Question of the week: I am all in -- enjoying it so far -- but I cannot believe the difference in approach from what I have been used to. My prior coach subscribed to developing my base over many months, and I had a strict lid on my heart rate for the coming four months of the year. Almost all of my 10 hours of weekly training would be sub-130 heart rate on the bike, sub 140 heart rate on the run. Can you remind me (or explain) why you don’t believe in base training?
I do believe in base training! I just don’t believe in asking athletes to try to build a base through the cold winter months, with short and dark days, when they already get plenty of opportunity in the spring and summer! Let’s investigate a few things -- but we must remember a few things of our ‘audience’ first:
- Our athletes have not just completed a rigorous season of high-intensity bike racing that including 100 road races in the season.
- Our athletes are time-starved. They must retain a ‘return on time investment’ mindset.
- Our athletes are endurance athletes who compete in events that demand plenty of training at a submaximal effort
Science is wonderful, as is the experience of other coaches and athletes, but we must always ensure we learn and draw lessons, but also apply those lessons specifically to our situation.
I cannot imagine asking athletes to spend all of the winter months executing incredibly boring long trainer rides and treadmill runs in pursuit of a training stimulus that -- by definition -- a good amount of race-season training is comprised of.
It is not only a journey to executing the sport, but it also won’t provide a performance yield. Base can be built over many years, with multiple springs and summer rides and runs contributing to the equation. No matter what you do, you cannot accelerate long-term fitness and resilience. Base does take time. We don’t ignore it, but your ten hours is simply not enough total training time to deliver the highest yield from keeping the intensity low.
While we are not in a rush to chase fitness at the moment, we can improve your range as an athlete -- safely. Strength and conditioning, end-of-range strength-endurance work, technical development, tissue resilience and improved capacity to produce power (ride and run) lay massive performance potential. A ‘base’ that will amplify the effectiveness of all the strength-based work coming soon, and the hard work as we launch into the summer. It is an approach that prevents you from getting stale, both physically and hormonally, but also sets you up for optimal success.
As a side note -- for really new athletes -- simply executing the range of intensity will help develop them as athletes. Time cannot be rushed, and the only consideration for a newer athlete is to ensure they learn to navigate the traditional mistake of making easy sessions too hard and retain a pragmatic lens in training by always remaining more conservative. A little tired? Back off. Really sore? Add an extra easy day. If pragmatism rules decisions, there is no reason for a new athlete to avoid intervals and high intensity.
If I can have my newbie 70+ athletes hitting a series of 1 min hard intervals, I believe you can too.
Best of luck,