So you can swim, you can bike and you can run. You’ve got the right gear and you’ve learned the course. You’ve got this triathlon nailed right?

But what happens when you get off the bike after having a great swim and run? You’ve been feeling so strong, so why do your legs suddenly resemble jelly?

You know they’re run ready but for some reason today they just won’t co-operate. You struggle to find your pace, feel like you’re running on the one spot, take it as a sign of fatigue and you’re just about to call game.over.

If this has just described the first couple of kilometres of your run sections, don’t worry – you’re not alone, and the good news is there is something you can do about it.

Training the three disciplines singularly, while we think is enough, isn’t. It’s the transition between the sports and merging them together that will turn your triathlon experience from a “never again, what was I thinking?” to a “smashed it, when’s the next one?”. And lets face it, we all want to experience the latter.

When it comes to triathlon it isn’t always the fastest person who wins, it’s the person who slows down the least. This comes down to running form and strength, not always being a fast runner.

Some people will adjust quicker than others to this ride-run transition, so you need not worry if it takes you longer than others to adapt, or even if you feel as though you never really ‘master’ it.  What is important is to start training your post-ride run legs early on in the piece.

While you may not be gunning for podium glory (and who am I to say you can’t aim high!), it’s important to train like an athlete – treat yourself as if you are a high performing triathlete and you will reap the benefits of a perfectly executed race for you.

The difference between a triathlon run and a standalone running race is that when you enter a running event you are able to run on fresh legs. You’ve likely had a good sleep, a little bit of a warm-up and when the gun goes you’re fresh as a daisy. They’re usually held in the cooler parts of the morning too.

“When it comes to triathlon it isn’t always the fastest person who wins, it’s the person who slows down the least.”

But triathlon? Completely different kettle of fish.

The run will usually be when the day has had a chance to warm up (and for some of you this will be the hottest part of the day), and your legs aren’t fresh – you’ve already swam and cycled anything from 10km to 180km.

Your triathlon run training therefore needs to take these differences into account.

Here are some sessions you can incorporate into your triathlon training to help rid yourself of jellylegs so you can run stronger in your next event.


There are two schools of thought as to why running off the bike is called a brick session. One is because your legs feel like bricks, the other is because of Kiwi Matt Brick, who was a world champion duathlete in the 1990s.

Regardless of its origin, brick sessions will give your legs what they need to go from jelly to slick machines.

A brick session is basically when you are training two disciplines one after the other. You can do a swim-bike brick, to get your body used to cycling straight after the swim (and so practice your transitions in the process) and a bike-run brick. Because these are rather taxing training sets, most training plans will generally feature a session such as these once per fortnight.leah_gilbert-26-web

Start small, do your usual long bike and then run for just five minutes as soon as you have finished. If you’re training from home just dump your bike where you can, swap shoes and off you go.

The first time won’t be pleasant but I guarantee the feeling will improve. As your training progresses increase the run time. For a sprint tri, depending on your fitness, you can aim to do a bike-run brick of race distance in your race build. If this is your first triathlon then aim for 30 minutes to test out your kit, fuelling etc.

For longer events, such as Ironman, you might want to feature a run of up to 90 minutes off the bike. This type of brick is great to do on a fortnightly basis, so one weekend do a long standalone bike and run and the next week do a long brick.

Indoor Option: Another session which works well is wind trainer based: ride at a moderate intensity for 15 minutes and run for 15 minutes. This set can be repeated  up to three times depending on your training block and race distance (a total of 90 mins).



Otherwise known as a double session day, so bike in the morning and run in the afternoon. You don’t have to run all your runs off the bike and it’s important that you don’t so you don’t risk injury due to fatigued muscles.

Split bricks are a great way of getting all of your training sessions in without putting your body at risk of overtraining. For my coached athletes I like to give them a bike session after work and then a run the next day. If you rode hard enough in your bike session your legs will be glad of the break. It’s important to maintain a good running form and fatigue can wipe out any gains you think you might have made from doing too many brick sessions.


Instead of feeling under internal pressure to run straight off the bike, work out a run/walk interval that you are going to stick to as your legs adjust to being off the bike (for more information on run/walk intervals see Jill Angie’s recent piece). Because it can take 2km or more to feel able to run consistently set yourself intervals. Walk through transition, at a brisk pace and try to run after a minute, or two, just make sure that you stick to whatever time you have set yourself otherwise you will find it hard to get going.

Using these training tricks your next triathlon will leave you wanting more.


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