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Winter Training: The Base Phase

During the winter months, if I was your coach and I oversaw your training, I would rather see you swim 500 meters of near perfect freestyle than 3,000 meters of inefficient freestyle. I would rather see you bike for an hour at a cadence that is efficient for you, than see you ride four hours with inefficient pedal and power output. I would rather see your running form efficient and proud, than seeing it breaking down in several areas.

We are triathletes. We are self-motivated and self-disciplined. No one forces us out of bed every morning to drive to swim practice in the dark or to go for the morning run when there is a chill in the air. This is a great attribute you have, but it can also contribute later in the year for not improving your performance. The winter months is a time to improve your form in all three disciplines so that later, when it is time to train your body at a higher intensity, you will be more efficient with your energy usage and perform better. I often see athletes training too hard early in the year, only to burn out both physically and mentally weeks before their big race. It is important to set your goals and to have constructive workouts during the base phase.

Goal Setting – The Mental Foundation

To begin your training season, you first need to use your brain synapses. Determine what your goals are going to be for the season. Goals are to be measurable. You need to know you are getting closer to your goal. For instance, your goal may be to finish your “A” priority Olympic distance triathlon in a time of 2:17. Dissect your goal further and determine that you plan on doing a 24 minute swim, a 1:14 bike and a 39 minute run. In addition, you can have short-term goals to maintain your motivation such as running a 10K race in March under 37:45. A goal should be under your control. Saying you are going to place top eight in your age group is not a goal because you don't know who will be showing up at the race. A goal should be in the positive, such as I am going to finish in under twelve hours and eight minutes. Don't say my goal is to not finish in over fourteen hours. Finally, a goal must be a challenge, yet realistic. You can't have a goal that you are going to do an Ironman race under nine hours if the last one you did took fourteen hours. A challenging, yet realistic goal will help maintain your motivation.

Now that you have determined your goals and you have them on your computer, bedroom post, in your car, office desk and bathroom mirror, start the process of achieving these goals. As I stated earlier, you must strive for efficiency in all three disciplines. If the swim is more inefficient than your cycling, you will want to spend more time on your swim in the winter months. Work on your weaknesses, while still maintaining your strengths as much as possible. Training, especially the winter months, is about trying to improve your limiters in the sport. Now that you have your goals set, it is time to set your agenda for training during the base phase.

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