For some reason, triathlon attracts many who want to dig into the science of how to train, researching questions like, “Why do I need long runs AND short fast runs?” “Why should I train my core so much if I am not in a sit-up competition?” “Swimming is really the only technique-oriented sport, right?”
It all starts with base training. Marc Evans writes about base training in Triathlete’s Edge. The following is an excerpt from his book reprinted here with permission from Human Kinetics.
“The ability to compete at peak athletic levels depends first and foremost on the athlete’s base preparation. A concentrated base is the foundation, core, and framework that best performances rely on. Base preparation includes exercising at low intensities for long durations—the building blocks used to construct the higher intensity efforts that come later. Dryland training (strength, core, flexibility) plays a chief role in base preparation training to comprehensively prepare the triathlete.
Too many triathletes want to get to the more intense work and neglect this important training. As I like to say, “The bigger the base, the better you’ll race.” Base training is the most important training and preparation part of the season.
As noted in chapter 6, the base preparation period of training picks up from active restoration and includes 16 weeks of foundational work in endurance, strength, flexibility, and technique. The general benefits of base preparation training include the following:
* Develops sport-specific aerobic endurance
* Develops strength, flexibility, neuromuscular coordination, and technique
* Strengthens connective tissue
* Increases the number of mitochondria and capillaries within the muscles
* Increases blood volume
* Enhances glycogen storage and capacity
* Decreases resting HR and increases stroke volume
These benefits are achieved by meeting the objectives of the phase, which include:
1. Assessing current fitness
2. Gradually increasing aerobic capacity and endurance (oxygen consumption)
3. Adding to core and maximal muscle strength
4. Progressively overloading and building up workout frequency, volume, and intensity
5. Promoting neurological development of proper technique patterns to improve economy
6. Training with drills to improve flexibility and coordination (technical exercises)
7. Managing nutrition and rest
8. Transitioning (aerobic/stamina) to bike-to-run workouts of longer duration and low intensity
Base preparation begins by assessing and establishing the athlete’s current baseline fitness and from there establishing short-term, midrange, and long-range goals. I use a battery of pretests to determine an athlete’s swimming, cycling, and running fitness. This is followed by another or several periodic retests to evaluate progress throughout this phase. These tests help define the direction of the training plan by establishing objective training benchmarks, which can be repeated over time. From these benchmarks, an athlete can better establish realistic goals that will give their training and racing a sense of purpose and direction.”