A Bike/Run Brick for
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You may not have heard of Matt Dixon
yet, but if you follow the sport of triathlon then his is a name you will begin
to recognize with increasing frequency.
Having done his first triathlon in
November 2000 "for fun and a bet amongst friends," Matt barely even qualifies
as a newcomer.
But qualifying is what he has been
doing ever since, with top 10 finishes at both the Blackwater Eagleman and Half
Vineman in 2001 (which earned him a slot in Kona's Ironman he turned it
down, feeling he was still too new to the sport).
Matt finished as the top amateur at
the competitive City of Los Angeles Triathlon, beating several seasoned pros,
and was the second-place overall finisher at the prestigious Nautica Malibu
Triathlon, behind veteran Mark Lees.
With a masters degree in exercise
physiology, Matt is getting serious about designing a triathlon training
program. Currently working with Bob Forster at Phaze IV in conjunction with Ian
Murray's ACME personal training system, Matt is creating a triathlon workout
schedule that he hopes will put him in the winner's circle at Kona next
It is the first time he is relying on
formal coaching in his training, having previously been somewhat of a free
spirit (which has certainly served him well so far).
A mild-mannered, lanky guy whose
party-animal wild side is concealed by a disarming sense of humility and a
crusty British accent (he was born and raised in London and attended school in
the States), Matt agreed to share his favorite "brick" for the World-Class
He's on the verge of several
sponsorship deals and an inevitable debut on the Ironman circuit next year, so
look for Matt at the top of the race charts. You saw him here first!
Matt explains the basis of his
unconventional brick workout, and why he enjoys it:
"I have found talking to most
triathletes that one of the hardest parts of any race is getting off the
bike and getting into the run. In my first triathlons I found that I could be
as fit as I like, but when hitting the run it would feel like my body was 10
feet in the air, and my legs 6 feet under.
"I believe the only way to get better
in this transition area is PRACTICE. So basically this workout is better
than a simple bike/run (brick), as you go through the feelings and
physiological adjustments more than once."
Matt warns that this workout is best
attempted with a secure training base and should be done in an area conducive
to executing transitions safely, quickly, and without distractions.
10 minutes of easy jogging, followed
by 4 x 2 minutes of running with 1 minute rest.
"The intervals are a warm-up and I
would descend the effort in the runs to where the last one is only about 80%
effort ... not hard! Then stretch, hydrate and make sure everything is
set up for your brick set."
Main brick workout:
Run 5K at pace
Bike 40K at
Run 5K at pace
Bike 40K faster than first 40K
5K at fast pace
"The main set is continuous and
completed how I like to think about racing," Matt explains. "Ascend the effort
to maintain a fast pace (things are always easier at the start of a race). In
this workout, the run loop and bike loop should be the
consistent each time, to provide feedback on how you do in each section.
"Run the first 5K at tempo, thinking
about quick steps and being light on the feet below threshold effort but
still feeling like you are working," Matt says. "My running threshold [heart
rate] is 164 bpm, and I try and be 150 - 155."
Gareth Thomas' article for more on what "lactate
threshold" and "anaerobic threshold" mean.)
The first cycling leg of the workout
should be at similar intensity, at the cadence you want to keep during
"When completing this bike, hop off as
soon as possible and make the transition to the second run as quickly as
possible, as if you are racing," Matt says. "This will condition you to better
attack your transitions in a race."
The second run needs to be at least
the same pace as the first. If you pace yourself correctly, this should be no
problem, but be aware of your capabilities when you start this workout and
leave yourself some room!
For Matt, this is where the benefits
of this workout really start to kick in:
"I try to pick up the effort on this
run, and start to feel like it is getting toward race pace, but not
all-out. You should still be below threshold."
Immediately following this run, get
back on the bike and repeat the 40K at least as fast as bike #1.
"This will be quite hard," Matt
cautions, "and I try to think about keeping the upper body completely relaxed,
pedaling perfect 'circles' and keeping it steady."
Indeed, one of Matts advantages
in these early stages of his career is his discipline in keeping proper form,
even under the duress of competition. He is usually always careful to train
paying attention to his technique, rarely faltering or getting sloppy.
Always try to maintain good form, be
it on the bike, run, or during a swim workout. The better you can keep your
technique when youre fatigued in practice, the more natural it will be to
maintain your form during competition.
The last 5K run should be finished at
all-out effort, while making sure your feet are moving light and quick as they
were in the first 5K.
"My heart rate is high on this run,
and I try to imagine racing here," Matt says. "This run needs to be the fastest
of the three, but if you have your intensities correct (with practice), it will
not be by much.
"Overall the workout ends up being
very productive to providing the feeling of mixing the two disciplines and
maintaining good effort. It will also aid in learning your comfort levels at
different paces. My strongest leg is the swim, followed by the bike, then the
run. I have found this workout to aid my weak point the most."
Another option is to adapt this style
of "brick" workout between swimming and running.
"I swim 1 mile in the ocean, then run
1 mile back, swim 1 mile again, run 1 mile back, swim 1 mile, run 1 mile back
this really helps that dizzy feeling of finishing the swim and going
from prone to upright and it hurts too!" Matt says.
Remember, in a triathlon you are
required to finish the swim and then run a certain distance to the transition
area before mounting your bike. The less shocking this swim/run transition is
to your system, the better equipped you will be to have a decent start on your
It can't hurt to try this brick if
you're considering a swim/run biathlon. I have tried something like this:
As in Matt's run/bike example above,
approach this workout with the intention of maintaining threshold pace in your
swim and hopefully dropping your time with each 1,500-meter distance. The runs
should be descending by time and increasing in effort as well.
I have done this brick several times,
and find it very helpful in simulating race conditions by the last run/swim
repeat. By this time I am fatigued, and find that the last swim is a lot more
challenging after a total of 10K running (a brick can work in "reverse," too,
even if the transition is out of order).
By this last repeat, I am forced to
swim 1,500 meters while exhausted as such my stroke has a tendency to
fall apart and get sloppy. This is the most crucial part of my workout, since I
have to force myself to maintain proper technique when it counts the most.
Matt stresses the importance of a
proper warm-down after the suggested brick set, making sure to stretch out sore
leg muscles with light easy jogging or cycling. Also, he points out a few
things to remember while training:
- "Do not take too long on the
switch-over points in the workout, as you want to mimic the transitions of a
typical race, where you need to do them quickly and efficiently."
- "This is an individual workout.
While you can do it with someone else, you need to do the sections at your own
- "Do not try to go ALL OUT at the
be sensible and build into it.
Brick workouts are a great way to
cross-train more than one discipline while simultaneously improving your
The bike/run combination has
worked wonders for Matt Dixon, and we'll undoubtedly be hearing more from him
in the future.
A swim/run brick workout is also a
great way to strengthen your endurance while acclimating your body to the
oft-overlooked T1 transition.
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