Learn how to grow your base fitness to keep going stronger for longer.
Base-phase training is about increasing your endurance, thereby improving your cardiovascular system. A typical base-phase training session would involve riding for two or more hours at a steady pace (zone 2/Endurance).
This type of training will result in increased capillary and mitochondria growth, enabling more oxygen to travel to working muscles. While endurance training may not directly make you faster, it will prepare the body for the demands of high intensity training and racing later in the season.
While the professional riders may have enough hours in the day to clock up time in the saddle and build a strong base, most of us are much more limited for time. Mainly I find that the athletes I coach can manage to fit one longer ride in each week which is a great start! Generally I would recommend increasing the duration of this longer ride gradually throughout the 8-12 week base phase, from around two hours up to five hours. This of course depends a lot on the age of the athlete and the style of event they are training for.
SUB-THRESHOLD OR “SWEET SPOT” TRAINING
So, what to do with the precious few remaining training hours you may have? Generally, during the week, working athletes will have around one to two hours to fit a quick training ride in each day. While training in zone 2 for longer time periods will improve cardiovascular fitness, training for shorter periods of time in this zone will have very little benefit. Instead I would recommend including intervals at sub-threshold pace. Sub-threshold zone training is commonly referred to as ‘Sweet Spot’ training.
According to internationally renowned exercise physiologist, Andrew Coggan, your ‘sweet spot’ occurs at 88 to 94 per cent of your Functional Threshold Power (FTP), or roughly 95 percent of your Threshold Heart Rate (THR). Including intervals at 100% FTP is one sure way to help lift your Threshold Power; but such training is very taxing on the body and therefore needs to be limited in duration and frequency. Dropping the intensity of the intervals to be within that sweet spot range will mean your body copes far better and therefore you can include more intervals. I recommend including at least six weeks of sub-threshold zone training prior to riding at and above threshold intensity.