Ace the Base

Posted: April 27, 2011 in In Transition
Tags: , ,

I have mentioned a few times in recent posts that I am currently beginning to transition into my second ‘Base’ training period or, what I know as the Big Suck: Part 2, with my first Half Iron (training) event being only three months off.  What’s the difference between this particular base period and what I’ve been doing already so far you ask?  Well, really, it’s the difference between “training to train” and “training to race” which are two very different things.

Up until this point, I’ve been merely focused on ‘training to train’, believe it or not.  This isn’t to indicate that I’ve been somehow dogging it all this time – far from it actually – but, really, I’ve been conditioning my body simply to take on and endure the rigors of Ironman training which, in all respect to the shorter distance triathletes, is considerably more taxing than training for Sprint or Olympic distances (and I speak from experience).  The initial base period is where you begin to strength build and improve your skills on the bike, in the pool and on foot.  To affectively accomplish this, I took up yoga which is still something I swear by and look forward to, have been participating in Thursday night Interval brick sessions, joined a Masters swim class on Sunday mornings and have spend 4 days a week running my fat ass off.  I used the ‘Around the Bay’ race to focus my run training around and then set little benchmark goals for my swims and bikes.  Through this period, I’ve dropped nearly 25 lbs since the New Year, cut whole minutes off my run times at all distances, made peace with going fast, ran hills until I puked, and spent more hours on a stationary bike staring at my sweaty reflection in a studio mirror than I care to recall.  Basically, I’ve spent a lot of time going long and slow for the purpose of burning calories and conditioning my body to burn fat as a source of fuel instead of relying on the fast-burning stores of protein and carbohydrates.

The first (and most crucial) part of developing a good Base training plan is to determine the upper limits of my aerobic threshold, or the maximum effort that you can sustain for any period of time to develop your aerobic conditioning (not to be confused with anaerobic conditioning).  Here is an easy-to-follow formula for determining this upper limit for your aerobic training zone:

  1. Take 180
  2. Subtract your age
  3. Take this number and correct it by the following:
  • If you do not workout, subtract another 5 beats
  • If you workout only 1-2 days a week, only subtract 2 or 3 beats
  • If you workout 3-4 times a week keep the number where it is
  • If you workout 5-6 times a week keep the number where it is
  • If you workout 7 or more times a week and have done so for over a year, add 5 beats to the number
  • If you are over about 55 years old or younger than about 25 years old, add another 5 beats to whatever number you now have
  • If you are about 60 years old or older OR if you are about 20 years old or younger, add an additional 5 beats to the corrected number you now have

Using this formula I’ve determined that my ideal upper limit is 146 bpm.

So up until this point my workouts have all been at or below this heart rate zone (something I was never very good at truthfully).  I gave myself 5-15 minutes to warm up, slowly elevating my heart rate as I go, then during the bulk of the workout tried to keep my heart rate in a range that is at least 80% of my maximum aerobic heart rate but not higher than that number.  So for example, the majority of my workouts have been at 130-146 bpm.  But that time has now passed and it’s time to really suffer.  In other words:  it’s on.

Beginning two weeks ago, my workouts changed dramatically in that they are now transitioning outside (thank God!) and more specifically aimed at distance and duration; training my nervous and muscular systems to respond in the way that I want…when I want.  In essence, I’m now building the second endurance base, or that “train to race” as I mentioned before.  A well-designed endurance base period will enable me to take all I’ve learned now about good nutrition, speed work, rest, form, and positive thoughts and transform them into my best race.

Here is another formula to put that into perspective:

 (Nutrition + Work + Speed + Rest) – Negative Thoughts = Confidence

And Confidence equals Personal Best in my book, so the choice is ultimately mine to make. I can either try to race with an adequately prepared engine the size of a weed wacker or I can put in the effort now and build my engine up with a good base plan so that I’m confidently racing with a huge turbo-charged jet engine under this grossly distended hood.  Again…total Winning!

Major changes include my having virtually stopped all my strength-training sessions apart from my yoga and core conditioning which I primarily engage in after a long workout to aid with my recovery anyway.  The second major change is that muscular endurance training is introduced.  This involves long intervals in the range of 6 to 12 minutes done at about the lactate threshold with very short recoveries that are about 25 percent of the work interval duration.  Twenty to 40 minutes of cumulative lactate threshold training within one workout each week is generally quite effective (building to a higher volume over the course of three weeks, or what’s otherwise known as ‘periodization’).  That means that I can kiss my nice, comfortable 146 bpm heart rate goodbye.

So, yeah, longer and more intense.  Lovely.  To deal with these changes in the training plan I am currently in the process of trying to devise yet another weekly training schedule with my coach (details to come) that will afford me the time needed to complete all these lengthy and grueling workouts…often one on top of the other.  So that also means lots more double-duty workout days combining the swim, bike and run segments more seamlessly.  I can foresee many early morning swims and runs in my near future.

Winning?  Not so sure now…

P.S.> I think it would also be really funny to put this (click) on a swim cap.  So if anybody has custom imaging and printing skills please DO NOT hesitate to contact me.  Sincerely, the mgmt.


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