It's All About the Base

Base building isn’t sexy.  Some find it downright boring. However, those who build their base before beginning race specific training end up healthier and performing better when it counts.

Here are some tried and true ways to build your base:

  • Gradually increase total weekly volume
  • Gradually increase long run length
  • Gradually introduce intensity
  • Begin strength training now

Weekly Volume

Focus on gradually increasing volume (time and distance) as the year progresses.  Limit weekly increases to 10 percent.  If you want to add more do it through cross training.

Long Run Length

During the base phase, the long run should take priority and should make up 20 to 25 percent of the total weekly volume. 

Gradually Increase Intensity

Before you begin structured speed workouts, prime your legs, lungs, and mind by sprinkling in intensity through progression runs, strides, fartleks, and hills:

Cut Down Runs

Cut down runs start easy and get gradually faster so that you are running harder toward the end of the run.  Make one run per week a cut down run and gradually increase the duration of the hard effort. 


Strides are short bursts of speed between 15 and 40 seconds in the middle or end of an easy or long run that prime your body for future intense efforts.  Strides provide time to focus on efficient running form under duress.  After a couple of weeks of easy running, add 3-4 x 20 to 30 second strides after one easy run per week.  Gradually add more repetitions and another day of strides.

Gradually add strides to your easy & long runs to increase intensity in your training. Photo by Peter Collins.

Gradually add strides to your easy & long runs to increase intensity in your training. Photo by Peter Collins.


Fartleks are longer than strides, lasting between 1 and 8 minutes, and are an effective way of introducing intensity before obsessing about pace.  After a few weeks of easy running with one progression run and one stride run per week add a fartlek workout: Easy run warm up for 15 to 30 minutes + 5 x (1 minute at 5K effort + 1 minute easy running) + 15 to 30 minute easy run cool down. Mix things up by modifying the number, duration, and intensity of the intervals. 

Photo by Peter Collins

Photo by Peter Collins


Run easy on undulating terrain two to three times per week.  After a few weeks, begin surging up and down the hills.  After you get comfortable running easy on hills you can add hill repeats. This will increase muscular strength and improve form and posture which will ultimately help you run more efficiently on all surfaces.

Strength Training

Muscular strength takes time to develop.  To prepare for the demands of race specific running, strength training should begin well before introducing formal speed training. Begin with core and body weight routines two to four times per week.  Add resistance as needed.  Start with the Do Anywhere Body Weight Routine

Step ups.  Photo by Peter Collins.

Step ups.  Photo by Peter Collins.

Limit Race Specific Training & Racing

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To ensure that you are at peak fitness on race day, strategically build your base until you are six to eight weeks away from your goal race. If you plan to do multiple races in a season, use the first few races as workouts.

Jacob Puzey is a multiple time national champion and world record holder who helps runners from all over the world, of all ages, abilities, and ambitions to achieve their goals on all distances and surfaces via Peak Run Performance.