it

I have been taking it easy on the distance running lately and have been focusing on my total-body strength with High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).

Why? Because I want my outside to reflect how I feel inside: strong. Running alone is not going to get me to that place. It has only taken me four years to figure that out.

Instead of running mile after mile after mile, I’ve reduced runs to three per week: two during the work week and one long run on the weekend. Five to six days out of the week, I’ve been doing strength work—HIIT-style. And a couple days during the week, I ride my bike.

But I’ve also changed the way I run and ride. I’ve added high-intensity intervals where I go all out for a short burst and then back off during a rest period, and repeat for a certain amount of time. For example, I have about 30 minutes to run on my lunch hour during the week. My old routine had me run easy for a mile, run at or below half-marathon pace for a mile and then running easy for a mile. My new HIIT routine changes up that middle mile. Instead of running at a moderate pace, I sprint for 30 seconds then run easy for 30 seconds until I get a mile. Or, I sprint for a minute and run easy for a minute.

“It sounds too simple to be effective,” writes Charlotte Andersen on Shape.com, “but science doesn’t stretch the truth.” In her article, “8 Benefits of High-Intensity Interval Training (HITT),” there are four benefits that especially stand out to me:

Efficiency of HIIT Training Routines

“Research shows you can achieve more progress in a mere 15 minutes of interval training (done three times a week) than the girl jogging on the treadmill for an hour,” writes Andersen. This is a huge benefit for me. As a working parent of an active 5-year-old boy, I don’t have large chunks of time in my day to devote to working out (even though, I’d love it if I did).

HIIT Training Burns More Fat

Um. Yes, please. HIIT keeps your body burning fat longer after you finish your work out. Studies show HIIT workouts also increase your metabolism!

Get a Healthier Heart from HIIT Training

The intensity level required for HIIT has you “…pushing into the anaerobic zone (that lovely place where you can’t breathe and you feel like your heart is going to jump out of your chest).” You will feel a great sense of accomplishment after a short, but intense workout. In fact, I feel more proud after a short HIIT routine than a long run because the HIIT workout was so much harder!

With HIIT Training, You Lose Weight, Not Muscle

Andersen points out that steady-state cardio has been shown to cause muscle loss along with fat loss, but weight training and HIIT has been shown to help people keep their muscles “ensuring most of the weight lost comes from fat stores.”

Click the link, “8 Benefits of High-Intensity Interval Training (HITT),” to read all of Andersen’s benefits on Shape.com.

Below, check out some great HIIT workouts. Be consistent (it’s easy to since the workouts are so time-efficient) and you’ll be seeing results quickly!

HIIT Bodyweight Workout from Shape.com: No equipment required with squats, lunges, planks, push ups, squat jumps (!) and more, plus lots of pictures and instructions so you know you are doing it right.

HIIT Aerobic Workouts from Bodyhack.com: Fit these into your running routine to burn fat (plus, over time you’ll get faster). Check out the other HIIT workouts on the page, too!

A 6-Week HIIT Workout Plan from TrainerJosh.com: ACE-certified personal trainer Josh Schlottman, CSCS, writes about sprinters’ bodies and marathoners’ bodies, and why they look so different, then gives you a cardio HIIT routine to try for six weeks.

8-Week “HIIT-for-Fat-Burning” Program at Bodybuilding.com: Jim Stoppani, Ph.D., gives a very detailed 8-week routine to “…take you from HIIT beginner to HIIT stud in 8 short weeks.” There are four phases, and the routines are also available in PDFs for easy printing.

5 Tips for Practicing Triathlon Transitions

As time inches closer and closer to my first sprint triathlon, I find myself worrying more and more about the little details of a tri. What is, for example, the fastest way to get through triathlon transitions? (Or, for me, what is any way to get through a triathlon transition?) I know I need to practice transitions, but how does one do that at home? Here are a five helpful tips I’ve found:

1. Draw a Triathlon Transition Area Plan

Hazen Kent on Tri-Newbies Online has a tip that will appeal to those people who are more visual learners. Sit down at home in front of your bike, he advises. “Draw a line down the center of the sheet of paper creating two columns. One column will be a list of those things that will be attached to the bike located in the transition area and the other will be those items you will be responsible for upon hopping on your two-wheeler for the bicycle leg.” Each side has a list. Click the link to see the whole thing.

