A Refresher on Base Training
This subject has been written about 1,435 times since I started doing triathlons in 1988. As often as it has been written about, the basics haven't changed.
I thought this was a good topic to write about because during my last few group rides and runs their were people sucking wind like we were trying to out sprint Lance for $1,000,000. Hello? Isn't it called 'base training' for a reason? Base, meaning bottom, similar to foundation. Isn't a foundation something to build off? At least I thought so.
Aerobic training early in the season should be done at an easy effort. There are basically 4 training zones for the heart. The first is your aerobic zone (60-75% of your max HR). The second zone is the endurance zone (75-85% of your max HR). The third is called the anaerobic zone (85-95%of max HR). The fourth zone is the red line zone which is 95% of max HR, and where triathletes never need to go. We are after all, endurance athletes. Red line zones are for sprinters and the like. So that leaves us with the three zones for us to train in.
The second zone is what I call the NBZ, or No Benefit Zone. If your time is constrained like most multi-sport athletes with a mortgage to pay, a spouse, 2.3 kids and a 70-hour workweek, then this zone is not for you. If you are an elite athlete with all day to train while everyone is working his or her 70-hour week then it can be beneficial. But for the average triathlete who is trying to get their workout done between walking the dog, washing the car and keeping their better half happy, then you don't belong here. There is this famous Gold Medallist marathoner who once said, "On my fast days I run fast, on my slow days I run slow." Where does he mention running in between speed? He doesn't and heck, if it's good enough for an Olympic Medallist, it's good enough for me. So that leaves us with two zones: Aerobic and anaerobic.
In order to go faster later in the year you need to build that aerobic base up accordingly. Anaerobic workouts are done after we have built our aerobic base for a period of 12-16 weeks. As triathletes, we tend to be the over compulsive type-A personalities who have about zero patience. I know my first few training runs of the year I am chomping at the bit to get back into shape as fast as possible. I try to remember this little tid bit while my training partners are hammering each other off the front: No races are won in January and February, but plenty can be lost. In other words get the base down, become more efficient and get faster this year.
So how are we going to do this? I usually advise triathletes to add 10% to their long run each week for three weeks and then run about 80% of your week three long run on the fourth week. For example if you start out running 90 minutes in week one, 100 minutes (+/- 10%) week two, that would mean 110 minutes in week three. This would leave us with running 85 minutes in week four (110 x 80% +/-).
Use these same guidelines for cycling training too. I add about 15 to 30 minutes to my long ride each week. Try to keep your heart rate steady for these workouts, making your body more efficient and faster in the long run. You can allow yourself one day a week of higher end aerobic training but still not in the 75-85% effort range.
The No Benefit Zone shouldn't have any place in your life. On top of that nobody remembers how you did on that training run in January but they'll remember how you kicked butt all summer long.