In the winter, when my races are many months away, and the colder weather and darker mornings are changing up my circadian rhythms, I like to experiment with my training to keep things fresh and interesting. One of my latest crazes is doing swim-bike bricks.
In these workouts, I will swim a main set then get out of the pool and immediately hop onto the bike and go straight into an intense set on the bike, then back in the pool to repeat everything all over again. Or I will do an intense set in the pool (think 200-500m repeats) and immediately go into intervals on the bike like 10’ at threshold 5’ easy for two to three rounds. If you just had a hard workout in the pool or on the bike the day before and need some recovery but still want to gain the benefits of these brick sets, then you can do a drill focused swim, followed by an intense bike, or an intense swim with an easy bike, treating it more like a cool down.
These sessions have many benefits. For one, they break up the monotony of straight swim sets and gives me some mental toughness of pushing the pace in the pool but also the bike. Since I swim in tri shorts, I can work on wicked fast transitions and get use to the feel of my race kit. Another benefit, though, which many people don’t think about, is the physiological benefits of going from the horizontal position of swimming to the vertical/hunched over TT position of the bike. Many people experience GI distress from making this transition so by practicing, your body gets used to going hard in the water to going hard on the bike.
I can also practice making the switch nutritionally to figure out what my stomach can handle out of the water and what I need hydrationally. So far, I have found that a ¼ of an Amrita bar (mango coconut flavor is my go to) is just enough to get me going. A few sips of a honey/green tea/enduropacks electrolytes mix works as well if you like liquid hydration. I would not recommend Clif bars because I found them too chewwy which makes it hard to chew and breath at the same time.
The only problem with these is the set up. The Vasa Swim Erg has completely transformed this type of workout for me and has allowed me to do them at least once or twice a week; my transitions are quicker and I can do more rounds too. If this is not an option then ask your pool if you can bring your bike and trainer pool side. If you are tucked away in a corner, it should not be a problem. You can also do a spin class after a swim.
Working swim-bike bricks into your winter training will keep the winter blues away and make you emerge faster and fresher in the spring.
Coach Chris and Kev