Your training plan should be all about that base. No, I’m not speaking to same base that Meghan Trainor spent the better part of a year exclaiming. Rather, I’m pointing to the extreme importance of prepping your body for the rigors of higher mileage and faster efforts.
Whether you’re a seasoned running or just starting out, your training plan should emphasize a relatively long stretch of what’s called building base. “Base,” which is condensed from “base fitness,” implies that time is spent building mileage steadily at slower paces. Note: Base pace is calculated from your ability level, but for now, think of it as “conversation pace” running, or a pace where you can run and chat freely.
There’s research available that shows the benefits of slower running, particularly for longer events. Aside from these benefits are some that are far overlooked. Leading the way in the most underrated reasons for building base is it’s ability to prevent injury later in training.
It might not have clicked until now, but one of the most difficult times in a training plan is the beginning. For the majority of runners, the time before starting a training plan is spent at a fraction of their peak training mileage. Typically, the absence of a race on the horizon loosens the reins a bit and missed runs aren’t the end of the world.
Contrast that with training you. Your mileage and frequency build, while missed runs hang a cloud of guilt. If you’re like most, you begin training slowly adding mileage and getting the momentum in your favor. Before you know the momentum slows and stalls… you’re injured. It’s quite common early in training. So lets talk through two points on how you can avoid it:
1. Building Base to Avoid Injury
Our bodies respond to the load you pace on them. Twenty weekly miles running too hard is not the same as 20 miles easy. Start by looking at your plans in terms of effort AND distance. Before you start your actual training you’ll want to ensure you’re already in the swing of things.
Pre-training plan: Build your mileage to 50-60% of your max weekly volume you can expect in training. Sustain it for three to four weeks before you kick the tires on your new plan.
Once your plan begins, focus on a slow mileage build at a slower than normal — base pace. It’s key here to identify your base pace. Typically, runners trend towards running paces that are “comfortable-hard.” To me, this reflects a “not too easy but not too hard” pace strategy. It’s often too hard and leads to injury.
2. Speed too Early & Often
There’s this overwhelming trend in training plans. It’s a strong bias to speed workouts. These speed workouts typically are started early and repeat weekly for the duration of the plan. This is training suicide, especially when you’re coming off a period of low mileage.
If you’re training for longer distances your plan should trend towards a long period with little to no speed workouts. As stated before, work on running at “base pace” for the first 30-40% of your training plan.
Looking ahead, it’s time to start building a solid plan. Unfortunately, the options have been limited for runners. You could print off a handful of sheets and guess your way through strategy or pay high fees for a coach.
That’s been the struggle for, well, forever. This is why I decided to do something about it. Below is a link to a free seminar I’m hosting on how to build the ultimate training program. You can sign up below.