So you’re ready to take the plunge and start running. Maybe even sign up for a race and reach your goal of running a half marathon. Before you can start your race training plan, you need to lay a solid foundation and reach a base level of fitness so you will be successful in your training and not get sick or injured. This is called base training.
Here’s the five important things to remember when you set up your base training plan:
Start with where you are now - Your base training plan needs to be based on your fitness level right now. Obviously this is different for everyone, and that's the point of this training: to get you to a level playing field where you can go through a training plan which assumes you have a certain base level fitness. That being said, base training may be longer or shorter for you depending on where you are starting from, so be honest with yourself as you assess where you should start.
Add miles gradually- Don't pile on the miles too fast - there will be lots of time for this during your race training. Instead, use this base training time to build up slowly so that you don't put yourself at risk for injury now, or later. Your weekly increase in mileage should be 10% at most, and some weeks it's okay to stay at the same mileage. Remember you are just building aerobic capacity and that can come from repetition.
Maintain your volume - Base training isn't an excuse to run extremely low mileage or less frequently. Yes, when you first start, you may not be running as much, but if you are going to build up your fitness level, you have to be doing the fitness. Aim to run a minimum of four times per week, with one long run per week, and increasing in distance as you build your base.
Don’t forget the hard runs - Building your fitness level will come from a combination of repetitive cumulative efforts (i.e. volume of running), as well as challenging your body and taking it to the next level. Spend some time each week (i.e. one run a week), doing a harder run than normal or challenging yourself. These are the runs that push your body to new levels and ensure that it doesn’t become too effective at your workouts such that you stop seeing results.
Focus on preparing your mind - Not only is base training about building up your aerobic fitness, but it's about getting your mind in shape to take on the challenges of training and the mental fatigue it will entail. Race training can be very draining on your mentally, and base training is all about setting up your perspective and getting into the "mind over matter" state of mind. The other component of this is building discipline - getting into a routine that you can maintain and repeat week after week for when you are deep in your race training!