The bigger the base, the higher the peak

Your training is like the Great Pyramids: the bigger the base, the higher the peak.
Your training is like the Great Pyramids: the bigger the base, the higher the peak.

It’s that time of the year. Racing season is over for most of us. We may have a few winter races on the schedule but, generally, we’re looking at least a few months out before our next important races.

So what do we do with this time?

We build our base. Why? How?

Why your base matters

The title of this post hints at why your base matters at the highest level. It’s an old saying that I know I have been hearing since my very early years running. It’s hung around that long because it’s a universal truth.

Your base matters most simply because it determines how high your peak will be. Much like the pyramids in Egypt, the height of your peak is mostly determined by how broad your base is. The broader your base is, the more you can build on top of it to bring your peak higher.

In running, the base serves two primary purposes:

It builds your aerobic fitness. Distance races are primarily aerobic events. Even a 5K is 99% aerobic. While we can’t ignore other factors if we want to be our best, your aerobic conditioning will determine the limits of your ability. Your base is the cake, everything else is the icing.

It toughens you up. The time you spend on your feet toughens up your legs. It strengthens everything from your bones to your tendons and ligaments. This strength will allow you to do more in your workouts without getting hurt. By building a big base, you are raising your training capacity so you can do more challenging workouts that will bring you to a higher peak.

How to build your base

Books have been written on this. Coaches make their living guiding runners through the process. I’m not going to cover all the details in a couple of paragraphs within a blog post but I can offer a little guidance.

First, get out and run. How much? How frequently? Probably more than you are. Depending on your current capacity, both physically and within the constraints of your life, that might mean 20 miles per week or 120 miles per week for you. Do what you can manage.

Second, while you want to get out and run as much as you can handle within reason, you don’t want all of that running to be slow. Once or twice a week, turn up the pace. This doesn’t have to be a big jump in pace. Maybe 30-60 seconds per mile faster than your typical easy run pace. Even 15-20 seconds per mile faster isn’t a problem. The key is to not stagnate at one pace. You’re not looking for hard tempo runs like you may do 1-2 months out from a goal race but you do want to get in something to get moving a little faster.

In addition, consider adding some strides about 2-3 times a week. These don’t have to be over complicated. Just pick up the pace for about 15 seconds late in a run and take about 1-2 minutes of easy running between each stride. How fast? Quick but not an all out sprint. Sometimes my strides are 10K pace, sometimes though rarely mile pace. Most often, I run them somewhere around 5K pace.

Do these things and you can build a strong base over the winter so your 2019 peak can be nice and high.

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