It’s a thought that crosses most runners’ minds as we’re running that big race we’ve been training for over the last few months. ‘What next?’
If you’re anything like us, you’ve promised yourself that you’ll be keeping up your current mileage, keen to not lose running fitness, until your next race. You might even be planning to move up to the next big distance, using all that training behind you as a starting point.
But unless you’ve already got that next race booked, it may well be a while away yet. You might even have a whole season of winter running to get through before you start training. And even the most dedicated runner can find themselves losing steam when they’ve not got a training plan to follow or a start line looming.
Enter base training. It’s a great way of keeping ourselves on track and building or maintaining running fitness. We talk to running coach Laura Fountain to find out what it is and how base training can help us run better…
What is base training?
The easiest way to think about base training is to imagine a triangle, split into layers. The very bottom of that triangle is the widest part; the foundation. The other layers on top represent the other steps you need to take to build up towards your goal, which is the top point of the triangle. These other layers might be things like strength training or interval training. Basically, base training is training to be able to train for a race (try saying that 5 times fast!).
It might not be as exciting as ticking off big sessions on a training plan which has an exciting race at the end of it, but it’s an important part of your training year. After a big training cycle, professional athletes always take a recovery period and then enter a period of base training before their new training cycle starts. There are loads of benefits to base training, so even us not-quite-pro-athlete runners should do the same!
What are the benefits of base training?
The most obvious one is that it keeps us physically fit. No matter how dedicated we are, it’s easy to get out of good running habits between races. We’re then disappointed when we start training for the next big race and our pace is slower or we find the runs harder. Base training helps with that.
It also helps us to avoid injury, for the same reason. By running at a lower intensity, and consistently, you’re less likely to find yourself getting injured. It also helps us to avoid overtraining. It increases our aerobic capacity without the additional strain that often comes with intense race training.
Mentally, base training is great for keeping us feeling motivated. Many of us like to follow a training plan, and so can be left feeling a bit lost when the excitement of our last race wears off and there’s nothing taped to the fridge telling us when and how to run.
How long should I do base training for?
The answer to this is personal to you. It depends on how much you’ve been running, how experienced you are and what the goal you’re training for is. A reasonable amount of time for a base training is anything from 4-12 weeks. If you’re new to running and have your first marathon or half marathon in your sights, closer to 12 weeks would be better to maximize your preparation.