Renowned running coach Arthur Lydiard, is best known for training the aerobic system before addressing other energy systems. Lydiard believed this created a strong athlete capable of handling workouts such as interval sessions to improve one’s VO2 Max. Under Lydiard, it did not matter if you were an 800-meter runner or a 10k specialist, chances are you would have been running upwards of 100 miles per week or more throughout your base phase.
How To Implement A Base Phase
It helps to think of the base phase as a hibernation period. No racing. No competing in workouts. Just putting in the work away from the crowds.
The base phase sets the tone for a proper build-up towards your goal race. It can be anywhere from 4 weeks to 12+ weeks. The majority of the base phase should be spent increasing your weekly mileage or volume while saving the intensity for later in the season. This phase allows you to reach peak mileage without the added stress of high intensity workouts. Including a base phase in your training will also help you to avoid the dreaded ‘X’ zone. The ‘X’ zone is where volume and intensity meet.
Too many people spend time in the ‘X’ zone where their volume is relatively of high and their intensity is relatively of high. There is a time and place for this type of training but it is important to respect this zone. A base phase allows you to add intensity slowly and at a running volume you are already accustomed to.
The Down Side Of Not Doing A Base Phase
As most coaches can appreciate, it is very difficult to design workouts for athletes that are not fit. For our purposes, we will define ‘fit’ as a person who has a relatively significant aerobic capacity. Two things usually happen when training an athlete without a proper base phase beneath them.
1) Athletes cannot complete workouts properly. For example, if an athlete has a prescribed workout of 4 x 1K with a 1 minute recovery jog, the first repetition may be on pace, but the athlete lacks the necessary aerobic capacity to recover during the rest interval to maintain the prescribed pace. The athlete gets slower and slower throughout the workout and eventually the repetition pace is not much faster than the recovery jog. The athlete starts flat lining workouts.
2) Athletes will find themselves on the sidelines. Without a proper base phase, athletes often end up injured because they lack the necessary strength to meet the demands of sessions such as longer tempo runs, interval training, or shorter hill repeats.
5 Ways To Ensure You Have a Successful Base Phase
1) Steadily increase volume to peak mileage
2) Steadily increase Long Run and Tempo Run
3) Save the intensity for later
4) Run true Fartleks based on feel
5) Plenty of Strides (there should always be a bit of speed in your running diet)
To increase mileage try Double Dipping!
About the Author: Brandon Laan is a runner, coach, and entrepreneur. He spent his undergraduate days at The University of Western Ontario where he captained the Cross Country Team before fleeing to Hawaii Pacific University for graduate school. He is a Level II Certified USATF coach and holds personal bests of 1:06 and 2:21 in the Half Marathon and Marathon respectively. He also enjoys running to eat, not eating to run…and always will.