‘Tis the season for building a base. A lot of runners ask me what I am training for right now and normally I tell them, “Nothing, the winter is my time to rebuild my base.” Building a base is designed to give your body the muscle strength and impact training needed to run harder, faster, longer, stronger throughout the racing season. Typically, runners will increase the number of times they run per week, and at the same time decrease the mileage that they run during each run. For example, during racing season, you may run 3x/week and do 6 miles/run for a total of 18 miles/week. During base training, you would start out running 5x/week doing only 3-4 mile runs. Then gradually increase the mileage of each run (5x/week but 4-5 miles/run, then 5-6 miles/run, etc) to build a strong foundation for speed and hill workouts done during the racing season.
Base training is really important because it allows the body to rest from the fatigue that comes with speed workouts and racing. At the same time you are being very productive in preparation for the coming season. Base Training also sets the stage for how many injuries an athlete will be prone to during the fast season. Just as with architecture, the stronger your foundation is, the better the house will stay standing when the pressure increases.
The key is to start with very low mileage and NEVER increase you mileage more than 10% over the previous week. This will help to insure you don’t get injured during base training. Then, after about 6-8 weeks of low key easy running, you are ready to start running more tempo and speed workouts again. You don’t want to leave that out of your training for too long if you want to keep getting better each year.