How strong is your base

April 21st 2014

: How Strong is Your Base?

  • <img width="1" height="1" src="cid:8CFB4AAB-45B7-4299-B598-4B03C2D37280

by Charisa Wernick
Most triathletes have now left the off-season behind and are well on their way to building a base for the new season—if they haven’t already begun racing. Building a solid base for endurance is necessary no matter the distance raced whether it be a Sprint or an IRONMAN. Have you ever noticed athletes that fade horribly toward the end of their race? It is possible that the athlete went out too hard, but it is more probable that they had not built up a solid base leading into the season. Have you ever seen an athlete fall apart in transitions? Another sign of laps in a well rounded training program.
Here are a few keys to building a solid base for your triathlon season.
1. Consistency
The ability to string together multiple weeks and months of consistent training in all elememts of the triathlon yields better results at the races. Training the body to adapt to months of training means that, come race day, the body is used to the stresses from training. This type of “old hat” stress translates into solid race results.
2. Low intensity training
Base training often consists of a phrase athletes and coaches like to call putting in the time. This means long distances in the pool, long (sometimes easier) rides and running miles for the legs. Dirk Aschmoneit, past IRONMAN New Zealand champion and Director of Field Marketing at Powerbar, says that base training, especially for IRONMAN, is predominantly about optimizing your performance around 2 mmol of lactic acid. “What is interesting to observe is that most beginner to intermediate athletes spend most of their time training around 4 mmol, a lactic acid level that is better suited for shorter distances,” he says.
If you were to take a stress test (or lactate threshold test), 4 mmol is the point where lactate increases so much that the level of effort cannot be sustained. Many triathletes believe that in order to get faster , they must train at this higher intensity. This is true, but to a much more limited extent, especially when training for IRONMAN. In order to race an IRONMAN fast, training at the 2 mmol level should be the primary focus. Training at the shorter distances can include more 4 mmol levels.
For example, a triathlete may begin the season running a half marathon in a specific time with their heart rate at 165 beats per minute (bpm). After several months of base training, the same distance can be run in the same amount of time, but with a heart rate 10 beats lower. Becoming more efficient and using less effort is a direct result of base training, and is an important aspect of racing well.
3. Building back into training slowly
Base building provides a platform for ramping up training at a slow and safe rate, which helps decrease the likelihood of injury and burnout. Especially if you are training for a longer event, it takes time to ramp up to peak shape; during the base building portion of training you are slowly teaching the body to go longer and harder.
4. Remember to rest
Just because base training doesn’t always include large amounts of intensity, keep in mind that rest is still an important aspect of training. It is during the rest and recovery portion of training that the body repairs muscle and builds itself up stronger so that the next time you head out you will be able to go longer or harder.
5. Fuel smart
For longer, lower-intensity workouts, the body is able to pull energy from fat stores more than from glycogen, where higher intensity workouts get their fuel. Thus, base training can be a great time to lose a few pounds. Rather than fueling a long base ride with gels, start the morning off with some oatmeal which provides sustained energy and will allow you to keep the gels at a minimum during the ride.
No matter what distance you plan to race this season, make sure you’re starting off with a solid base before you build into the intensity phase of your training. This approach will safeguard you against injury, keep you healthy, and help your race times come down in the process.
Charisa Wernick is a professional triathlete.


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