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Running Talk: Base Building and Conditioning


I promised I’d write a post about my winter running/base building plans and the conditioning I do. I also said I’d post this a few days ago…oops ;)


For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term base building, I’ll briefly go into what it’s all about. The base building phase allows athletes to build a strong aerobic base through high(er) mileage,  which later on in the training cycle allows for more specific work to be done and for the athlete to be able to better absorb that training. Most athletes have two base building periods in a year- one in the summer and one in the winter. This is usually 6-12 weeks of building up the mileage which prepares the body to prepare for the next phase of harder, faster running. Usually 90% of the base mileage is easy aerobic running, with the other 10% quality sessions (hills, tempo runs, fartlek, etc.) to rev up the aerobic system and stimulate the fast-twitch muscle fibres.  A weekly long run is also a crucial part of base building as it increases endurance and strengthens the muscles, bones, and connective tissues. I personally also incorporate hill sprints and strides every other day into my base building plan too, as this also strengthens the body and stimulates your fast-twitch fibres.


These are Runner’s World’s basic principles of base training:


* First, volume is key. How much varies tremendously, so be your own guide. If you’ve never run more than 60 or 70 miles a week, shooting for 100 is probably irresponsible, even if that volume worked for Bob Kennedy back in 1996. It’s much more important to gradually adapt your body to a new mileage maximum.

* Second, don’t neglect hard running, unless you’re at altitude or have another stimulus that wears your body down. For some, that stimulus could even be heat. Ideally, however, a good base includes a moderate amount of hard running. It can take the form of threshold work, or hill and fartlek work, or a mix. Either way, because these workouts are not the focus of the segment, they shouldn’t be all-out efforts. Also remember that this isn’t the best time of year to race, but if you do, don’t expect much — a proper base phase should leave you pretty tired.

* Shoot for a weekly long run, and try for a solid pace on most of your other runs. Kennedy liked progression runs, and Culpepper found that with the absence of structured workouts, easy mileage didn’t get the job done. “You either have to run a lot, or you have to run somewhat briskly. You can’t just run as easily as you want every single day,” Culpepper says.

* Lastly, incorporate strides after a couple of easy runs each week. Older athletes will especially benefit from these quick, short bursts of speed. “I’m a masters runner now,” Spangler says, “and they say that as a masters runner, you tend to keep your aerobic fitness pretty well, but you lose your speed and your power as you get older.” Even in his no-workout phase, Culpepper did strides, and sometimes very short hills for an extra pop.


I started off my base training at around 30 miles per week (I’m building slowly back up after a break due to illness) and will build to around/just below 60 miles. This means the odd double run and some lovely early starts ;)


I normally get up at 8am, so 6.30am is pretty painful for me!


I am also now doing strength and conditioning work twice a week. On Mondays I do a conditioning session  with my team straight after an easy run, and later in the week I do a circuits session in the evening after a morning run. Our team conditioning involves hurdle drills for mobility, some plyometrics, and a circuit session.


conditioning with the team…I’m in the yellow shoes:)


I personally love circuit training, and I think it is arguably the best form of strength+conditioning training for runners. Here are a few reasons why circuit training is so great:

  • Improves mobility, strength, speed and stamina
  • Easily structured to provide a whole body conditioning session
  • A wide range of exercises to select from
  • Can be adjusted to suit age, fitness, specific needs of athlete, etc.
  • Variation in exercises prevents boredom
  • Keeps heart rate high throughout, so increases fitness
  • Exercises are running-specific, so directly benefit your running


My coach sent me a number of circuit workouts that I can do in my own time. Depending on the circuit I’m doing and how much time I have, I typically do each exercise for 30-45 seconds, moving straight on to next exercise, and then repeat the circuit once or twice after a couple of minutes rest. Below is my favourite of the circuits my coach sent me. I typically do each exercise in this circuit for 30 seconds, going through each exercise in the group before moving on to the next group, and then take a two minute break before repeating the whole circuit. Doing this circuit twice in this style takes 40 minutes.


Circuit session 1

click on the image to enlarge


Plus, have I mentioned how much FUN circuit training is?! :P


clearly having the time of my life with that medicine ball…


Whilst we’re on the subject of running, the lovely people at Brooks sent me some PureProject shoes! These are the PureConnects, and in a lovely bright colour (fluorescent green) to go with my other running shoes which are neon pink and fluorescent orange. Go bright or go home I say.



It’s now 2.30am here so I’d better hit the sack since I have to be up bright early for my long run tomorrow! Dragging my butt out of bed for that tomorrow morning after only a few hours sleep is going to be fun haha!


Have you ever incorporated a period of base training into your training? Most people don’t, but it’s something that would benefit almost every runner when building up to a race!


What is your favourite form of strength training? I used to love BodyPump, but it clashed with my training sessions and also my coach didn’t advocate it, but I’ve really grown to love circuit training!


What running shoes do you run in? I do most of my runs in the Saucony Kinvaras (I’m on my third pair now!) but I love rotating in other shoes to some of my runs, so the Brooks will be a nice addition :)


Have a great weekend everyone!! <3

2 Responses to Running Talk: Base Building and Conditioning

  1. I love how disciplined you are! Yo GO GIRL :)
    Melissa Johannesen recently posted..Sister day and AZ BOUND.

  2. Thanks for the great post! I’m currently in the base building process myself, and while I have no trouble sticking to my planned runs and mileage, I have a hard time getting myself to do strength training (I also don’t have a team to motivate me), but I’ll try to check out that circuit.

    Hope you have a wonderful Christmas Emma, I enjoy reading your blog very much! Best regards from Maria

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