Building a Strong Running Base: A Quick How-to and Why You Should.

Build a base! Now is a great time to. Base building isn’t sexy. Most people don’t brag about their weeks on end of easy to moderate runs for time, but I strongly believe proper base building helps set you up for successful training cycles. 

Reasons you should build a base:

  • You will increase aerobic efficiency. You will get your body used to using oxygen in its most efficient way possible. 
  • You can see an improvement in your VO2max (especially new runners!).
  • If you don’t gradually build a base before jumping into training, you risk an adverse reaction when stressing your body.
  • Taking time to build a base helps set you up for success with your next training cycle.
  • Consistently running again will help your body get used to the stress without unnecessary risk of injury.
  • You will work on your mental strength without the added pressure of racing.

How-to start incorporating more running:

  • Start with easy runs. Save speed/high-intensity for your next building phase.
  • Run for time. Set a goal of running for 15 minutes, get outside, and do not worry about the distance you cover.
  • Aim for one longer run a week. Make it work with your schedule. If you have more time to run on Wednesdays, then make that your long run day. Set yourself up for success.
  • Alternate with cross training days. If you enjoy cycling, swimming, yoga, etc — make sure these activities have a place in your schedule. Try not to run many consecutive days in a row in the beginning.
  • If the weather is extra terrible, sub for cross training. The beauty of not officially ‘training’ means you can let yourself skip running in the blizzard and cross train any time you’d like. Cross training is a key part of base building. 
  • Make it fun. Have a run date with your partner. Run to the library to pick up a book. Use your running time as podcast listening time. Think of ways to make each run more fun or productive — it can help make sure you don’t skip it. 

If you get back to consistency, you will have fewer runs where your mind tells you “I want to stop.” You will be building mental toughness, even if you are not running hard speed workouts. Consistency BEFORE intensity.

A sample week for someone coming back to running after an extended break:

  • Monday: Run 10-15 minutes
  • Tuesday: cross train
  • Wednesday: Run 20 minutes
  • Thursday: rest day
  • Friday: Run 10-15 minutes
  • Saturday: cross train
  • Sunday: Run 30 minutes

Don’t be afraid to throw in some walk minutes. Do not stress about how fast you go! This isn’t a set example for every runner. Some people can jump into more time right away. Some need a little less. Depends on your running history. But for example if you have been running 0-10 miles a week, do not try to automatically jump back into 40 miles a week. Or if you have been running 40 miles a week, do not jump right up to 80 mile weeks. Gradual is the key word.

Work on your mileage base for 4-8 weeks before progressing, if time allows. Then move into the next phase of building where you add speed back for 4-8 weeks. 

You can do it. 

Start now. It is a great time to build a base. Try to hold yourself accountable and work on making running a consistent part of your routine again. 

Base building is not always the ~fun part of training, but it is an essential part. Do not be afraid to dedicate real effort to building a strong base. If you feel really good some days, go a little faster and if the easy days feel good, enjoy the easy. Let this base building time remind you why you love to run in the first place. 

And if you want a little extra guidance and accountability, coaches are out there to help you reach your goals.