2. Set Up a Triathlon Transition Area at Home

Joe LoPresto, the founder and head coach of Experience Triathlon LLC in Chicago, writes in the article, “Transitions: Plan and Practice” on USATriathlon.org, that triathletes should set up a small transition area on a towel at home (think carefully about where everything is placed). Run up to your transition area as if you just got done with the swim, he advises. (See tip 3 below for a way to practice the swim-to-run transition.)

“One trick I like to use is to go through the entire ‘grab and go’ sequence in very slow motion, making mental notes and taking mental video with your eyes on how it all flows,” writes LoPresto in the article. “Then as you practice it over and over again, tell your mind to re-run the video sequences you just burned into the brain. Always do the steps in the same order, like grab sunglasses, then helmet, then buckle helmet, then socks (if used), then shoes, then lift bike off rack, then run with bike to transition exit. Keep it simple and easy to repeat!”

3. How to Practice the Swim-to-Run Transition

On the PowerTri blog, triathlete David Warden has a great tip for practicing the swim-to-run transition: “Practice transitions daily for a few days before the race, including putting on your triathlon wetsuit, stepping into the shower, and taking it off wet.” Click the link for his advice on how to take off the wetsuit.

4. Triathlon Transition Details to Think About Before the Race

The Greeley Triathlon Club in Colorado, published a helpful triathlon transition tips document online. The list of questions at the end are incredibly helpful. I’m thinking of printing it out. Here are a few of them (click the link to see the tips document and the full list of questions):

  • Where is the bike, how many rows, on what side?
  • Where will I throw my wetsuit when I rip it off so I don’t get it in the way when I return and I can find it when I leave, and everyone will not trample all over it?
  • Where do I exit and renter transition? Can I walk or run?

5. Practice Triathlon Transitions at the Race Site

PowerTri’s Warden also says you should walk through the transitions as you will go through them on race day. “Go from Swim In to your spot, go to Bike Out. Go from Bike Out to your spot, and then to Run Out. Mentally and physically map out your path to and from these points.”

A Sports Detergent that Doesn’t Stink

Do you wash your running clothes and they still stink afterward?

That’s what was happening to me. I would wash my workout gear with a sports detergent I bought at the grocery store, yet they would still smell bad when they were done. Only now they stunk like sweaty flowers. Gross. I really did not know how to get my running gear clean.

Luckily, 2Toms came out with their Stink Free Sports Detergent and I haven’t stunk since. Okay, that’s not entirely correct. I stink up my clothes during every run. However, now I don’t stink before my run…which is especially nice for everyone around me.

Did you know that over time, high-tech fabrics–such as Dri-Fit or Coolmax–become stinky because of all the  sweat our bodies produce during tough workouts?  Regular detergents aren’t formulated for that nasty stuff. Sports detergents, such as 2Toms’ Stink Free, are. Therefore, they are more effective than regular laundry detergents at getting the smell out of stinky running clothes, socks or any other sort of athletic gear.

So if you are like I was and smell like perspiration-scented roses before your run, you need to try the Stink Free Sports Detergent. Here’s what you need to know about it:

  • Safe on all high-performance fabrics and colors
  • Residue-free
  • Perfume-free
  • Won’t irritate skin
  • Reinstates fabric performance
  • Leaves clothes naturally soft and static-free
  • Safe for all washing machines, including high-efficiency machines
  • Recyclable bottle

Obviously, you don’t need to be a runner to need Stink Free Sports Detergent. It’s also great for walkers and hikers, yoga practitioners, football and hockey players, cyclists, gymnasts, dancers, equestrians, basketball and soccer players–really any sport, exercise or dirty job!

I say it’s time to stop trying to hide the stinky smell on our workout gear with floral scents and, instead, actually get them clean. Who’s with me?

Core Workout Routines for Athletes

For the past few weeks, I’ve been concentrating on getting my core into shape. Your core muscles are those in your abs, glutes and lower back. Core muscles can help improve an athlete’s power, speed, endurance and stability. A strong core can even help you prevent injury!

You don’t need special DVDs or classes to get a good core work out. Basically, all you need is a small space on the floor and a few moves.

 

Core Workout Routines For Athletes:

Get Ripped Abs: This Men’s Fitness workout looks hard core with one-legged dumbbell rows and plate raises.

