News Letter April 2012

Welcome to the April edition of my News Letter.

Last month we learned that Base-Phase is all about laying down a foundation of fitness where the main objective is to condition the body to Distance & Duration. For most people participating in endurance events, Base-work will consume ALL of their training. They may not even reach full Training Distance but will only train up to around 75-80% of the race-distance and then rely on adrenalin to pull them through on the day. This approach is rather hit & miss and might be ok if you are just looking to complete the event but if you are aspiring to something better, maybe even a podium place, you will need more than race-day serendipity!
In simple terms, Build-Phase is all about developing SPEED. If Base-work represents the cake, then Build-work is the icing on top!
For each discipline there are always three elements to consider regardless of the phase of training, these are: Speed, Long Slow Distance (LDS) and Volume.
To help understand your training plan, view the timeline [from start of Base until the first Cat A race] as a progression where the mix of Speed/LSD/Volume changes to suit what you are trying to achieve.
Base-phase is mostly about achieving distance & duration, thus the dominant element is always LSD, then Volume, then Speed.
Build-phase is mostly about achieving speed, thus the dominant element is always Speed, then Volume, then LSD.
All aspects of your training plan should be progressive, for example, during Base-phase LSD develops up to full Training-distance and each Volume session (usually x2 per week) develops up to around 60-75% of full race-distance. Remember that full Training-distance is Race-distance plus ~10%.
Speed-work should also be progressive, however because it's so damaging [to muscle tissue] we need to be much more controlled in terms of frequency (of workouts) and duration.
Speed work is typically done as Interval Training and at a minimum of Race Pace, in other words >8.5/10 Perceived Effort or >85%HR(max). For shorter distances the required effort will be higher, maybe up to 95% or even 100% but this needs be be very controlled and requires many weeks/months of pre-conditioning.
At this point I can hear you asking, why, if I am training for endurance, should I do interval work that is mostly associated with anaerobic fitness?
There are several reasons, the first of which is a real myth-buster.
1.    Myth: Endurance activity is purely aerobic.
The truth is that the body has three different energy producing systems (immediate, short-term and long-term). The first two are anaerobic where as the latter is oxygen dependant or aerobic. Here's the thing.....
                        all three systems are active all of the time, it's just the mix that varies.
In short, they are in dynamic flux, the blend depending on the demands of physical activity placed upon them. In terms of athletic performance, any [low / moderate-intensity] activity that lasts more than ~5 minutes will predominanately draw upon the aerobic system, however given the complex nature of sporting activities the anaerobic systems will also be active, just to a lesser degree.
2. Another good reason for doing moderate / high-intensity interval-training [as part of your endurance programme] is that anaerobic training can increase the blood-buffering capacity of skeletal muscle. Exercising at race-pace will produce a lot of free Hydrogen ions within the blood and cells of the body. This acidosis quickly interferes with [the excitation-stages of] muscle contraction and leads to premature muscle fatigue.
3. Undertaking moderate / high-intensity interval training is also a good way to improve mental toughness and raise your pain-threshold. The ability to stay focused and dig deep when the going gets tough is definitely a pre-requisite of good/winning performance.
Once full Training-distance has been reached [end of Base-phase], aerobic conditioning can be maintained through repeated Volume sessions (2-3 per week) of 60-75% full Race-distance along with the occasional session at full Race-distance. The latter would typically be a Cat-B race done as a sub-peak time-trial.
For developing speed you should aim for 3-5 sessions per week, again planning for progression in distance/duration, sets and the number of sessions.
During Build-phase its not just the training variables [Speed/LSD/Volume] that changes, it's also the Recovery cycle.
A good training programme is one that strikes an optimal balance between stress and recovery. Adaptation is the body's response to the overload & stresses provided by training, this can only take place if the body is afforded both time and resources to repair itself. Given that speedwork is performed at a higher intensity than LSD & Volume work, its important to reduce the Recovery cycle to around 2:1, that's 2 weeks of effort followed by 1 week of recovery activities. There is no exact ratio as every training programme and every person, their condition and response is different.


Base - Phase

Build - Phase

End Point

Full Training Distance TD

First Cat-A Race


LSD - Volume - Speed

Speed - Volume - LSD


Minimal (typically 1-2 times per week), starting no earlier than week 3 of of Base-phase.

Predominant (typically 3-5 times per week)

Long Slow Distance LSD

Main focus



Typically x2 per week totalling the current LSD.

Typically x2-3 per week each @ <60-75% Race Distance, use to maintain aerobic conditioning.

Recovery Cycle (weeks)

3:1 (typically)

2:1 (typically)


So, how does your training plan stack-up?

Why not try some of these Training Sessions:

Speed Training - Run

Speed Training - Bike