Base training for runners is more than lots of easy kilometres. Focus goes a long way. We need a good working definition of base training.
The point of base training is to develop a well balanced athlete capable of optimally responding to the stress of competition specific training.
Manage The Load
Care needs to be taken not to provide too great a stress. Too much intensity or high load can lead to:
- increased injury risk
- reduced immune response
- early peak in fitness
No one wants to be injured or sick. An early peak in fitness can be costly for race day. Usually an early peak doesn’t reach the same heights as one you build up to properly. There is usually a performance slump following a peak performance.
Lots of easy miles is the most common approach to base training for running. If that is all a runner does in base training it neglects other important requirements needed to develop a well balanced athlete.
A balanced athlete is better able to handle the specific harder competition training.
Low intensity training does not develop:
- the different fast-twitch muscle fibres
- specific neuromuscular recruitment patterns for fast running
- connective tissues ability to handle high loads of fast running
Low intensity is important as it does develop
- ability to tolerate higher training volumes
- increased capillary and mitochondrial density in muscle
- ability to recover from harder training
Most of your running in base training should be easy. It does provide most of what we want from base training. It doesn’t give us everything.
The solution is to include all fitness requirements throughout base training. Include some fast high intensity running, mix in strength training and some form of plyometric training. Enhance static and dynamic flexibility. Develop all aspects that contribute to aerobic performance including pure endurance, speed and tolerance at around anaerobic threshold and ability to handle VO2max paces.
The trick is to be careful with the loading of both individual session and a full week’s impact. A good rule of thumb is a session shouldn’t take more than one day to fully recover from. You should feel capable of repeating the session 2 days later. Keep the volume on high intensity training relatively low. A little bit goes a long way.
This doesn’t mean all runs and training will feel easy. Expect to be hurting during some training. You should still be extending yourself. Remember the key to base training is while you are pushing out your boundaries, you are shouldn’t be exceeding them by too much. We are aiming to push up our fitness set point to a new level.
We still need a good dose of easy running. This provides many of the benefits we are chasing while allowing us to recover quicker. Easy running should be the majority of training. It is the mainstay of base training. We need to leave room for some other training.
How do you fit together your base training for running?