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Big Base

General thoughts on base training for triathlons

By Owen Baggot

Our cycling club coach used to say the most important thing is that you ride 5, 000 km base before you start doing speed work or any hard training. Thatís about 3, 000 miles for those not on the metric system. You ride hard enough that you are working but not so hard that you canít do the same thing the next day. 700 km or 400 miles a week.

This, however, is not practical for triathletes that need to train for three disciplines. The same principle still applies though. You need to program your muscles to spin the gears on the bike and this is done with many miles on the bike. It makes sense for triathletes to dedicate themselves to ride a lot of steady miles in the early season. Doing some 250 miles weeks will rapidly increase cycling efficiency and help develop aerobic base which will help with all disciplines of triathlon. The same applies to swimming and running. Repetition for several hours will program the muscles to perform that motion more efficiently.

As with swimming and running, speed work improves cycling form. Riding very fast will improve your pedal stroke and form. However, in cycling we can cheat. With the gears on a bike you donít need to ride very fast to pedal very fast. Light gears and high cadence develop good cycling technique. The most efficient cadence for cycling is 90 to 110 rpms. Triathletes tend to spin closer to the 90 rpms, which more closely matches the cadence they should reach in running. Cadence rpm refers to the number of times one leg turns over in one minute during cycling and running. In bike training reaching 120 rpms is good for developing technique and aerobic fitness.

When you start interval training, a mix of hard and easy efforts, do it in a light gear. This will allow your tendons to adapt to the motion of cycling and the high rpms before you start hurting yourself with high intensity big gear work. Always use a low gear for recovery periods.

If you start out training in a lighter gear at a higher cadence when you progress to using larger gears you will automatically spin the bigger gears faster and go very fast on your bike.
As soon as the weather warms up, ride your bike a lot, long steady rides, light gears and high cadence. As the racing season gets closer ride less but ride faster. During the season ride even less but maintain quality and make sure you recover from your races and training sessions because without proper recovery there is no improvement.

 

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