What is base training?


To give my mind and body a chance to rest after completing the Hertfordshire Half Marathon I took a full week off all training. The break worked as this week my motivation has returned and I’ve been back out running and heading to the gym. December marks the official start of my marathon training, but with six months to go until the Edinburgh Marathon, I’m not jumping straight into a training plan, but instead I’m using this month as an opportunity to do base training. 

Base training might sound like something only professional athletes and serious amateur runners might do, but getting a solid few weeks of base training completed before heading into a marathon training plan can be beneficial to runners of all abilities and experience levels. 

What is base training?

Base training was originally created for runners training for the Olympics and is still used as a way to build up a runner’s aerobic system before they start interval and speed sessions. In addition to this, base training is designed to prepare the body for the training load of long distance running and to build a foundation in which the rest of the training can build upon. 

The five main goals of base training is:

  • Build aerobic efficiency
  • Improve musculoskeletal durability
  • Improve your ability to burn fat and spare your carbohydrate (glycogen) stores
  • Improve the endurance of your fast twitch muscle fibers
  • Create a tireless state mentally

Is base training necessary?

If you’re not a professional athlete, or even a serious amateur, is base training necessary? The short answer is yes. 

All runners benefit from base training, particularly those new to running, as it helps to prepare both physically and mentally for the high training load. Without base training, runners of all abilities and experience, risk getting injured, suffering burnout and overtraining. Experienced runners benefit from adding base training into their training after an off-season at the beginning of a training season. New runners benefit from adding base training at the start of their training, using it as an opportunity to build up a good level of fitness, as well as getting stronger, ready for longer and more intense training sessions. 

How long should your base training be?

The length of the base training period will depend on fitness level, experience and the distance you are training for. According to Runner’s World base training can last from anywhere from six weeks to 12 weeks. Many training plans will incorporate base training into the plan, which is often why new runners find they are advised to run/walk in the first few weeks of their training. If you are creating your own training plan, ensure that a good base training period is included as part of the plan. 

Final word on base training

Although base training was originally created for runners and most commonly used by runners, it is useful for all sports. Those looking to get stronger, should build a foundation of weight training – learning proper technique and form – before moving on to heavier weights. In addition to this, all cardio sports would benefit from a good aerobic foundation which base training provides. 

What my base training looks like?

My base training is a mixture of short to middle distance runs, as well as cross training with weights, swimming, spin and bodybalance classes and rowing. At the moment I haven’t created a formal marathon training plan so my weekly running mileage remains low and most of my runs are at a comfortable and easy pace.  

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