A Multi-Brick Workout for Triathletes and Duathletes

By Christopher Breen | Feb. 20, 2018, 3:26 p.m. (ET)

indoor cycling

At some point during the year, most athletes will train indoors for myriad reasons. Weather, time, convenience or the simple fact that one can get a focused bike or run session in without any distractions are just a few reasons. The bike trainer and treadmill have many pros. The obvious being safety and convenience; however, there are others too. Riding and running indoors provides a consistent workload as there is no coasting and no stops to deal with. This provides constant muscle tension. The treadmill also provides consistent muscle tension and can be used to build durability if used correctly. The consistency of the environment also makes it easier to track progress as all variables such as wind, turns and road conditions are taken out of the equation.

The following training session is a variation of a session I used with an athlete last year as he was training for Olympic-distance triathlons, but it can be used for any distance athlete, and is great for duathletes, too. The specific athlete I worked with was traveling a lot for work and found himself forced to use the hotel gym on more than one occasion. This is a simple session that combines a tempo bike and an endurance run. The workout is broken up into four parts to break up the monotony and reap the benefit of running on tired legs following a bike and vice versa going from running to cycling. I recommend every time you run on the treadmill you use an incline of 0.5-1 percent. This accounts for the momentum of the belt and places less strain on the anterior musculature of your shins, knees and quadriceps.

The Workout

Run: Aerobic endurance, 30 minutes

Begin running gradually, building intensity into your aerobic zone heart rate (80-86 percent of your run functional threshold heart rate or a rating of perceived exertion of 4-6 out of 10 based on Borg’s 10-point category-ratio scale of perceived exertion where 1 is the easiest and 10 is the hardest effort). In other words a smooth, moderate effort.

Bike: Tempo, 30 minutes

Get off the treadmill and immediately on the bike, and build as quickly as possible into your tempo zone heart rate (86-93 percent of your bike functional threshold heart rate or a rating of perceived exertion of 6-8/10). In other words a strong effort, but not an all-out effort.

Run: Aerobic endurance, 30 minutes

Get off the bike and return as quickly as possible to the treadmill and run at your aerobic zone heart rate (80-86 percent of your run functional threshold heart rate or a rating of perceived exertion of 4-6/10). Again a smooth, moderate effort.

Bike: Tempo, 30 minutes

Return back to the bike for one last time and build as quickly as possible into your tempo zone heart rate (86-93 percent of your bike functional threshold heart rate or a rating of perceived exertion of 6-8/10). Once again a strong, but not an all-out effort.

The workout as outlined above is two hours in duration. As you can see it is a super simple workout that is great for building muscular endurance and muscular durability. By breaking it up into four parts, it allows you to maintain focus for each component. It also allows you to be flexible omitting one part if needed and even adding more time or another component if the workout needs to be lengthened.

The bottom-line is that there is no magical workout that will make you PR at your next race. The goal is to get to your races injury free and in peak fitness. By building from cycle to cycle and incorporating certain workouts at certain times during your training cycle, you will be able to achieve this. Remember, purposeful training is what leads to success.

Christopher Breen, PA-C, ACSM EP-C is a Certified Physician Assistant specializing in sports medicine and orthopaedics, a Certified Exercise Physiologist by The American College of Sports Medicine, and a USA Triathlon Level I Certified Coach. He is the founder and head coach of ARIA Endurance Coaching LLC and also works at Winthrop Orthopaedic Assoc., PC in Long Island, New York. He can be reached at ariaendurance.com and ariaendurance@gmail.com.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the practices of USA Triathlon. Before starting any new diet or exercise program, you should check with your physician and/or coach.