What is base building?

Base building is the general phase of the annual training plan/progression where an athlete develops the fitness or chronic training load to complete their goal races. Each race has a specific demand in terms of overall training preparedness.

Focus areas:

  • Increase overall training duration to target peak training load by end of base period
  • Develop pace & power in line with a specific (10) % improvement target
  • Improve skills especially in the swim and bike handling
  • Address strength imbalances & weaknesses and other performance limiters

The workouts throughout the base should be sufficiently targeted and frequent to elicit a specific training response for each focus area. The way to get better at anything is repetition.

Elite athletes prepare with significantly higher target training loads for their A-races than do age-groupers. The guidelines below are informative. Intermediate athletes should consider the lower end of each range when setting the target training load  As you become a more durable athlete over multiple seasons, consider higher training loads in your annual training plan balancing work, home, and rest.

Target CTL Chart



Often athletes believe base development is all about going low & easy, and the build phase is about working hard with high intensity. I would prefer to look at it as a general & specific phase in order to be more precise.

  • Base (General) – Developing your chronic training load (CTL) or fitness to a level that is appropriate to your goal race.
  • Build (Specific) – Executing specific training that simulates race intensities, requirements, and conditions.

The Specificity Principle is a principle that states that exercising a certain body part, component of the body, or particular skill primarily develops that part or skill.

Each event that an athlete trains for has specific intensity, duration, and skill requirements. Assuming a well developed base has been developed during the general phase, each athlete should turn to executing race simulation workouts each week when approx. 8-10 weeks away from their goal race. Specific workouts should become the predominant focus.


This means that during the specific phase, long course athletes will tend to execute longer lower intensity workouts, while short course athletes will focus on higher intensity workouts. General development for these two types of athletes could be quite similar in structure, but the annual training plans will diverge as each athlete enters the specific phase of their annual training progression.

Simulate your race by executing workouts on terrain that matches or is more difficult than your goal race, practicing your race nutrition, and pacing at the intensity you intend to execute for your race.

Another way to to think about specificity: There are no miracles on race day, just execution of what you have already practiced and experienced in training.


USAT Level II Endurance coaching clinic rocks!

Such a great clinic! Special thanks to Linda Cleveland, M.S. USAT Coach Development Senior Manager and the clinic presenters:

  • Jesse Kropelnicki, MS – USAT Level III, ACSM CpT,  NSCA CSCS
  • Ian Murray – USAT Level III, ITU & USAC Level II, Bike Fit Instructor: Cannondale’s Guru Academy & Dan Empfield’s Fit Institute Slowtwitch,  USAC Certified Race Mechanic
  • Karen Allen Turner, USAT L2 Coach, 2016 Team USA Coach

The following sessions really resonated with me:

  • Periodization for Long Course
  • Workout Design and Application for Long Course
  • Advanced Nutrition for Long Course
  • Strength Training for Long Course
  • Video Analysis and Application for Long Course
  • Advanced Running for Long Course
  • Psychological Assessment and Application

As a final task, each of us were asked to present an athlete training plan based upon an assigned scenario. Each scenario presented a unique and challenging athlete situation. Topics covered a wide spectrum:

  • Kona qualification
  • Disordered eating
  • Pro performance
  • New Iron distance athletes
  • Iron distance recovery
  • Limited training time
  • Critical training volume
  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Mental skills
2017 USAT Level 2 Endurance clinic coaches (Kona, HI)

The final presentations by all the attending coaches showed how detailed and specific our approaches have become.

Each coach presentation brought out innovative problem solving strategies for a diverse range of coaching challenges.

The presentations were the highlight of the week.

Key insights from the clinic:

  1. Critical Training Volume – What it takes to resist breakdown of performance during racing & key metrics to strive for in athletic development.
  2. Nutrition approaches for the athlete to optimize body composition, training adaptation, and race fueling
  3. Triathlon specific strength development to resist injury and improve form

As is always the case when attending formal accreditation classes, I walked away a stronger coach with new ideas and approaches that will strengthen the Startline coaching squad in 2018.

2017 off season group training here we go. Prepare for a great 2018 race season.