Base Training in the Correct Heart Rate Zone

Now is an important time of the year for triathlon training. During the winter months it is very important to focus on what is called “base training”. Base training involves doing workouts in a specific heart rate zone, primarily with a heart rate cap for a given workout. During base training we are trying to focus on working our slow oxidative muscle fibers. To work solely on this metabolic system, we need to workout in the corresponding heart rate range.

An easy and accurate way to calculate what your maximum heart rate (HR MAX) should be is to subtract your age from 220. Then take 80% of this HR MAX to find what your heart rate cap should be for base training workouts:

HR MAX = 220 – (age)

Heart Rate Cap for Base Training = HR MAX x 0.8

It is important to stay in this base training heart range for whatever workout you are doing. For some, this might seem like a fairly low heart rate. However, STAY WITHIN THE ZONE. Over a period of a few weeks, you will start to see that you can workout faster and longer at the same heart rate than when you started. For example, if at the given heart rate you are swimming repeat 100s your pace might start at 1:45/100 yards.  After a few weeks you will start to see that pace drop significantly and you might be holding a 1:30 pace for 100 repeats at the same heart rate. You will see the same results for run and bike paces at your given heart rate.

By working on your base training you are able to workout at faster paces without recruiting other muscle fibers that fatigue quicker. This phase of training is termed “base” training because it is the base on which you will build all of our racing and speed training on top of. A strong base allows you to maintain your fitness while you focus on speed work leading up to the racing season.

- Kyle