It’s the beginning of February and another triathlon season is right around the corner. The holiday’s are over and January has come and gone. Now is the time (if you haven’t already) to start thinking about what races you want to do this year and to begin preparing for a successful triathlon season. You have probably taken some good time away from training or maybe have just been doing some light training over the past month or two without much structure. If you haven’t been doing any training, now is the time to start getting back into your routine. Slowly start easing back into things. Don’t stress about your times or paces being slow, just focus on getting some time under your belt and start finding that rhythm you had at the end of last season. It’s also a good time to reflect on last season. What went well? What didn’t go as well as you had planned? What do I need to do differently to have a better season this year? These are all important questions to ask yourself in order to help you move forward and have even greater success in 2013.
If you’ve been doing some light training here and there for about a month (if you haven’t been doing anything, give yourself a month of light flexible training where you do what you feel like doing with no real structure), the next thing you want to do is is begin base training. Base training consists of mostly easy to moderate aerobic efforts. If you’re brand new to triathlon or have only been racing for a few years, your emphasis on base training is crucial to set yourself up for a successful season. If you’re a seasoned veteran and have been racing for many years, your base training isn’t quite as important, as the years of swimming, biking, and running you have done will help lay your foundation for a successful year. However, even seasoned veterans should not neglect the base phase of training. If you’re a seasoned veteran in one sport such as swimming or running, but are newer to triathlon, you may want to emphasize the sport or two that you’re newer in to help you become more efficient in that sport.
So by now you’re probably asking yourself what does this base training look like. For you newer triathletes, your base phase should be about 3 months long with an easier week every 4th week to allow your body to rest and recover. As mentioned earlier, your focus should be easy to moderate efforts in all three sports. You should not being doing any long, sustained intervals during this time. A good goal to shoot for is three workouts in each discipline per week lasting approximately 30-60 minutes for each workout including one longer workout for each discipline that you gradually build upon each week. For example, you may like to do a longer endurance bike ride on Saturday and you may build each week starting at 60 minutes, going up to 75 minutes, then 90 minutes, and back down to 60 minutes during your recovery week. In the 2nd month you might do 90 minutes, 1 hour 45 minutes, and 2 hrs, and go down to 60-75 minutes during your recovery week. The same idea can be applied to the run. This can obviously be modified depending on where you are starting off with your training to meet your needs and also your goals for the season. During the base phase, it’s a good idea to include some short pickups/strides once or twice a week in each discipline; during the bike, you might include 3-6 30 sec to 1 minute intervals around olympic distance pace and in the run you might include 4-6 30 sec pickups building to 5k race pace. Give yourself plenty of easy time in between these short intervals in order to perform them with good form and prevent any major fatigue. These short intervals are meant to increase your neuromuscular coordination and ultimately help you become more efficient. The same concept can be applied to the swim as well. Additionally with the swim, it is a good idea to include some drill work at least once a week if not with every swim to help improve your form. If you’ve been training and racing for many years, you may only need to do one or two months of base training applying the same concepts just talked about. Again, it is important to to start with the base phase before moving into more specific training phases.
There are a number of physiological benefits of base training including increasing your VO2 max as well as improving your cardiorespiratory system or your bodies ability to efficiently supply oxygen to your working muscles. This includes improving the efficiency of the mitochondrial/aerobic enzymes which will ultimately help you be a better triathlete and allow you to train at higher capacities later in the year.
It can be a long season for many of us with races going into October and November so there’s no point in running your body into the ground or getting frustrated if you’re not feeling great right away. Be patient and allow your body time to recover and adapt to the training that your doing. Now is also a good time to begin working on your nutrition plan, especially for those of you racing longer distances. Begin experimenting with different products and find what works best for you, tweaking things throughout the year to help optimize your performance. If you’re looking for more guidance, consider contacting myself (Colin Riley), or one of the other Fast Forward Triathlon coaches to help you provide more structure to this initial phase of training and to help you reach your 2013 goals.