ATC 314: Top Workouts to Improve Threshold, How To Structure a Base Phase, and Finding A Compatible Coach

July 3, 2020


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Intro Discussion

Josh asks:

Programming a triathlon base phase

Hi, I am 38 years old and venturing into being self-coached with a little more structure rather than following random plans. I’m doing this as I transition from being mostly a runner who’s had fun but hasn’t been that serious about it, to now starting to train for triathlons (with the hope that we have options to races in early/mid- 2021). I plan to do Olympic and 70.3 next year and want to see how more quality training can get me closer to my potential.
Right now I want to make the commitment to base-phase training because that’s my weakness and what I need (especially the bike and swim) and am wondering does base mean ALL zone 1/zone 2, or do you include some intensity too, and if so how much or what types of high-intensity workouts make sense in a base phase? Is this an 80/20 kind of thing or 90/10? Or does it depend? (LOL). For the bike specifically, how do I work on improving my FTP in a base phase?
Secondly, what are the pros and cons to more of a “reverse periodization” if I were to do a lot of intensity and lower volume now, and then transition to more volume and less intensity basing this off racing 70.3s in 2021 sometime.
Thanks for the work you guys do and the detailed answers you always give!

What the Coaches Say:

  • It absolutely does depend on a number of factors: age, past training, durability, etc.
  • Joel Friel’s 12-week base period is often helpful. Consists of polarized base 1, 2, and 3.
  • You could do 30 weeks of base if you wanted, but watch out for stagnation and plateau.
  • Begin with the least specific and as you approach your race the training gets more specific.
  • Look at this base period as HR based or power based. Don’t get wrapped up on pace.
  • Don’t think about FTP during the base period.
  • If you say base phase training is your weakness, don’t put a time frame on it. You could easily do 8 weeks of base 1, another 8 of base 2, and another 8 of base 3.
  • For the swim, focus on kick and drills.
  • 90/10 or 95/5 approach is ok. The main goal should be to increase volume, not intensity.
  • This is absolutely a time to work on strength training and functional fitness.
  • The world is your oyster right now! You can do no wrong.

Marty asks:

My weakness is my LT–how do I increase it?

In response to your last show when Lucho talked about focusing on your weakness it got me to thinking that my weakness is my LT, it’s too low I think. I hit it at 150 HR according to tests and that’s pretty close to my MAF of 140. SHouldn’t my LT be closer to 160-165? I’ve been an endurance athlete for 8 years so I have been training regularly, mostly half-marathons and the occasional marathon. I also have a bike and ride regularly, but don’t do triathlon or race bikes.
What are your top 3- workouts and/or tips for improving LT? Both run and bike?

What the Coaches Say:

  • There’s a possibility that your MAF is too high. Consider going more zone based.
  • Is your endurance up to snuff? In order to develop a strong LT, you need to have endurance.
  • What type of training have you been doing? If you’ve been doing a lot of intensity, step back and just do MAF for 6-8 weeks.
  • Maybe the test was an off day. What other variables are at play?
  • Assuming your MAF is correct and the LT test is correct, your LT is bad… as you know 🙂 LT should be more like 20-25 beats above MAF.
  • Threshold workouts for run and bike are similar, though bike is more durational.
    • You need to go into them rested and fueled (with carbs), then rest after them because they’re fatiguing.
    • Best bike: 2 x 20 minutes steady state LT (advanced!)
      • Start with: 2 x 10 FTP, 3 x 15, 3 x 20, then up to 2 x 20. 1 minute rest in between intervals, but take as long as you need to hit the target.
      • If you need an even more gradual entryway: 4 x 5 min.
      • “In n outs” for 20 minutes can also be helpful, as it engages your brain.
    • You can do the same for the run.
    • Mile repeats on the run at 10 seconds faster than LT pace is ok, but all-out sprints isn’t as helpful.

Megan asks:

How to go about researching for a new coach?

I am a long time listener and look forward to listening to your podcast every weekend during my long runs. Without knowing it; Tawnee & Lucho have guided me through 2 Boston marathons and a handful of shorter races. These 2 experts are the best!
Question for the podcast:
I am reaching out to see if you could offer any guidance on finding a running coach?
I have been coached by someone locally and built a strong foundation in strength, durability and endurance with her, however, due to the pandemic she has had to close her one on one coaching business (so sad and tragic).
Although I don’t know if marathons will happen in the fall, I am registered for the Chicago marathon in 16 weeks.
I’ve built a solid aerobic base using your guidance and MAF method- building up to a 100 mile run week at one point and can easily run 60+ miles on any given week without much strain.
My marathon PR is a 3:10 at Boston and am really just looking to hold around that fitness, maybe shave off a few minutes if possible.
Searching now for a running coach just to help set up a training schedule that gives me adaptation without running my body into the ground.
Can you help?
Thank you again for all that you do!
PS: Lucho’s Instagram workouts are awesome!

What the Coaches Say:

  • Start with the methodology. If you’re a fan of MAF, find someone who is already using MAF or is willing to incorporate it into their approach.
    • Of course, this is difficult. There’s no database of coaches and their philosophies.
  • Don’t settle for someone who says it’s “my way or the highway.” You want a coach who’s flexible and can adapt to your needs.
  • You clearly have a lot of motivation and the potential to push yourself over the edge. You need someone who can rein you in.
  • You’ll want a coach who will monitor your recovery (whether that’s quantitative or qualitative is up to you).
  • You want a coach who will give you what you need: you don’t need a cheerleader. You want a legit guide.
  • Start stalking people on social media! This includes coaches and athletes. Put out feelers from there.
  • Ask local running clubs (online for now).
  • If there’s a big-time coach you like, see which coaches follow/engage with them on social media.
  • Before committing to a coach, see if you can do a 15-minute phone call or a short email exchange. You want to make sure it’s a good fit.

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