Base building for runners is about more than just filling out your race calendar. It requires commitment to an organized plan and the willingness to push through the cobwebs of winter inactivity.
But whether you're training for a 5K or looking for a 26.2 PR, making the transition back to the open road can be difficult, confusing, and often filled with a higher risk of injury.
Here are seven nuggets of base-building wisdom from some of the sharpest minds in running to help keep your base training on track—and your fitness ready for the start of race season.
Base Building Tip No.1: Start Off Strong (Enough)
"The key to successful base training is adding enough intensity to boost your fitness, but not so much that you get burned out or feel like you're training at your maximum too early.
"Doing one or two quality workouts a week, such as hills, tempo runs, or fartlek sessions, will rev the cardiovascular system and stimulate the fast-twitch muscle fibers. A slightly longer run—of 45 to 90 minutes, depending on your fitness and goals—is also key."
Base Building Tip No.2: Dress Right
"If you are like me, after months in the gym—or in freezing weather—you are practically doing back flips over running in "normal" weather. The most common early-season mistake, however, is wearing the wrong gear.
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"Be sure to carry gloves and a lightweight hat with you. These can be a quick source of warmth if the temperature drops and are easily tucked away if it's too hot.
"You may also want to consider a vest. The zipper allows you to regulate your temperature while running and also stows away easily. My personal running favorite is a pair of arm warmers—worn by cyclists, these are essentially sleeves without the shirt."
Base Building Tip No.3: Add Some Cross Training
"Another important ingredient for newbie base building is cross-training as it serves as active rest for the running muscles. By alternating running days with cross-training days, the newbie body can train at a higher overall frequency (five to six times per week) without the high risk of injury from running on back-to-back days.
"Cycling, swimming, and classes at the gym are a few favorite cross-training activities for runners and should be done at an easy effort level if your primary goal is a running event. Total-body strength training twice per week can also contribute to the success of your running career by building strong muscles, tendons and joints that withstand the impact forces from running as well as improve your running economy."