Picture description: training camp in Turkey a few years back...O legs.....like father like son.
What to train? Base Phase vs Build-up
In Part one I talked about the importance of key training motivators, how to set-up a preliminary race plan and the meaning of a holistic training philosophy. In part two I will try to explain the difference between the base phase and build-up phase. As mentioned I plan to do three A races this year with Jasmina (i.e. Hvar, Utö and ÖtillÖ). We are now in the base period which will run until mid Feb. Then follow three specific build-up phases (which will be different in duration) but all with the objective to get in race shape and peak on race day.
The base period (3 – 4 months) focuses on:
1) building (core) strength (e.g. gym, hill repeats, off trail running, cross country ski loops)
2) further develop aerobic capacity (e.g. tempo / fartlek runs at lower peak intensity, long runs 1 1/2 hrs and more)
3) get in some extra “slow” kilometres by doing easy recovery runs (e.g. watching TV while running on a treadmill).
4) improve specific issues related to equipment, technique, health, form (e.g. swimming drills, up/downhill running, nutrition, injury& sickness prevention)
5) anticipate to specific race demands (e.g. hilly course, sea swimming efficiency)
6) include a weeks’ training camp where to practise some quality swimrun sessions ,check gear set-up, practise transitions, drafting / sighting, hill running, etc.
7) Rest less but train more hours (preferably two work-outs a day) at lower intensity (immediately back off when you start to feel sick)
Base period – is where you prepare your body to build stamina and be strong so you can endure the mental and physical abuse during race season. In reality the base period goes back much further and really started on the (wise!) day you started doing endurance training and racing. This is what determines your true backbone and level of fitness that you desperately need during all planned races. Base fitness is really “fair” in the sense that you don’t loose it in a few months but in the same way you don’t really improve it in a few months either. In fact it takes years and lots of mileage to develop it. Good news for old farts like me and PJ. The base phase is the “engine of a car” that always runs with a steady output (i.e. your aerobic capacity). However, when building “a turbocharger onto the engine” (i.e. performing high intensity training) the peak performance of the engine can double for a short while (i.e. peaking on race day). However, as we all know…turbo chargers are great to have but also prone to failure so if you use it too often it will break and destroy the whole engine (i.e. too much intensity training and racing will eventually result in overtraining, mental exhaustion and body meltdown). Enough rest is key to success for both phases.
What else matters in the base phase?
* Train “consist” and “spend time on your feet” – 2 different work-outs a day is my aim, sometimes right after each other or one in the morning / one in the evening
* Focus is not on pace or covering a certain distance – “my mantra” is: Do “something with a purpose” every day even when its dark and miserable out there
* I don’t stick to a weekly training program – My cycles run from rest day to rest day and I only look one or two days ahead to adjust my training to how I feel on the day. If needed, I change it last minute or chop it up into 2 shorter sessions.
* I balance the 1st work-out against the 2nd work-out – they should complement each other (I come back to that later in the next blog about intensity)
* Trust your gut feeling, vary intensity – numbers are meaningless if you train in different kinds of terrain and locations
* From December to March there is ice on the lakes / sea so I don’t practise openwater swims or swimruns – instead I try to go on a training camp for a week to practise these specific work-outs.
* I incorporate speed in every work-out but pure high intensity interval training with short breaks is reserved for the build-up period
* Fartleks are a great way to get “up to fitness” early on in the season – just increase your speed that you can maintain over a certain time period (say 2 minutes) and then slow down to “conversational speed” for the same period or less (but don’t walk). Repeat this 6 – 10 times. You can play around with the time you run fast or with the total running time. It’s the variety that matters so it’s better to do more repetitions rather then killing yourself in 2 repetitions. Try to pick up the pace on uphills.
* Sacrifice intensity over time or distance – take the peaks of the intensity in order to get in that “extra” mile or focus on improving your technique or form – this is the time to do it!
* Think ahead and balance your energy – put in enough effort to have two quality work-outs a day but also allow enough time to recover over night to start again in the morning. Slowly you will reach the point where you will need a full rest day. Sometimes it can be a fine line between being sick or feeling tired. That’s when listening to your body becomes really important. It takes time to master it but when you do….it’s another skill set in your mental tool kit which you will need during the tapering and recovery phases.
