The Other Brick: The Importance Of Swim To The Bike Practice

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  • Published Mar 26, 2009
  • Updated Feb 11, 2011 at 12:49 PM UTC
The swim-to-bike transition is important to prepare for.

The swim-to-bike transition is important to prepare for.

Written by: Bree Wee

Professional triathlete Bree Wee explains why all triathletes should remember that there are two transitions in this sport and why its important to focus on both.

Bike to run, bike to run, bike to run. Don’t forget swim to bike. The “other” brick, the swim-to-bike brick, is often over shadowed by the bike-to-run brick. It should not be underestimated. The importance may not weigh as heavily, especially in the longer distance triathlons. But like everything in triathlon, all of it counts.

On most rides you begin with your fuel stores topped off, bodies fresh (assuming it’s not a recovery ride after a massive run), and heart rates low. Going from the swim to the bike, you’ve have tapped into your fuel and hydration supplies, your bodies are more awake and possibly pooped and your heart rates are elevated or even maxed out if you are in an Olympic-distance event that allows us to swim near full speed. Riding after a hard swim is very different than just hopping on the bike.

Get your blood flowing and legs moving to make the transition easier. During the swim, chances are your legs get minimal action. Rather than letting them dangle along for the entire ride, get them moving about 100 yards from the swim finish with a swift, powerful kick.

Once on the bike, set your gears slightly easier than your planned race gear. This will allow time for your muscles to ease into the pedaling motion, as well as save you from building up lactic acid early in the race.

Like most things in life, to do well at something you must practice it. Over time your muscles will adapt to the transition from one muscle group to the other. You will also learn more about your nutritional needs. You may find that after the swim you’re hungry or depleted. You will also learn to take in calories sooner in the ride.

There are a few approaches to the swim-to-bike brick. To get lots of practice in a short time, set up a mini-transition area and work the two sports several times in shorter durations. Here’s one idea from triathlete James Cotter that I still use: three times 500m swim then three- to five-mile bike, doing each round faster than the previous.

This approach really allows you to practice leaving your shoes clipped into your pedals. You can also practice speedy cap removal, getting your helmet on, finding the best place to leave your sunglasses and mounting your bike.

Another reason to practice the swim-bike brick workout is that it offers a great chance to work on your race-day nutritional plan. This is especially important if you’re training for a longer event (70.3 or Ironman). After an hour-long swim, hop on the bike and spin for at least 45 minutes. Pay special attention to your stomach, as the transition from swim to bike is often what first causes GI distress. With this workout you can learn to gauge how hard you can go at the start of the bike without upsetting your gut and how soon after the swim you can begin ingesting calories.

Keep it fun, keep it simple and happy training!

FILED UNDER: Swim / Training TAGS: /

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