5 common base training mistakes
Going too hard, building too quickly, and inconsistency will all get in the way of a successful season buildup.
Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.
It’s funny how everything seems to come in cycles. As the earth completes a cycle of its own, the calendar cycles back toward the start of the year, and many people cycle their training back to the base phase.
For the last several months many people have been peaking, finishing up their final hard workouts of the year, or even taking some time off before starting the pursuit all over again. No matter when your training cycle begins, it’s best to start in the base training phase to build a solid foundation for the season ahead.
Here are the five biggest mistakes I see people make during base training:
Going too hard
In the society we live in, we glorify hard work. The harder someone works, the more credit we give them and the more we pat them on the back. With base training though, harder isn’t always better. In fact, it rarely is.
During base training we are attempting to build physiological adaptations that can only occur when we are operating aerobically (or with oxygen). These adaptations include but are not limited to, increasing the amount of blood your heart can pump per beat therefore decreasing heart rate, as well as increasing capillary density and efficiency, and increasing blood flow to muscles. It will also increase your mitochondria size and number which gives your body more energy availability.
When you give into the temptation to push harder than you should during base training you take away your body’s ability to complete some or all of these very important tasks of adaptation. In turn, you may enter into your next phase of training under-prepared. The next time you feel guilty for not pushing yourself “hard-enough” during a ride, shake off that feeling and remember your overall goals. Going easy takes discipline, too.
As they say, good things take time. There is no way to rush through base training. These adaptations take time. The time duration that you need to spend in base training will vary from rider to rider depending on their goals and their experience levels. That said, no one, even the top pros, get to skip base training all together.
Don’t be tempted to cut your base training short when you see a race pop up on the early season calendar. One or two weeks in the base phase is not long enough to start building high intensity on top of. Ideally, as a general rule of thumb, try to spend 12 weeks in the base training phase.
Building too quickly
Since you can’t go hard, why not go extra long, right? Not necessarily. Especially at the beginning of base training many people get overly excited. They feel motivated based on new goals and they feel refreshed from their time off of the bike. Some people start with such a high volume of training that they have no way to build. If you start with too high of a volume you risk burn out or injury later in the season.
Aim to only increase your volume by about 10 percent from one week to the next.
Stopping too often
Coffee shop rides will forever be a staple in base training. That said, stopping too often or for too long can hinder your ability to make improvements. One of the goals of base training is to build durability and endurance. These things come by riding without interruption. A stop here or there to refuel or a stop at the end of your ride is fine. Try to avoid stopping for an entire lunch break, though.
It’s so much better to train for small amounts of time consistently than for big amounts with days off in between. People are tempted by monster rides and efforts and then need to take days or even weeks off in between to recover or catch up on other obligations. Don’t fall into that trap. Instead, base your training durations on what you know you can consistently maintain.
Feeling intimidated? Remember that something is always better than nothing so just saddle up and start turning over the pedals. Often times, everything else will take care of itself.