Base training is the foundation of your entire race season. It prepares your body for the high demands of training to race. For many athletes base training is in the cold winter months that have adverse weather, little day light and less time to train. In this post I touch on a few tips to improve your base training and set you up for a successful season.
1) When to start base training
You should start base training no later then 24 weeks before you goal race. The base training period traditionally lasts 12 weeks. It’s OK to start base training more then 24 weeks out from your goal race. Starting further out can allow you to have a slower start to training, or you may want to work up to longer rides or meet other goals. Starting base training early would not be the same as the Preparation Phase, you still want the Preparation Phase to get ready for base training, just like you want Base training to get ready for Build traiing
2) Weight Loss
Base period is the best time to focus on weight lost goals. During this period you can reduce starchy food intake such as breads, rice, potatoes, sugars without risking the high energy needs.. Replace the starchy cards with fruits, nuts and protein. Your recovery may be a little slow, but the workouts you are doing in the base period do not cause a great deal of fatigue. To burn more fat during your workouts, eat 2-3hrs before your ride ride for 2-3hrs without food, just water with electrolytes. These workouts will be zone 2, low zone 3. High intensity workouts of 1-1.5hrs or longer you may need gel or two or you may fade since your glycogen is already low with the low card diet. Focus on high protein, rich in health fats, fruits and vegetables. Attempt a calorie deficit of 250-500 cals a day. Use a tool like MyFitnessPal to track your calorie intake and burn.
3) Indoor Training
During the winter months when there is less daylight and adverse weather many athletes take to training indoors. I don’t recommend spending more then two hrs a day on the trainer to maintain motivation and reduce boredom. Break workouts up into different drills, to keep it interesting. I have a number of trainer workouts on this site under Training Sessions. Find a cool location to place the trainer or treadmill, and use a fan in the front and back to keep you cooled, especially during high intensity workouts. Improving your base training workouts with quality sessions will sessions will have a huge impact on your season goals.
4) Traditional Periodization or Reverse Periodization
Traditional periodization training has longer workouts happening earlier in the training phase and as you get closer to your goal race, work on shorter high intensity workouts. With reverse periodization, it’s just the opposite, shorter high intensity workouts in the early training phase. Depending on your goal race and how your body responds to different workouts you may want to consider reverse periodization. This type of training works well for people that are time constrained in the winter or stuck indoors because of adverse weather. I don’t recommend jumping off the couch right into a reverse periodization training method. You should have a decent level of fitness, have been working out on the specific exercise (bike, run, swim etc) for a few months before doing high intensity workouts. Reverse periodization seems to produce good results for those doing longer events, such as ultras then short sprint type events. Reverse periodization may not work well with weight loss, but depends on the duration and volume of your workouts.
Traditional periodization base training workouts are more then just riding in zone 2 for three months. There is a progressive approach in workout volume. The main focus should be 30-50% of the volume at Endurance pace, 10-20% Force workouts, which should incorporate in saddle climbing with lower cadence, 10-20% speed work, high cadence riding. For some athletes, I include Tempo workouts to build muscular endurance, but this depends on their fitness level and goals. Additionally, I may include short 1hrs short high intensity interval workouts, but we need to be careful to make sure our muscles and tendons are ready for the extra work.
6) Weight Training
On occasion I prescribe weight training to athletes. Weight training can provide a benefit for master level athletes if muscle weaknesses needs to be improved. Overall, though I prefer specificity of the event you competing and focus on weaknesses for those events. I don’t prescribe weight training during the build phase as recovery times will impact important specificity training toward race goals. I’ve personally have used and have prescribed Joe Friel’s Weight Training guide which works well in the base period when mixing in low intensity event specific workouts.
7) Know your zones
Knowing your zones is critical to training so you are working at the right effort. Training too hight or low will ruin your attempt at a structured program. Before you start training program it’s important to test your LTHR or FTP. If you already know your LTHR, but if you haven’t done a test in a couple of years, it may be worth doing again. LTHR doesn’t change much, but as you get older or changed your living altitude it will be different. If you haven’t done an FTP or power profile test in at least 3 months then you should do that before starting a structured training program.