Mention base training and the mantra “long slow distance” (LSD) often comes to mind. When this is translated into long duration aerobic workouts primarily performed in Zone 2, this type of training certainly forms the backbone to any endurance athlete’s aerobic development. From the early stages of base training, one workout per discipline each week should be dedicated to this type of training.
However, while swimming, biking and running in Zone 2 forms a necessary component of base training, it is not fully sufficient by itself and needs to be complemented with more intensive endurance training as the base phase progresses. Adding work in Zone 3 during the middle and late phases of base training builds aerobic capacity along with muscular endurance, and helps prepare the athlete for the rigors of higher intensity training down the road.
With this in mind, here are three sample base training workouts to help you build a more complete aerobic foundation.
Swim: Broken 500s
After warming up, swim 3 to 6 broken 500s as follows:
200 freestyle at T-pace + 5 seconds (i.e. Zone 3 tempo pace)
15 seconds rest
300 freestyle at T-pace + 10 seconds (i.e. Zone 2 base pace)
30 seconds rest
Repeat 3 to 6 times.
Each week, lengthen the duration of the swim in Zone 3 by 50 yards/meters while decreasing the swim in Zone 2 by the same distance.
Bike: Tempo intervals
After warming up, ride for 45 to 60 minutes using the following pattern:
5 minutes in Zone 3
10 minutes in Zone 2
Repeat 3 to 4 times.
Each week, lengthen your total time in Zone 3 by 5 to 10 minutes (while keeping the total ride time the same).
Run: Sustained tempo
After warming up, run for 30 to 45 minutes. Begin with 10 to 15 minutes in Zone 3, followed by the remaining time in Zone 2.
Each week, lengthen your time in Zone 3 by 5 to 10 minutes (while keeping the total run time the same).
Variations on a theme
Although the “tempo intervals” are presented as a bike workout and the “sustained tempo” as a run workout for ease of illustration, keep in mind that these workouts can (and should) be used for both biking or running (and can even be applied to swimming).
Each workout provides a basic workout theme with the intention of slightly modifying that theme as you progress through base training—namely, each week the amount of time in Zone 3 is gradually increased. This variation-on-a-theme approach provides you with a tangible window into your progression. You will be able to both objectively and subjectively note the gains you make. Be consistent and you will exit base training with a strong aerobic foundation for the rest of the season.
This article also appeared in the Colorado Triathlete.