Back to Base!

Back to Base meaning!

There seems to be a lot of confusion among athletes about the base period of training. This is the time of year when you train to train, not train to race. That means in base you are preparing the body for the greater stresses that will follow in the build period. Build starts immediately after base ends about 12 weeks before your first A-priority race of the season. In the build period you will be training with workouts that are very much like the stresses you will experience in racing. There is a big difference between training to train and training to race and yet I see athletes in base doing the very same workouts they will be doing a few weeks before their first big event – anaerobic intervals, hill repeats, tempo and bricks. These are all workouts intended to prepare you for the stresses of racing.

So what should you do differently in base period workouts? The best way to answer this question is to divide the base period into three sub-periods of three to four weeks each – base 1, base 2 and base 3. The training stress in each of these periods gradually increases so that by the end of base 3 you are much more generally fit than when you started base 1 and you are ready to begin training for the specific stresses of racing. Let’s take a look at the typical workouts for each of these three base periods.


Prior to base 1 you were in the prep period and basically just getting back into the routine of working out again. There was little or no structure to your training and you were doing, essentially, whatever you felt like in workouts. The sessions did not have to be limited to swimming, biking and running. You could do anything as long as it was fully aerobic, meaning low intensity.

The prep period is a time when I have the athletes I coach cross-training, taking classes, using aerobic machines at the gym or anything else they enjoy. I also have them doing functional strength training with a focus on their unique physical needs. The weight loads are light and the repetitions high with an emphasis on good form. This prep period may last for two to six weeks.

Base 1

Count backwards 23 weeks from your first A-priority race of the season to find the starting point for base 1. When it starts the training shifts toward an emphasis on swimming, biking and running. Functional strength and strength training continue only now the loads become heavier as the reps are decreased. Your purpose here is to create excellent strength for the muscles associated with the movements of swimming, biking and running.

Sport-specific training consists of only two types of workouts for now – aerobic endurance and speed skills. Aerobic endurance workouts are long sessions done mostly in your heart rate 2 zone or its equivalent power and pace. These long, aerobic sessions get longer by about 10 to 20 percent each week until you reach your long workout goal durations based on the event for which you are training.

Image: Training data following a BF athlete’s turning sessions demonstrates just how they should perform sessions at this stage, Zone 2 HR and pace predominantly.

Speed skill workouts are intended to improve your technique in each sport. This should include drills for aspects of your techniques that are in need of refinement, paying close attention to your movement patterns, video recording and review and feedback from authorities such as coaches and knowledgeable athletes.

Base 2

Base 2 starts 19 weeks before your A-priority race. The main change is the introduction of sport-specific muscular force training with hill work incorporated into steady, moderate effort bike and run workouts. For swimming paddles and drag devices will help to create more force. The intensity of these workouts stays below your lactate threshold.

Aerobic endurance and speed skills workouts continue as before. The strength sessions continue, also the endurance sessions continue to get longer as the technique sessions continue as in base 1.

Base 3

The last base period begins about 15 weeks before your A-priority event. Then main change is muscular endurance training is introduced. This involves long intervals in the range of 6 to 12 minutes done at about the lactate threshold with very short recoveries that are about 25 percent of the work interval duration. Twenty to 40 minutes of cumulative lactate threshold training within one workout each week is generally quite effective. Build to a higher volume over the course of three weeks.

Strength, aerobic endurance, speed skills and force training continue as in base 2.

Other Matters

It is usually best for athletes who recover slowly, such as older competitors and novices, to do four, three-week periods instead of three, four-week periods. So these athletes will follow a plan including base 1, base 2, base 3 and base 3 again. They will still end up with 12 weeks of base training but will have more frequent rest.

And as for rest, both groups, whether doing three-week or four-week periods, will recover with short and low-intensity workouts for four to six days in the last week of each base period. This will help to prevent overuse injury, illness, burnout and overtraining. BF adopts a rest and swim test week.

By following a base training program such as this you will arrive at the start of the build period some 11 weeks before the first A-priority race with good general fitness. In the build period the workouts will take on the characteristic stresses you expect to encounter in racing. This will be the time for anaerobic intervals, hill repeats, tempo and bricks.


The BF services hit the holistic style of training, incorporating endurance, strength recovery and nutrition, i.e. #BlueprintOfPerformance, thereby giving the client a balanced approach to training and life! You are welcome to join this ever-evolving client-driven business.

✅ COACHING: 4 spots available for online coaching. Also, swim analysis and Wattbike Testing throughout the season.

✅ NUTRITION PROGRAM: January full, 3 spots in February. Providing a personalised plan for training & racing.

✅ STRENGTH PROGRAM FOR THE ENDURANCE ATHLETE: Fully coached, periodised seasonal program, starts the 6th January.