First Things First: Building a Solid Running Base by Susan Paul, MS TSF Training Program Director

The key to successful, injury-free running that allows us to meet our performance potential is building a solid running base. A solid running base means aerobic conditioning for the cardio-respiratory system and also conditioning or hardening of supporting structures like muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones, and fascia. A running base is the foundation for all running goals. By building a solid, strong running foundation first, you will reap the benefits.

Base miles are run between 60 to 75 percent of your maximum heart rate. These miles are called “base” miles because they are the “base” or the foundation of a runners’ training program. These runs should feel comfortable and be run at a steady pace. Runners should be able to carry on a conversation while running at this pace.

From a physiological standpoint, base miles are important because they gradually turn our bodies into lean, mean, running machines. Base miles build aerobic conditioning, develop slow-twitch oxidative muscle fibers, increase blood volume, and expand glycogen stores. These low-intensity miles strengthen connective tissue, ligaments, and tendons; therefore, making you stronger and less prone to injury. Base mileage runs also enhance our body’s ability to burn fat as fuel.

Be a smart runner, start at the beginning and build your aerobic base first before hitting the track or tackling distance. After 10 or 12 weeks of aerobic base building runs, you will be ready to achieve your running goals whether they be running faster or running longer.

It will soon be summer and that means it’s almost time to begin training for the fall and early Winter Marathons from Chicago to Disney. Disney, already? Seriously? Yes, we start training in June for these marathons because this allows time to lay down a base before the ramping up to marathon mileage.

Join us for training! Check our MarathonFest for more information.

Rules to Train By

1. Know your base pace.

Base miles should be run at a steady, comfortable, conversational pace. For runners using a heart rate monitor, base pace should be about 60 to 75% of your maximum heart rate. 

2. Plan your increases.

Jack Daniels, noted Exercise Physiologist, suggests adding one mile per week for each running workout you do per week. So if you run four times a week, you can add up to four miles to your weekly mileage. When increasing your weekly mileage, you must train at your new weekly mileage level for three weeks before increasing your mileage again. 

3. Be patient.

Devote a minimum of 10 to 12 weeks of base mileage runs to build a solid foundation.

4. Tempo runs.

Advanced runners can include some tempo runs as part of their weekly mileage. Tempo runs can be 15% of your weekly total mileage during the base building period. Tempo runs are generally done between 75 to 85% of your maximum heart rate.

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