Base Training Background
Base training was popularized by the legendary coach, Arthur Lydiard of New Zealand. At the 1960 and 1964 Olympic Games, Lydiard-coached athletes (Murray Halberg, Peter Snell and Barry Magee) dominated the distance events, winning six distance medals between the three of them. Their high-volume, periodized approach was revolutionary at the time and sparked a transformation in how coaches understood training. Specifically, Lydiard had his athletes — even middle distance runners like Snell — running high mileage weeks in what he called the “base training” phase.
The goal of base training is to develop a runner’s aerobic potential before implementing anaerobic training in the form of interval work. Lydiard understood that distance running events were primarily aerobic pursuits and that by developing the aerobic system to its maximum, his athletes would have the endurance to dominate their competition. Lydiard also believed (correctly) that more than 4 to 6 weeks of intense anaerobic training was unnecessary because after six weeks of anaerobic training, improvements reached a point of diminishing returns.
As evidenced by the six medals won at the 1960 and 1964 Olympic Games, base training obviously has its benefits. Lydiard’s training methods eventually spread across the globe and influenced how coaches approached training for middle and long-distance events.