This series on Base 1 training is probably stretching out a bit too long. Some athletes may be well into Base 1 and others may be even be starting Base 2. The good news, however, is that Base 2 is only slightly different from Base 1. The biggest differences are the workouts are longer and there is a bit more intensity. So what I will do in the following descriptions of the workouts is to include the adjustments made in Base 2.
Base 1 Workouts. There are 3 abilities to focus your training on in Base 1: Aerobic endurance, muscular force and speed skills. In Base 2 you can add muscular endurance to the list of abilities to be trained. Each of these are explained in my TrainingBible books for cyclists, triathletes and mountain bikers, but I’ll summarize each here. Go to the book for more details. The accompanying table summarizes the training of these abilities (click to enlarge).
Aerobic endurance is the heart of training for endurance sports. Until this is well-established there is no reason to move on to the more advanced abilities (muscular endurance, anaerobic endurance and power). These workouts are done at the or near the aerobic threshold which is usually about the 2 zone using my heart rate or pace system, or Coggan’s power system. In Base 1 I generally have the athlete build up to doing 1 or 2 hours steady in zone 2. In Base 2 this is extended. The upper end for the duration of this workout depends on the sport and the type of event the athlete is training for. (I’ve written about this here before. If you’d like to find more details do a search on the home page of my blog for ‘decoupling.’ You’ll find several posts on the topic.)
I generally start an athlete into muscular force with an emphasis on strength training. By Base 1 the athlete is lifting heavy loads with low reps. After Base 1 I reduce the importance of weight training and have the athlete go into a strength maintenance mode. This is all explained in the Training Bibles. (Interestingly, strength training seems to be well-adopted by triathletes but seriously questioned by cyclists. I may write on this topic and the research related to it later.)
In Base 2 I’ll have the athlete start doing force intervals for muscular force. These are low-rep, high-intensity intervals done on a short, steep hill for cycling and running. On the bike they involve selecting a high gear and then on a hill doing 6 max-effort pedal revolutions (count one leg for 6 revs or 12 strokes total for both legs). The cadence will be less than 50 rpm. A runner will do something similar on a hill with 6 max-effort revolutions (12 steps). A swimmer might use a bungee resistance cord with 12 max-effort strokes. This is a high-reward workout (good things can happen) which also makes it a high-risk workout (bad things can also happen). If you have easily injured knees (bike), lower legs and feet (runner) or shoulders (swimmer) then it is best not to do this workout. The risk of injury is too great.
Speed skills workouts should be done frequently in Base 1 and 2. Almost any workout that isn’t focused on aerobic endurance or muscular force can be devoted to speed skills. These workouts typically involve drills that exaggerate some aspect of technique. For example, on the bike this could be one-leg pedaling or high-cadence spin-ups. A runner might do grass strides with recovery skips. Swimmers already do a lot of drill work. Choose drills that emphasize the aspect of your skills that need improvement. Again, this is all explained in my Training Bible books.
Muscular endurance workouts are best saved until after strength training has reached a peak. This is typically after Base 1. The workouts are long intervals done at HR, pace or power zone 3. In Base 3 the intensity of these intervals goes up one zone and the intervals become shorter—in the neighborhood of 6 to 12 minutes. At this more advanced stage of ME training in Base 3 the recovery interval becomes critical. In Base 2 you can take a long recovery between the zone-3 intervals. In Base 3 the work-to-recovery ratio should be about 4 to 1. For every 4 minutes of hard work take 1 minute of recovery. This is the most overlooked aspect of ME training by self-coached athletes in Base 3 and later—they take overly long recoveries negating one of the primary benefits of this workout.
I hope that not only helps you get started with Base 1 but also gets you started into Base 2 and Base 3. In the Base period there is not much difference between sports or between the types of races being done within a given sport. It’s pretty much all the same with the primary differences being duration. It’s in the Build period, with about 11 weeks to go until the first A-priority race of the season, that the training varies widely between sports and types of races. More on that at a later time.