The Importance of a Solid Aerobic Base
Triathlon is a sport that predominantly uses the bodies aerobic energy system. Even the shortest of races are still powered by the aerobic energy system so it makes sense to my simple brain that is the system that needs to be developed and appropriately trained.
Without having the solid aerobic conditioning it’s like a house without a slab. The walls and roof start to become a little shaky and under stress they will eventually collapse. On the outside it might look awesome and really pretty to look at but check inside and there is no foundation to keep it together.
There are a lot of triathletes like this, really pretty to look at but once you take a closer look you can see there are some major structural issues that need addressing.
By having a solid aerobic foundation you can recover from your training sessions better, can hold a faster pace for longer, you will get a better training effect from interval sessions as your recovery between sets is quicker and you’re able to hold a faster pace for more efforts. Additionally your body is more efficient at burning fat as a fuel source.
So how do you build a solid aerobic foundation? How long does it take?
It’s actually quite simple really which is why it’s surprising that many get it wrong. Sometimes in training you need to go slow!! Go slow to go fast. To get faster and to build the aerobic foundation we need to swim, ride and run at our own individual aerobic heart rates. I have touched on this formula in previous articles but once you know it you need to spend 70-80% of your total training time in that zone. You’re either training above or below race pace, very little at race pace.
And when you do this over a period of weeks, months and years that aerobic pace becomes faster. And this is where people struggle because after a few weeks they lose patience and can’t handle the fact they might be going slow. Building an aerobic foundation is something you should do every year. It takes patience and discipline.
I have trained athletes and am still coaching those who can run a fast 10km in well under 40 minutes but have an aerobic pace of almost 6 minutes which is too slow in comparison. Everyone’s aerobic pace will be different but if you can run 35 min for 10km it is fair to say your aerobic training pace will sit somewhere between 4.30 and 5.00 min km’s.
I have an athlete at the moment that has improved his aerobic training pace by 20 sec per km in the last 3 months following this formula. This particular athlete had done too much intensity, was injured and starting to lose his love of the sport. It was about going back to basics, getting the aerobic foundation again and then building slowly from there. We’re now starting to add a little intensity into the program but it has taken 3 months before we’re even able to do a little bit. And this athlete has over 10 years in the sport already.
I always look at what the athlete needs and how they will respond to certain types of training. If an athlete comes to me with a solid aerobic foundation already I will prescribe a different strategy. One where there might be more intensity but again to the amount of intensity is different for some athletes.
Interval training will get a person fit quickly. It also has aerobic benefits but the benefits are greater once you have the aerobic foundation in place.