Why All Runners Need a Base-Building Phase

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Building a sound running base for a scheduled future race should be an important part of any runner's program. A base involves a runner gradually increasing his or her speed and endurance over a specific time frame—usually six to eight weeks. This phase should happen before any hard intervals or very long runs are attempted. Without a base, a runner most likely will fail to reach his or her potential or set goals. 

There are exceptions, but many coaches will agree that, in a race situation, a runner who has built a sound base will outperform a runner who has not. Building a running base will prevent you from increasing your training too quickly, which makes the risk for injury greater.

Some telltale signs runners experience if they progress to quickly include being constantly tired and experiencing problems in their feet or legs. Shin splints and plantar fasciitis are some common injuries.

More: 4 Ways to Fight Plantar Fasciitis

The Benefits of a Good Running Base

Improves your cardiovascular system, especially your VO2 max, which is the amount of oxygen intake your body can handle. This will allow you to sustain a higher heart rate for longer  

  • Allows a runner to work on form for more efficient running
  • Allows a runner to develop speed and endurance slowly without the risk of injury
  • Allows a runner to increase mental toughness gradually
  • Allows the body to adapt slowly to increased stress

More: 5 Ways to Build Your Running Base

Base-Building Exercises and Workouts

There are other physical, non-running activities that can be incorporated in the base-building phase.

Stretches: light stretches are most important after your run. Think of your leg muscles like a rubber band. Your muscles are extended during the workout and will start to flex back when you are finished; therefore, you need to lengthen them again. 

Abdominal exercises: a strong core will help running posture. 

More: 5 Key Core Exercises for Runners

Other aerobic exercise: on your rest day, incorporate an easy bike ride or swim. 

Running drills: heel-kick and high-knee drills—these can be done after your warm-up before your run (or the workout below)

More: Improve Your Stride Without Trying