We asked some of the country’s best coaches to weigh in on the importance of a good base-training phase.
Ben Rosario, head coach of Northern Arizona Elite, Flagstaff, Ariz.
“Aerobic endurance is the key to everything else in running. You can’t get the most out of the hard repeats, hill workouts and tempo runs until you’ve built the base to handle them. Plus, physiologically you can make bigger gains in aerobic endurance and capacity than you can in any other training zone.
“I believe that it’s good to include drills and strides a couple of days a week and at least one workout with some sort of quality to it—a fartlek, a tempo run, some hills or even some repeats. They just need to be very controlled. Otherwise you get too fit too quickly, and that’s not the point of the base period.”
Andrew Kastor, head coach of Mammoth Track Club, Mammoth Lakes, Calif.
“Base training sets the tone for the rest of the season to teach the athlete’s body to burn fat. It also lays down a solid aerobic foundation on which later key, race-specific workouts sit atop.
“Making runs fun is very important at this point, as each run is classified as ‘easy-moderate’ effort-wise. Base training runs can and should be adventurous, exploring new scenery and terrain, with the knowledge that in a couple of months carefully constructed workouts will work themselves back into the training arsenal.”
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Drew Wartenburg, head coach of NorCal Distance, Sacramento, Calif.
“A properly constructed and executed base phase prepares an athlete for a lengthy training and competitive cycle as well as for each type of training for event-specific goals.
“The long run, in all its variations, may represent the most important component of the base phase, but I also believe strongly in varying paces, terrain and effort while having an athlete log ‘time on his/her feet’ during this period.”
Pete Rea, head coach, ZAP Fitness, Blowing Rock, N.C.
“A properly executed base phase provides a platform of fitness from which distance runners can draw throughout racing season. An aerobic development phase like this is also critical to connective-tissue strengthening, giving an athlete the ability to work harder and at higher intensity with less risk of injury.
“A well-executed base phase gradually increases mileage, with planned rest throughout. And don’t completely ignore quicker tempos, even in the earliest stages of the buildup.”