Friday, December 10, 2010

Building the Base...

So, what is base training?

This is something I hear quite a bit through my days at Maine Running Company. People are either looking to start seriously stepping up their training, or they are coming down off the season and want to start getting back into things. I, too, am in the middle of base training.

But what is it, really?

It can mean a lot of different things to different people. As I am entering the world of triathlon, my base training is going to be a little bit different than, say, my training buddy Adam, who has competed at Ironman Lake Placid for the past three years. But that being said, I feel that base training should be comprised of a couple of different things:

Technique/Form Work: This is the time to focus on exactly what it is your body is telling you in your sports. When you are in midseason, it's extremely tough to try and get technique correction into your system. You are too focused on working on speed, or adding distance, or ensuring you grind it through that next workout. Instead, in the off-season, where you don't have a specific end-goal in mind (until you get to the official start of training for the following season), this is where you can focus on the task at hand.

Let me give an example: running form. I won't get into the debating of the merits of running in Five Fingers (that's another blog post for another time), but let's say that you are working on not pointing your toe quite so much through the gait cycle, because by pointing your toe skyward more, you put more stress on the front side of the shin than is necessary. Considering the number of steps in a half-marathon, e.g., that's a hell of a lot of toe raising.

Well, now's the time to get that sorted out. Because you're not focused on running for speed, or running to add significant distance, you can instead be more focused on how to make that happen. Put the same level of concentration into it as you would hitting your splits during speedwork.

This also applies to your swim stroke, your biking cadence, bike fit (more on that in a minute), or whatever off-season applies to you.

Get Your Equipment Sorted Out: This is along the same lines as the technique and form description above. Think about it: if your equipment does not fit you properly, you will not be able to take those form and technique enhancers to your racing equipment. And if there's anything worse than getting to something you've prepared months for, and realize that you won't be able to do that thing the same way you've trained for...well, tell me what it is.

So, check it off: does your wetsuit fit you properly? Does your bike fit you properly? Did you change anything on the bike, etc.? You sure you're in the right type of shoe? Let's get that out of the way now, rather than attempting to experiment with it midseason.

On my own list, my wetsuit fits perfectly (hooray for Slowtwitch Classifieds), I'm switching my running shoe to the Saucony Kinvara, and I'm getting a bike fit from fellow MRCer, F.I.S.T (Fit Institute Slowtwitch) certified bike fitter, and USAT certified coach Doug Welling.

What's that you say? I just got my bike? Yeah, your point? Now is the time to find the position that I can train with, and race with, for next season. And then if I want to tweak it a bit more? Well, that's why God invented the off-season!

Challenge Yourself (a little): OK, remember that whole "not focused on speedwork or endurance?"

I lied. A little.

Here's the thing: this applies to you if you're looking to go faster next year, or if you are going to be trying your hand at a longer distance. Or, if you're like myself, trying to do both in one year. Because you're theoretically insane.

You need to at least put a small challenge into your base training to help break up the monotony of it. For me, I am doing a little bit of speed work in the pool. I know I can swim 1.2 miles continuously, and I know that my current time (40 flat) would put me right in the middle of the pack at Timberman. But I want to go a little faster. So I've been using my technique work, along with some speed drills from Training Peaks to get things together.

However, there's a limit to this: I'm trying to keep all my workouts to heart-rates below 165. Why? Just to make sure I'm not working too hard this off-season. Need to start a training plan fresh, you know?

Of course, with ski season coming up, that's going right out the window. I mean, come on...when you get a view like this:


Well, all bets are off. Nothing like skiing over tree tops.

Oh, and that reminds me...

Do Something Else! I happen to ski. A lot. Like, driving to Rangeley every weekend from next weekend through April. And then some.

As for you? I can't tell you. But branch out and get something else to do for a little bit. It helps break up some of the muscular imbalances that come with the territory of tri, and also just gives your mind a break from the monotony of doing the same thing all year long.

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And now, for your regularly scheduled training update:

Just been hitting the pool quite a bit. Haven't really been spinning or running all that much, as I'm trying to remain flexible enough for ski season. Season starts on Dec. 20th. I'll be there rocking along with some Clif Shot Bloks and probably some Hammer HEED to keep me moving right along.

As always, questions are welcomed, whether about my training, nutrition strategies for yourself, or anything else, at this link.

Have fun out there!
--Ryan

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