Every great athlete will do a form of aerobic base training during their annual training cycle. This element of training forms a key part of a successful program. When we talk about aerobic base training we are normally referring to a phase of training where the primary focus is to development our aerobic fitness, efficiency and conditioning. To put it simply, we are trying to prepare the body for a higher workload later on in the training cycle so that we do not risk injuring ourselves doing something that our bodies are not yet ready for. For runners in particular, this period of time is a perfect opportunity to gradually increase the total run duration and overall weekly mileage.
When you consider a complete training cycle, it makes a lot of sense to thing about each individual phase forming a pyramid, with aerobic training forming the base of that pyramid. As you move up the pyramid we see an increase in intensity. When viewed this way, the wider the base of the pyramid, the higher the eventual peak will be.
During the current climate we find ourselves in, with most races being postponed or cancelled, now is the perfect time to ‘extend’ our aerobic base training cycle and build a bigger ‘base’ to our pyramid, so that when the next phase of our training cycle can begin, we will be well prepared to cope with the demands of increased intensity and more physically taxing workouts, thus resulting in a higher peak.
So what exactly are the benefits of aerobic base training?
- First and foremost, aerobic base training when done correctly helps to promote the growth of our slow twitch muscle fibres, which allows energy to be produced faster. Therefore, overtime, efforts that feel easy will become faster and faster. What’s more, this method of training as I have mentioned, sets the foundations that allows you to utilise larger training volumes and higher training intensities. This is important since we know that as well as intensity, a key feature of most successful endurance athletes is the use of large training volumes.
Increased Training Volume
- If we want to successfully increase our training volume, it is important that we train efficiently, recover well and avoid injury. Aerobic base training better prepares your body for the greater demands of both increased training volumes and the increased use of higher intensity training which is key to successfully executing an endurance training plan.
- Low intensity training sessions are also much easier to recover from, and as a result, this allows us to put more effort into the higher intensity sessions so that greater performance adaptions can be made. In addition to this, aerobic base training leads to improved delivery of oxygen and key nutrients to the working muscles, and improved muscular endurance, which will only help us to recover faster. This could be recovery from harder sessions, or even the recovery periods taken in between efforts during a hard session. However you look at it, this means we are able to train more effectively and see greater adaptation as training intensity increases.
Reduced Risk Of Injury
- Another reason why aerobic base training is done at the start of a training cycle and fundamentally forms the foundations of our training is because it allows our muscles, tendons and joints to gradually adapt to the training load. A key objective during this time is to strengthen these areas by gradually increasing our training volume, but also incorporating some strength and conditioning work, all of which is going to help our bodies to cope with the higher demands of raining later down the line, and hopefully avoid injuring ourselves.
Lower Stress Levels
- For a training plan to be successful, there needs to be a good balance between training stress/fatigue and recovery. A feature that is key to all training cycles, is the gradual increase in training volume and intensity. This followed by a recovery week, or gradual taper if leading into an event is essential to every athlete in order to have the time to adapt to training stresses. Like every phase of training, this will be individual to the athlete. As well as physical stress, aerobic base training also applies less physiological stress on the athlete, which again allows us to gradually adapt to training, both physically and mentally. One of the major components to any successful training plan is consistency, therefore as we prepare the body for the higher demands of training, we are also preparing the mind.
Hopefully this article has been of some help in guiding you toward a successful aerobic base training phase. With races unlikely to take place until the end of the year, now is the perfect time to extend this period of training and build a huge foundation to your pyramid which will ultimately see you hit a much higher peak later down the line!
Photo credit - Two26 Photography
Coach from Ely
Age group: 25-29
Club: Ely Tri Club