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Embrace your base

Now is the perfect time to work on your endurance fitness.

Photo by: Getty Images

With a summer of no racing, the beautiful weather offers a great opportunity to work on your base-level fitness.

It is shaping up to be a very unusual year in triathlon. Numerous races have been cancelled or postponed, group training is on pause, or happening with modified rules, and swimming pools are only starting to re-open. The normal rhythms of a triathlon season have been dramatically upset.

Although there are definitely many negative elements to this situation, which I don’t want to make light of or minimize, what if I were to say that this is also an opportunity to become an even better athlete?  Here’s how.

If this was a typical year in triathlon, the race season across most of Canada would be building towards its peak. Consequently, athletes would be increasing the intensity of their workouts to prepare for upcoming races. This higher intensity work would also require longer recovery. A typical race season might also include several races, each likely involving a multi-week cycle of build-peak-race-recover. The net effect of this is that many weeks during the summer are spent recovering from or preparing for hard workouts or races.

Related: 7 Keys to effective run training for masters triathletes

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Without the need for more intense workouts or for weeks to prepare and recover from races we can get by with much less down-time than during a typical triathlon summer. We will simultaneously be blessed with the best weather of the year, making it easy to move more workouts outdoors, where longer durations and distances are more enjoyable and manageable.

All this leads me to the silver-lining of the triathlon season. You have an unprecedented opportunity to work on your base-level fitness. The peak weather for the typical outdoor triathlon season in much of Canada lasts from about mid-June to mid-September. This is about 14 weeks of the best weather of the year. You can enjoy being on the bike for many hours outdoors without the need for many layers of gear. The sun is up early enough that you could complete a mid-week long run in full sunlight before anyone else in your world is awake.

I encourage you to take advantage of these opportunities. Have you wanted to move up to longer distance triathlon but been intimidated by the long bike rides? Are you thinking about running your first marathon, but have never run farther than a 10km? Do you want to run a multi-stage trail race, but haven’t wanted to dedicate an entire season to building up the run volume necessary to do that? Now you have the chance to do all of these – and very importantly – you can do it on your own schedule, without the need to cram all that volume into a small window of time before a race. This means you can really stretch out the build-up in a sensible way to greatly reduce the risks of developing an overuse injury.

As an example, if you are running 20 km a week right now, you could add between 2 to 4 km of running per week to your total and be running over 72km a week by the end of this time period. That is a huge gain in total weekly mileage for one summer, and at this rate of increase is well within the realm of possible. This would be a great way to set yourself up with a solid base for longer runs you are wanting to do in the future. Of course, everyone’s situation is different and I encourage you to seek quality advice on how best to progress from your current fitness and training level, but the opportunity to make great progress on your aerobic base is there for everyone.

Darian Silk is a triathlon coach and Certified Exercise Physiologist based in Toronto.  Read more about Darian at www.teamatomica.com or email him at darian@teamatomica.com.