To set the scene correctly – the base period of training, i.e. the phase of training preceding build, for me was all about creating the stamina/endurance for the season ahead. Joe Friel calls it “training to train”. For me as a lover of metaphors and cars – I liken it actually putting the engine together from scratch.
Typically a lot of base training is done in zone 1- 2 to grow an athletes aerobic endurance and also functional strength/weights to ensure the correct muscles are strong for the more intense workouts that are to come.
Other key objectives of the base period is embed good technique
- Develop aerobic endurance
- Develop biomechanical efficiency (technique)
- Develop maximum strength
- Develop sport-specific maximum force (alactate training)
- Transition into build phase by gradually inserting muscular endurance and lactate threshold work.
For me as a coach, the base period is the time when athletes typically complain that they are running/biking painfully slow, sessions on their own can be boring … my usual response is to tell them to “trust in the process”, “the fun stuff is coming” and/or “get a training partner for Gods sake!”
I love the build phase – both as a coach and an athlete – as it is when we “train to race” using Joe’s terminology again. Progressing my car analogy – it is when we add the gears to our engine and learn how to use them.
In its simplest terms – we up the intensity of the sessions and where appropriate reduce the volume/time for weekly training load.
So what should I be doing differently in the build phase to ensure I am correctly “training to race”
Firstly, you will note that the sessions are harder* – depending on the distance that a triathlete is preparing for – the sweet spot of the training moves from z1/z2 to z3 (HIM and IM) or z4+ (Olympic/international or sprint races)
Expect more intervals, short hard hill work and intense speed work
* Note I did not say shorter – in some cases the volume can either stay the same or for IM distance it may even increase but have harder elements in it
Secondly, the sessions should be race focused – I personally like to include race pace elements in my sessions in the build phase. So if training for a 70.3 race – the long slow runs will be replaced by runs with running at the target pace an athlete would hope to hold off the bike. These sessions are excellent for seeing where an athlete is relative to their goals and what needs to be done to either narrow the gap or lift the bar when there is time to do so.
Expect needing to really dial into a session as you execute as you move out of the easy mileage/mind wandering mentality – NB this will help you develop BOTH mental and physical toughness
Note – The sessions should be race and equipment specific – this to me means adding in elements of increased bricks off the bike, open water swimming and if possible a couple of B races where transition/race day nerves can be practiced
Re equipment specificity element – yes this is where you can dust off the TT, race runners and have a bit of fun
So I guess the key message of this section is to remind you not to fall into the trap of merely increasing your training volume doing the same sessions over and over as you get closer to your A race.
To really cash in on the hard winter miles from base – it is time to change gears and sessions to get you ready to rock when you toe the start line.
Good news is the fun times are here
Funny thing is the most common complaint from my athletes in build phase – the sessions are too hard …. Sigh the grass is always greener eh 😉