{Run Tip} Base Building

Hey friends,

Yesterday was package day at our apartment! All the Black Friday purchases are coming home to roost, lol.  We unwrapped our first Christmas gift as well – my gift to Mike was too big to sit around unopened, and I wanted him to be able to use it right away.

I got him a new desk chair! His old one has been falling apart for years, so I had been eyeing this one for a while and snapped it up when it went on flash sale during Black Friday.  Mike loved it, but this one was actually my first choice. Yep, you can literally buy The Iron Throne for the cheap, cheap price of $30,000 (shipping extra) – which begs the question, why are so many people in Westeros fighting over it?

Anyway, today I wanted to talk about base building before starting a training cycle, which is what I’m doing now.

Base Building Tips

Every year since I started running (3 years now!), I’ve always taken a break after completing a major training cycle and finishing a big goal race.

In 2012 – took 3 months off after Oct marathon
In 2013 – took Oct off, Nov/ Dec easy after a long half marathon training cycle
In 2014 – took Jun/ Jul off, Aug – Oct easy after May marathon

I find that taking time off helps prevent running burn-out (physically and mentally) and lets me focus on other fun fitness activities like Zumba, rock-climbing, and HIIT. Then, several weeks prior to my next training cycle, I focus on building my running base again.

Base building, as you might expect from the name, is primarily about building up running mileage prior to a training cycle.  It’s important not to go into a training cycle “cold”, if you will, because you don’t want to jump from running 0 miles to 15/ 20/ 30 miles a week.  If you’re 4-8 weeks away from starting a training cycle like I am, these tips are for you! My focus below is on building mileage slowly and safely to prevent injury.

Building Mileage: If you really haven’t been running during your time “off”, start low with your weekly mileage (10 miles with 3 runs of 3-4 miles in duration is usually where I start) and increase by no more than 10% each week, which usually means adding a mile or two each week to one of the runs. I plan my mileage increases on a spreadsheet because my knees are quick to tell me if I’ve built my mileage too fast!

The first run I start building in length is my weekend long run, usually by a mile a week. The long run is so important for improving running form and building endurance, and will help you get mentally prepared for the longer runs down the road. It’s also my favorite run of the week!

Every couple of weeks, you can add another short run (2 miles) to increase your number of running days till you hit your sweet spot (mine is 5).

You might be tempted to build your mileage fast – this can be a fast track to injury when your muscles and joints aren’t adapted for running yet. Add cross-training like cycling or stairmaster instead (or pool running!) if you want to train more.

Build till your weekly mileage matches (or slightly exceeds) the first week of your training plan. For example, my training plan in early January starts at 27 miles, so I’d like to be running about 30 miles by the end of December so that I’m able to comfortably handle the early weeks of training.

Easy Running: I recommend keeping all runs really easy at first to get your body used to the motions of running again. After a few weeks, you can do some speedwork on one of your running days – I like doing faster speedwork during my base building like 400 meter repeats, which aren’t usually prescribed during marathon training.

Core/ Strength: In addition to running, this is also a great time to focus on core/ strength exercises to ensure your body is in good shape before starting the training cycle. I know that once I start marathon training, core work is the first to fall off my plate, so I’m currently doing 20-30 min of core work, 3 times a week using Fitness Blender videos.

Experiment Now: This is also the time where I try out new training techniques/ methods/ gear (like orthotics or new styles of running shoes) to see if they have a place during the training cycle. Not that I don’t try anything new later – but anything that could take some time to get used to – do it here.

Feel free to add in step-back weeks (where you decrease your mileage temporarily) to give yourself a break as necessary, and always listen to your body – the last thing you want during base-building (or ever) is an injury that will prevent you from training for your race!

Additional Resources

How to Build a Proper Running Base (Competitor) – great advice for beginning (and not beginner) runners

5 Ways to Build Your Running Base (Active)

Build Your Best Training Base (Runner’s World) – great day-by-day plan


2 thoughts on “{Run Tip} Base Building

  1. Alexa

    Yeah, but you forgot to mention that the price for the iron throne includes the $2500 for shipping–that makes it much more reasonable :-)

    Thanks for the good advice on base building. I keep kicking around the idea of finally going for a full marathon but I haven’t been running for a while now–it’s good to know how to get back into it (hopefully) safely!

    1. Dawn H.

      That was my first thought too!! lol. You should definitely go for it! Maybe I can go up one weekend when we’re both training and we can do a long run together :)

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