Tri-athletes have to balance time in the multiple disciplines as well as the weight room, and for most of us that is also balanced with work or school, home, and, well, everything. With limited time available, the triathlete usually puts the least amount of time in the pool. This is understandable when you compare the relative time duration of each discipline in the typical race.
I would like to recommend a concept I have successfully used with my tri-athletes. Each year in December or January I ask my tri-athletes to put extra time in the water. The cold weather in most of the country makes it hard to be outside riding or running, so it is the perfect season to spend more time in the pool.
We spend a minimum of three weeks, but I strongly prefer four, and a maximum of six weeks doing “base building”. During this time, we do long sets of varying distances of freestyle on our base interval. The three to six weeks of base building will improve your swimming-specific endurance, allowing you to ride this increased endurance into and through the tri season on your normal workout schedule.
I like to describe it as a speed hump in the pool. If you never get in shape enough to get over the hump it will push you backwards all season. If you, however, you get in shape enough during the base building to get over the hump, you can then lean back on it for the season. This does not mean you can skip swimming for the season, you will be able to retain the speed increase for several months. I regularly have swimmers drop five seconds per hundred yards after completing three weeks of base building.
While this blog has been addressing my tri readers, I want to be clear that base building is not just for the Tris. Next week I will discuss constructing your own base building three-week program.
Up Next: How to build a three-week base building program.