* Learn to feel the onset of lactic acid on the uphills and then try to run it out of your body on the flat or downhill sections. It’s a weird feeling. The secret in endurance sports is to avoid having a surge of lactic acid in your muscles that is hard to get rid of so the trick is to “tease your body” with a small dosage and giving it time to deal with it. As with everything the more you do it the better you get at it. Guess what: “You are stimulating your body to effectively build it’s own own “vaccine” against lactic acid onset allowing you to go faster for longer. It’s great, it’s fantastic, its unbelievable. Damn! I have been watching too many Donald Trump you tube videos. Anyway don’t tell anybody, deal?
* The base period is mostly done in winter time when you have lack of sunshine, most people are sick around you and your immune system is low. Please do yourself a favour and take some natural vitamin supplements, zinc, liters of tea with ginger, honey and lemon. It helps for me!
On the other hand, the build-up period (6 to 8 weeks) for each race focuses on:
1) speed endurance (e.g. track, interval / tempo runs at peak intensity, multiple loop swimruns with lots of transitions)
2) fatigue resistance training to develop stamina (multiple day block training for instance: two long swimruns and a long run at the end)
3) mental / physical strength checks (race a few B races: 10k, 21k road / trail at thresh-hold pace)
4) anticipate to race specific demands (e.g. practise the course / distances, energy plan, race tactics)
5) improving openwater swimming efficiency in different sea conditions
6) develop an effective taper and recovery strategy to peak on race day
7) make sure to train as a team so that you are mentally and physically aligned on your goals
8) Rest more but train at higher intensity (push yourself when you feel good!)
What else is important during the build-up period:
· Not surprisingly swimruns are the most important workout. In the weekend when there is more training time, longer swimruns and trail runs are on the agenda. By long I mean 30km+ (or 3 hrs+). It’s those occasions where I sometimes simulate the distances and the type of terrain that we will face on race day.
· I believe in active recovery so after these long work-outs in the weekend where there has been muscle damage I go to the pool and do an easy recovery swim to dilute the pain and get rid of all the “bad” stuff. On a “luxury day” I treat myself with a sports massage. I love it but it can be painful after a weekend of training.
· In order to get better at longer swim sections (i.e. there is a 2.9km section in Hvar) we put in some 5km+ openwater swim sessions and the aim is to swim them at a maximum sustainable speed the whole way.
· Swimrunning is a bit like interval training: you run, (rest your legs during the swim) and run again, etc. I like to do these interval training sessions on a cross country ski track because it’s a lot harder. After a tough 1 hour session my legs are wasted and there is no point in doing something else for the rest of the day but rest and recover. Alternatively I run on the track and do a program such as: 8 x 1000m with 1 ½ min R or 4 x 2000m with 2min R.
· In the base period I try to go to the gym 3 times a week but during the build-up phase I am lucky if I see the gym once a week…I am just too tired so that’s why the base period is so important to build that powerful, look at me! (“Men’s Health cover page”) muscle body!... mmmmmh…..seriously?
· Another “old time favourite” is the tempo run which is often done on the same loop so it gives me an idea of where I stand in terms of race fitness. The golden rule is that the second half has to be run faster than the first half leaving almost nothing left in the tank. It’s called running at threshold pace with a negative split. The last 2 kilometers should be done at maximum effort to simulate race conditions.
Now the thing is that there is a lot more to tell about the base phase and build-up phase but let’s not dwell on it too much. I think by now you have a pretty good idea of what kind of training sessions you can do in each period so use your imagination and come up with your own training sessions for each period. In the next blog I will talk about the most important aspect of swimrunning and it’s called: INTENSITY. It’s the cornerstone of everything and anything you have read from me so far! It’s the one thing that nobody can really tell you how to do because only you can feel it! I will give you some examples of how to do a work-out with the same distance and time but with a completely different focus as far as intensity is concerned. It’s the only way to get the message across.
So in the next blog I will try to put levels of intensity into perspective by:
* comparing different kinds of run and swim workouts
* contrasting different kinds of terrain, weather conditions, etc
* impact of training frequency between 2 rest days
* phase (e.g. base, build-up, taper, race, recover)
Me: Thomas Schreven
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