Aerobic base trainingTriathlons are aerobic endurance events and may last for hours. Training consists of extended periods of swim, bike and run to teach the body the priority big 'S' (stamina). Learning about the aerobic energy system and how to train it is very important.
Aerobic versus anaerobicSteady-paced exercise that lasts several minutes or many hours, using oxygen to convert fats and carbohydrates into movement, is aerobic, i.e. with oxygen. Conversely, very fast efforts, e.g. 100-metre sprint races, can be achieved with no breathing, and are pure anaerobic efforts, i.e. without oxygen. If you go at the highest sustainable pace for one or several minutes, you will be using both aerobic and anaerobic energy systems. This produces a burning sensation and extremely heavy breathing.
'Base' or 'endurance' sessions are done at a 'guilt producingly easy' pace, so the muscles, blood, heart and lungs become more efficient at using fats. They may get harder as muscles fatigue, but they are fun and provide time to chill while thinking about good technique. These sessions should make up at least 80 per cent of your weekly training time.
Heart rate monitorsA heart rate monitor (HRM) can be used to assess your effort in bike and run sessions. There are three simple exercises that you can do:
1) During bike or run sessions when you are nose breathing (see below), check what heart rate you see just before you have to revert to mouth breathing. This gives 75-80 per cent of maximum heart rate, or the upper limit of aerobic training.
2) When you are racing or giving a sustained fast effort, see what heart rate you can maintain. When your breathing becomes erratic and the burning sensation in your muscles is overpowering, you have just gone past your anaerobic threshold. This will be around 80-85 per cent of maximum heart rate, or your short distance racing pace.
3) This exercise is optional, as it requires you to push yourself to the limit. It's best done on a bike indoors where few accidents can happen. Gradually increase your speed by 1 mph every 2 minutes until you are flat out, then try to sprint for 30 seconds. A helper should see your HR (heart rate) peak in this sprint effort. This is your maximum heart rate, or the peak value if you failed to push yourself to exhaustion. Running max HR will be around 5-10 beats higher.
Top TipNose breathing is a way to invoke good breathing mechanics and ensure that your pace is a true aerobic effort. Pushing hard and nose breathing don't go together well.