Three ways to build a strong running base this winter

While it’s exciting to be training toward a very distinct goal race or distance, it’s important to have a strong running base before you begin to direct your effort toward something more intense. Having a strong aerobic and structural foundation to build on helps prevent injuries, and your body will adapt more easily when you introduce race-specific training. Even experienced runners should consider inserting a base-building block (or several) into their training.

The colder months are a great time to focus on your base before ramping up your training for the spring race season–a running base is usually built over a minimum of four weeks. Here’s how, and why, you can build a strong base this winter.

What exactly is base-building?

On his website, McMillan Running, renowned endurance coach Greg McMillan explains there are five goals of base-building. Runners work toward building aerobic efficiency, improving musculoskeletal durability, improving their ability to burn fat rather than carbohydrate as fuel, improving the endurance of fast twitch muscle fibres and creating a tireless mental state. While that list might seem daunting, the key components are actually as simple as going back to basics, which essentially means lots of easy running.

1.- Keep your runs at a conversational pace

While speedwork is essential when prepping for a race, base-building is a time to keep your runs easy and comfortable. You should be able to talk easily throughout your run, and your effort should consistently feel very manageable. Slow running builds muscular strength and teaches your cardio, respiratory and muscular systems to work more efficiently. It also increases the quantity and size of mitochondria, improving oxygen use and glycogen stores.

If you struggle with keeping to an easy pace, adding strides—short accelerations of 80-100 metres, or 20 to 30 seconds—a couple of times a week after a routine easy run can ease restless legs. A speedy parkrun or faster-paced session tossed into your training is OK, just keep the focus on finessing that easy pace.

2.- Add mileage slowly

After a race, reduce mileage to a range that is comfortable for you–your peak mileage, or the amount of running you do right before your pre-race taper, is not what you should return to post-race, as tempting as it may be.

Once you’ve established a starting point, adding between five and 10 per cent every other week is a rough guideline for building gradually while decreasing your risk for injuries. Everyone has an individual range, so if you’re an experienced athlete, you may be comfortable adding more, and newer runners may want to increase mileage at an even more conservative rate.

3.- Master the art of recovery

Most runners are reluctant to focus on their recovery days. After all, rest days are as simple as not running, right? Recovery days should actually be considered as essential as any peak training workout, and runners should take time to focus on prioritizing good sleep hygiene and top-notch fuelling. Don’t skimp on meals just because you aren’t running–rest days are the perfect time to prepare and enjoy nutritious, energy-packed meals (meal-prepping for the week is a great idea, if you have extra time). Make sure to head to bed early, and focus on de-stressing and self-care.

posted Saturday November 11th
by Keeley Milne