Rock-solid Midsection: This Men’s Health has a routine with side bridges (ouch) and a plank with a diagonal arm lift.

Hard Core: This routine from BeginnerTriathlete.com includes oblique crunches, and heel touches, which look brutal.

Muscle-builder: Check out these three core workouts from BodyBuilding.com—a Traditional Core Workout, a Unique Core Workout and Non-traditional Core Training.

Cyclist Core: This core routine from Bicycling is focused on the most important cycling muscles.

Fast Abs: Runner’s World shares Olympic runner Lolo Jones’s core routine.

My Routine: I adapted a routine I found on the blog Cook Train Eat Race. I like this routine because it is simple. It is 15 minutes, and basically consists of 4 moves, each done for 1 minute followed by a 1-minute rest interval for 3 reps. I aim to do the routine every day and I mix up the moves all the time.

What’s your favorite core work out?

 

Cycling Gear for Cold Weather

It may be cold here in Seattle, but it’s dry and I wanted to take advantage of that. I purchased a new bike a couple of weeks ago, and I have been dying to ride it outside. (In case you’re curious, after looking at several road bike brands, I eventually went with a Novara Divano from REI.)

The forecast said it would be sunny and in the 40’s in the afternoon, so I scheduled a road bike date with some friends. Unfortunately, the weather people were wrong and it was 34 and cloudy. But we still went. I had a couple of pieces of great cycling gear for cold weather that worked great, but there were some other things I wished I’d had.

Cycling Gear for Cold Weather

Legs

Wind- and water-proof pants! Luckily, I had picked up a pair of pants at REI after Christmas that were perfect for cold-weather cycling. The Novara Tempest Bike Tights were awesome! (Novara also makes a the Tempest Bike Tight for men.) Soft on the inside with a water-resistant, stretch-woven laminate shell that’s water-proof and wind-proof up to 60 mph, these pants were perfect for the cold, cold bike ride. They also didn’t rip when I fell off my bike and onto my knee. And I wasn’t too hot once I warmed up while riding up hills.

Basically, if you are going to ride your bike in cold weather, you’ll need something that can protect you from the wind, but that can manage your body heat, so you don’t get all sweaty inside. A build up of sweat inside your pants can make you cold in freezing weather.

Core and Arms

I received a Pearl Izumi Barrier Convertible Jacket for Christmas, and I am so glad I had it for the cold-weather ride. (Click here to see the men’s version.) It was great against the wind, but had ventilation so I didn’t get all sweaty inside it. If I’d gotten too hot, I could’ve chosen to zip off the sleeves. Plus, it is bright yellow so I was easy to see on that cloudy day. (It also didn’t rip when I fell off my bike.)

Underneath my cycling jacket, I put on two sweat-wicking base layers. (The Pearl Izumi jacket is very lightweight.) This was perfect. I was neither too cold or too hot on my core. Very important. If I’d been too warm, however, I could’ve removed one of the layers. Layers are the way to go if you want to ride your bike in the cold weather.

Neck, Head and Face

One of my base layers had a nice zip-up, so my neck was somewhat covered. That would’ve been fine for running, but on the bike, I was concerned about wind. I found a fleece scarf that worked great.

But they actually make cycling gear for cold weather to keep your neck and face warm. A lot of the advance cyclists I saw out there were wearing balaclavas, which are like hoods that cover your neck, ears, head and the lower half of your face. Click on the link to see a Bontrager Balaclava with a great feature that allows you to pull down the part that covers your face if you get too warm.

I wished I’d had a pair of clear cycling glasses, like these from Smith, or goggles. I wore a pair of regular sunglasses, but it was a little dark for them.

Hands and Feet

My cycling gear for my hands and feet was ineffective. That’s because it was running gear. I wore running gloves, and I could’ve used something breathable, but sweat-wicking. I probably could’ve used my ski gloves, but there are a lot of great cycling gloves for cold-weather riding out there. Click the link to see some cold-weather cycling glove suggestions from Bicycling.com.

I wore cold-weather socks under my regular cycling shoes, and my toes were frozen after an hour of riding. They hurt. Next time, I will get a pair of booties to put over my shoes to keep the wind off my poor little piggies. Even a pair of thermal toe covers, like these from Pearl Izumi, would’ve helped a lot. Make sure you protect your toes. You sort of need them.