It’s the time of year when many northern hemisphere athletes are starting back into training after an end-of-season Transition period break from training. Most don’t have an A-priority race for 6 or more months. Given that it’s probably at least that long until your next important race, how should you train?
What I want to show you is how I train athletes at this time of year when they have such a long time to prepare. There’s a good chance that it’s far less serious than what you are doing. My experience has been that self-coached athletes train at too high an intensity and do workouts that are unnecessarily long for Base 1. And they generally train systems or ‘abilities’ that are out of sync with what I believe is a proper progression.
What follows is a brief description of the training strategy I use in Base 1 with endurance athletes. The process is the same regardless of the sport. Triathletes are faced with the challenging task of trying to establish a fitness base in three sports. So what follows here must also be applied to the swim and run in that case.
This is yet again a multi-installment post so check back in a few days for Part 2. Here I comment on training frequency for Base 1. In the subsequent parts I’ll cover workout duration and intensity, and then wrap it up with suggested workouts in the last part.
Frequency. How often should you workout? Let’s start by examining the least number of times to workout in a week and then progress to the high end.
Novice athletes typically train three or four times a week in Base 1. Moderately experienced, intermediate-ability athletes usually do it four or five times weekly. Advanced and competitive athletes workout six or seven times in a week in Base 1. At the highest level some cyclists, runners and other single-sport athletes will even do occasional two-a-day training at this time of year. That’s quite common for triathletes.
Three sessions in a week is the bare minimum even for the novice and these sessions need to be separated by 48 to 72 hours for best results (for the novice triathlete it would be 2 swims, 2 bikes and 2 runs a week as a minimum). A Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday pattern is far more beneficial than is a Friday-Saturday-Sunday pattern. With the latter, four days of no training at all (Monday through Thursday) results in a loss of fitness which likely erases the gains of the previous weekend’s training.
Four workouts in a week will produce significantly greater fitness than three. Interestingly, research tells us that beyond four workouts a week there is a decreasing return on the investment of your time. In other words, your fitness will undoubtedly improve if you train in a sport five or six times a week instead of four, but the rate of improvement is not nearly as great as when going from three to four. The competitive athlete, however, is generally seeking every bit of fitness possible so even though the return is small at five or more they see the gain as fitness they otherwise would not have. Of course, there are limits to how often you train due to lifestyle conflicts and your capacity for training workload.
In Part 2 I will comment on Base 1 workout durations. Check back soon.