After setting up a solid foundation through base training, it’s time to move on to honing more race-specific skills in the build phase
Photos by Javier Lobregat
In case you haven’t noticed, there are only eight weeks left before Alveo Ironman 70.3. Depending on your training compliance, this probably means you’ve managed to establish a decent base and you’re now well on your way to the second block of “build” training.
On the other hand, if you’re a self-professed crammer who’s just about to start training, it may not be a good idea to follow the “build” training program now, especially if you’re starting from scratch. The operative word here is “build,” and so if you haven’t established a solid base yet, there wouldn’t be many fundamental skills to build on—which would just beat the whole purpose of the “build” phase.
It’s crucial that your body is ready for more high volume work, in which case you should continue building your base but with a special focus on improving the specific skills that will prepare you for the demands of racing. Here’s a guide to that:
It’s important to note that the build phase is a crucial step towards achieving peak fitness. The same way that you shouldn’t skip base training and go straight to the build phase, I also wouldn’t recommend skipping this phase either. If your high-priority race is fast approaching, prioritize base training before you move on to a shortened build phase. You may not reach your peak fitness as scheduled but it could just be a matter of managing your expectations for the upcoming race and looking for another one further down the road, if possible.
If your goal is to perform at your best, the build phase is a critical step in developing specific performance capabilities for each discipline. This is the time when training volume is increased with just the right amount of rest in order to create positive training adaptations that translate to significant performance gains in swimming, biking, and running.
What to expect in the build phase
The build phase targets the same three main training abilities as the base phase: muscular endurance, aerobic endurance, and speed/form/power. The build program is likewise structured using a combination of workouts including short but higher intensity intervals that work on elevating your VO2 max and anaerobic threshold, longer steady-state efforts at tempo, sweet spot, or threshold pace as well as sessions done at aerobic endurance pace but longer in duration.
The targeted specific skills may be the same but the main difference is that the volume in terms of intensity and duration is much higher—almost like the sustained efforts you would face during a race. You’ll notice that short interval sessions are now done at higher intensities, often with shorter recoveries. There will also be an increase in length or duration of steady-state intervals done at or beyond 70.3 pace, including some bursts at slightly above your aerobic threshold. Endurance sessions will also increase in duration, with some steady-state intervals at or near your 70.3 race pace within the session.
Racing while training (and vice versa)
With regard to racing, the build phase is a good time to throw in a few low-priority races into the mix in lieu of structured workouts week in and week out. While I wouldn’t recommend scheduling a 70.3 event during this phase, you might want to consider sharing the load and participating as a relay team. You also have the option of joining open-water swims, time trials or road racing, or signing up for a 21K run or a shorter distance multisport event. Again, it’s important to emphasize that the assumption here is that you’ve done the recommended amount of base work needed to support the physiological demands of this next phase.
Download the full version of the build training program here.
If you have any questions, feedback, or suggestions, comment below or e-mail at [email protected].