It's been a mild winter in Michigan and with many runners beginning to plan their Spring races, many are gearing up for training season to begin.
There are 3 phases in training and today, I'll focus on the most important one: base building.
What is base building? Base building is the phase of training where the runner builds up his aerobic capacity, muscular strength and then muscular endurance.
What that means is: you strengthen your lungs, your heart, your blood vessels first so that they can produce enough energy to sustain running. Then the muscles in your legs start to become and finally there comes a point where they can handle the distance.
Why is base building so important? You're building your stamina up, while strengthening your leg muscles without risking injury by the gradual increase in distance.
But I workout, I don't need to base build! Wrong, spin, Zumba, kick-box are all great cardio exercises but they do not prepare the legs for the strain they are going to be enduring. Building up muscular strength and endurance takes time, and is best achieved through running. Stamina is important but the muscular strength and endurance will see you through the race.
Why does base building get overlooked? It's boring, and time consuming. I recommend a minimum of 8 weeks for shorter distance races and 16 weeks for marathons. If you have the time to add in additional weeks, do so! It allows for a little wiggle room if you happen to miss a few runs.
So...how do I base build? Depending on what your plan is (3, 4 or even 5 days a week!), make sure that the majority of your runs are easy (and by that I mean either low in mileage or a slower pace), remember your goal is to build endurance not speed.
A good test to see if you are running too hard is if you needed to, could you carry a conversation with a friend? If not, slow down! One of your hard runs will be your long run, but even then, you should not be feeling spent afterwards. Challenged, yes, but not near the verge of collapse.