The importance of a good base - Scott Findlay

Published: 04.07.2019


This is the first of a series of 4 blogs that are written to support people training the SportPursuit Slateman triathlon.

We are all in a pretty weird sport, people comment all the time about how fit or crazy we must be to attempt a triathlon. Partially because of that, there’s a bit of a craze of completing really tough sessions. Some people are determined to have the biggest training day and show how tough they are. I believe that although big days can be fun and beneficial, consistency of training wins every day of the week.

Consistency in your training day to day, week to week, month to month will bring about much greater fitness benefits than one big session. The main benefit that I’m talking about is your aerobic capacity, base, fitness - whatever you want to call it. Your base is the thing that will allow you to get through a triathlon, regardless of the distance, without calling it a day.

If you are planning on racing at the SportPursuit Slateman on 18th/19th May then not to worry as you still have plenty time to build a base. The physiology behind base fitness is that, obviously your body needs energy to function. So we breathe in oxygen that gets transported through the blood to the mitochondria in our muscles which then use it to provide us with energy. The two limiting factors in this process are how much oxygen we can get to the muscles and how quickly/efficiently the muscles can use it. The first factor is down to how well developed our heart and circulatory system are. The second is down to number and efficiency of the mitochondria in our muscles. What is the most established way to improve both of these? Aerobic / base training! That’s why since my off-season break I have been completing a lot of work that’s below 75% of my threshold.

Why’s this so important? For me it’s because I love to race. All the training I do is because I want to reach my races in peak shape to do the best I can but also because that’s what my season is building towards. Which means that my training is based around what is best for me rather than what’s the most enjoyable or fun. So going back to my opening statement, I try to avoid those killer days because I need to get to my races in one piece. This is especially important for running where injuries are a lot more prevalent. Base training allows your muscles, ligaments and tendons to build up some strength so they can support harder training. Speedwork at the track can wait until closer to the season once my body is ready for it. I once heard someone say “Speedwork is the icing on the cake, and you don’t even have a cake yet” - the cake is the base work, the foundation that supports any faster / harder sessions. As I said I am a racer. I train because I enjoy racing so I would rather reach a race at 90% fitness feeling good than at 100% with a bit of an injury.

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So what might this look like for you?

I know you’re probably itching to get your new Aqua Sphere wetsuit on but it’s a bit cold yet (for most people!). So go get your MP Michael Phelps swim suit on and start doing some longer intervals. After a proper warm up 4-6 x 400-800m at a pace you can manage to hold for all repetitions (but no you don’t need to do 6 x 800m! Aim for a combination that suits a session distance that’s going to push you).

Almost time to get outside on the bikes but for now try 3-5 x 10 minute level 3 intervals to build up your aerobic capacity. Hold level 2 to recover between them.

Get out into the hills (even if it’s snowing!). No matter what distance you are doing, the SportPursuit Slateman, even the Sprint distance has over 200m of climbing in it so now is the time to be getting easy base miles in the hills.

About me:
My name is Scott Findlay and I am a coach with the Hartree JETS Triathlon Team. I studied a Bachelors in Sport & Exercise Science, a Masters in Sports Performance Enhancement and I hold UKCC Level 2 Triathlon Coaching and Swim Teaching certificates. I have raced around the world including ITU Long Distance World Champs, ETU Sprint Champs, The Challenge Family - The Championship and this year am focusing on some of the finest races in the UK. I am proud to be an Aqua Sphere ambassador for open water and triathlon and an MP Michael Phelps ambassador in the pool. Follow me on Social Media; Twitter / Instagram: @SNFindlay