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Base training: Keep calm and build a foundation

What is a “base” and why build it?

Developing a “base” is a term that defines building aerobic development or in other words becoming more efficient at utilizing oxygen at faster speeds. In any endurance event having the ability to do means that you can ultimately go faster for longer periods of time without having to slow down. Using heart rate is the most reliable method to monitor if you are truly training in an aerobic zone. Following an arbitrary pace or wattage will have you under training, as performance increases and overtraining on days your stress budget is over flowing. The best way to do this is by performing a field lactate threshold test. This average heart rate allows you to create training zones based on a percentage of that number. Once your body starts producing lactate you are becoming anaerobic and have a finite amount of time you can hang there. So by utilizing a percentage of this number you have your truly aerobic heart rate. Take this example: Suzy has an aerobic heart rate of 130-140bpm. On day 1 of her training program this correlates to a 10:30 run pace, week 2 that becomes a 10:25, week 3 10:20 so on and so forth. It is not always a linear as that (training is like life…bad days and good days!) but you get the gist. After a full 12-week base phase or so you can expect the pace to drop 60-90 seconds/mile so she ends up running a 8:30 pace at 130-140bpm. Same energy….faster pace. Think of base training like building a house. You have to build a foundation before you can put up walls and curtains. Imagine if you tried to put curtains on a house without a foundation...just wouldn't work!

Fat Metabolism

The aerobic system uses fat as its primary fuel source. For that reason ensuring that your workouts are indeed aerobic means that you are utilizing fat as energy. This is crucial for endurance athletes because your body can store over 10,000 calories of fat (even on a super lean and mean triathlete machine) but only approximately 2,000 calories of carbohydrate. The anaerobic energy system uses primarily carbohydrate. So at the start of a race when everyone is fresh and eager and you see them working beyond their aerobic energy system that is why you also see them walking and “hitting the wall” at mile 20 of a marathon. Start slow, finish strong.


Pure and simple. Your ability to ride 5 hours hard and fast is directly determined upon first your ability to ride 5 hours period. You need to learn to cover the distance efficiently before you can add speed, power and strength. How is it possible to jump into week 1 of training program with mile repeats, hill repeats and all the “sexy” workouts without having yet even accomplished a baseline? You need somewhere to work towards so when you get to those workouts you are strong and healthy and can crush them and actually elevate fitness rather than survive them.

Training periodization

At this phase of training creating a foundation consists of pure aerobic workouts, strength training and skills and drills. When intensity is low you have the energy and ability to focus on the correct swim stroke, pedal stroke and run stride. Swim drills, single leg drills, cadence variation, high knees, butt kicks etc. Learn to do your sport with finesse so you can add fitness and experience new levels of racing!

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