Training > Bike

Ultimate Bricks: Swim to Bike

Smoothly segueing from discipline to discipline is key to tri success. Tim Heming gives you 10 brick sets you need for more race speed...


Variable time

Race distance: Any

The session: Just ride to and from the pool and get used to riding after a swim. It means there’s no wasted travelling time.

Simon Ward says: “The simplest set of all. Just make sure you change as fast as possible after the swim to mount the bike quickly.”



Race distance: Short

The session: Set up T1. Warm-up 10min cycle, 10min wetsuit swim. Main set Swim 750m – 200m above GRP, 550m GRP. Ride 4km at race-pace effort (out and back or loop). Reset transition and repeat. Cool-down 10min spin.

Simon Ward says: “A chance to practise your open-water skills – entry, turning, sighting and exit. If it’s too cold for the second swim, just start the bike, running barefoot into T1.”


Up to 3hrs

Race distance: Short

The session

Warm-up: Bike 30mins and swim 1km easy.

Main set: Swim 4 x (400m swim and 8mins bike).

First interval – dive start if possible, swim at race pace, bike 3mins hard, 3mins steady, 60secs very hard, 60secs easy.

Second interval – swim 200m steady, 200m building pace to hard. Onto bike, repeating 60secs hard, 60secs easy x 4.

Third interval – swim steady effort but exit water after each 100m and dive back in. Start biking fast, then settle to cadence upwards of 110rpm.

Fourth interval – repeat first interval. Between intervals take 3mins rest. Steady 30-45min run with a few strides to finish. Cool-down 10min easy jog.

Coach John Newsom says: “Prepare properly to practise fast transitions or set your bike up on the trainer at poolside.”



Race distance: Short

The session

Warm-up: Swim 1km easy, run 1km easy.

Main set: Swim 200m steady, 200m hard, run 1km hard, 1km steady. Rest for 5mins and repeat x 4. Cool-down 10min jog.

Thom Phillips says: “Great for younger athletes or those that don’t have a bike to hand. Specific aquathlon training and more enjoyable in the warm.”



Race distance: Short or long

The session: Main set 60min time-trial swim, then straight into 5 x 10km at FTP. 2mins spin between efforts. Cool-down 10min easy spin.

Thom Phillips says: “This is a simple but hard graft set for those with a power meter, allowing them to find a rhythm in the aero position.”



Race distance: Long

The session

Main set: Swim 2,100m as 600m easy, 500m moderate (RPE 13), 400m tempo (RPE 14), 300m strong (RPE 15), 200m fast (RPE 16), 100m easy. Bike 90mins at 5mins IM pace, 5mins 70.3 pace, 5mins over-geared. Repeat x 6. Cool-down 10min spin.

Thom Phillips says: “Over-gearing [pushing a bigger gear than comfortable] builds strength and it’s useful to learn what this feels like to avoid doing it on race day!”


Up to 3hrs

Race distance: Short/long

The session

Main set: Swim 3-4km in the pool or open water as a long-distance simulation set. Then bike on road (or turbo) for 30-60mins at GRP. Cool-down 10min easy spin.

Simon Ward says: “The bike part could even be your commute home after a swim set, making it a very efficient workout.”



Race distance: Short (base)/long

The session

The ideal course is a triangular 300m one, with 100m between each turn buoy.

Warm-up: 500m easy swim.

Main set: Swim 1 x 100m at GRP to first buoy, 1 x 100m at middle-distance race pace, 1 x 100m at anaerobic threshold (very hard) to complete circuit. After each 100m burst, tread water for 20secs. Repeat x 8. Bike 30mins easy (include 10mins at 5rpm above natural cadence), then 2hrs target Ironman pace (RPE 14). Cool-down 10min easy spin.

Thom Phillips says: “This will help you to learn race pace. Make sure you swim around the buoys in the direction you will go on race day.”



Race distance: Long

The session

Warm-up: Swim 100m.

Main set: Swim 2km (first 200m hard) then settle into Ironman pace. Bike 90km (similar course to your race) at Ironman power or heart rate. Run 90-105mins at Ironman pace practising your nutrition strategy.

John Newsom says: “Try to be rested for this session. Do it 2-3 times during an Ironman build, with the last simulation 4-5 weeks out from race day.” Cool-down 10min easy spin and stretching.



Coach/athlete Darren Smith/Vicky Holland

Race distance: Short

Note: Thom Phillips provides a session Holland did in 2012 with Smith’s D-Squad.

Warm-up 10mins on bike.

Main set Swim 200m hard, bike 2km hard, run 1km hard. Rest for 5mins and repeat x 4.

Thom Phillips says: “It’s all about honing the skills in transition, and getting up to speed on the bike and run as quickly as possible. If it wasn’t slick, they’d practise over and over.”

Images: Paul Whitfield


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David Dixon2

I am going to take part in the Öloppet Aquathon in Sweden. It is a race of 5k swim and 32 K run. But the catch is the race starts at one point and finishes 37 k later. Swim to an island run across it, swim to the next, run across it, etc. Distance varies depending on length of water crossing and length of island. You must wear a wetsuit. You must carry or wear your shoes. I would love to know if there are shoes that I might be able to wear that won't drag me down in the swims and stay sloshy and heavy throughout the runs. Am I dreaming? Should I just carry a pack and put my shoes on and off?


Hi David, good question!

This cropped up for our blogger Roland during the OtillO challenge earlier this year:

Anyone else know if such shoes exist that David is dreaming of?

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