I always feel a little and try to look out for the newbies who join our triathlon club.

Mainly because they do tend to display the proverbial “deer in the headlights” look as they nervously try to join an established social grouping with much more experienced athletes than themselves.

Now don’t get me wrong – my club is incredibly supportive and welcome of new joiners and always has been.

However at times, we forget that we speaking a different language to the noobs when we are nattering on long spins about group sets, vapor flies, lock tight laces, lactate threshold etc

So when I spot a slightly bemused face – I am always happy to discretely ask “would you like to ask me any questions?” and they gladly open up.

I have no problem doing this as I remember the more experienced guys in the club doing the same for  me when I joined all those years ago – so consider it almost a club duty.

Some of my clubmates might argue I just love the sound of my own voice but either way it is good to chat.

So the latest query that I fielded was about Base training – and thus a beautiful blog was borne! (yup beauty is in the eye of the beholder)

So what is BASE training?

Base training is one element of a periodized training plan that the classic model would flow as follows

Base >> Build >> Taper >> Race

Simply put, base training is the time of the year where triathletes/runners develop our endurance/stamina or to quote Joe Friel “We train to train”.

If you were manufacturing a car – think of this phase as building the body, wheels, engine etc.

The part where we put in and test the gears comes later in plan in the build phase.

[Disclaimer – for the purposes of this short blog – I am looking a standard periodization approach. Reverse periodisation takes a different approach in that speed, high intensity workouts feature much further out from an athlete’s race]

What happens in BASE training?

So as we want to build endurance/stamina – a lot of the training will be low-moderate intensity (z1/z2) for longer periods of time. This allows the body to complete the sessions primarily using its aerobic energy system (aerobic means with the presence of oxygen) and this system utilizes fats mainly, some carbohydrates for energy.

So essentially we are teaching the body to be more efficient in using oxygen and fats as we train in the lower intensities.

This will also have the effect of helping an athlete build strength/muscle over time if completed with some element of strength and conditioning program

What should I be doing in BASE training?

As noted above – the intensity requirement is low to moderate and this applies to all of the disciplines – so recommendations for getting your base right noted below


  • Core element: Longer slower swim sets, staying away from the sprint/speed work for a while, Some paddle and pull bouy work will also help build up swimming specific muscles
  • Bonus element: Get a swim analysis done and identify 2-3 things to fix in your stroke – as much easier to make corrections when going slow and steady


  • Core element: Long steady rides with a group – no need to be flogging one another, easy low gear hill work, steady state z2 turbo work
  • Bonus element: Get your bike set up looked at and adjusted to ensure you will be comfortable efficient in the longer rides


  • Core element: Long slow runs with a pal of roughly your level, trail running to make it interesting
  • Bonus element: Throw in the odd tempo effort or schedule a park run/5km race to keep things real


  • Goal setting: What is the A goal this year? What are you going to change to improve? Is it the right time to push on or will there be other non triathlon goals that will take priority?
  • Planning: Do you have a clear plan of what your program looks like, what your macro plan is and what your skeleton week will need to be to take into account family/work/life constraints
  • Strength: An often overlooked part of base training is to take the opportunity to build general and sport specific strength – ensure you consider this when planning out your week/months ahead
  • Nutrition : Have a look at your current diet, could you improve things, what is the current weight, Body fat % – could this be something you could target
  • Injury prevention: Injuries can occour even in low -moderate intensity activities – so make sure you add in some preventative activities such as foam rolling, stretching, yoga, pilates etc

How long should I be doing BASE training?

This answer is very much dependent on your event type, your current level of fitness and how early you want to start your training. A rough guide is below

  • Sprint distance: Between 6 – 8 weeks
  • Olympic/international distance: Between 6 – 12 weeks
  • HALF DISTANCE/HIM distance: 10 – 20 weeks
  • FULL DISTANCE/full distance: 12 – 24 weeks

What comes after BASE training?

Well that is the BUILD phase, which involves a lot more intensity (or some might call it fun stuff!) but that is another blog altogether.

Until then – remember without a good base – you may be setting yourself up for failure.

Steven Moody has starred in the corporate rat race but found his greatest source of satisfaction came from his 20 years of endurance racing including numerous FULL DISTANCE finishes and world championship qualifications

Realising this fact, Steven abandoned his cubicle and moved into full time coaching. Steven is now FULL DISTANCE U, ITU and Training Peaks level 2 certified and in 2017, was awarded Triathlon Ireland Coach of the year.

Browse his pre-built training plans by clicking here or if you have triathlon queries you can contact him via info@smartendurancesolutions.com