It’s been unseasonably warm in Omaha, Nebraska this fall season– a trend to the delight of many North American runners. However, as enjoyable as it is, we all know that the colder temperatures will soon arrive and last through the next few months. As we head into this winter season, the days getting increasingly shorter and the workout routines of the summer fading into distant memory. It may all seem like a less than inspiring time of the year for runners, but it doesn’t have to be.
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As counter-intuitive as it may seem the winter can be a very special season for runners. In this season, there’s an opportunity to establish new routines and to challenge ourselves in new ways. It can be time to get stronger and work on those weaknesses exposed during summer training and fall races. The winter is a time to discover a level of strength and endurance yet to be revealed. All of this is done through base training, also known as foundational training. This phase of training includes weeks upon weeks of slow, steady mileage that gets increased to develop aerobic capacity.
Base training has multiple performance-enhancing benefits, whether a runner is preparing for a shorter track event or a marathon. Still, it’s often overlooked by runners. That could be largely because it’s not fully understood, or appreciated. Due to the slow and steady nature of base training it can be viewed as boring, or frustrating.
I have to admit that I’ve been guilty of this mindset in the past, but through a lot of reading, video watching and reflection on my past training, I’ve educated myself to think differently. I now embrace this ever-so-important phase of training. In fact, I’m very excited about this winter block and I look forward to digging into the challenge, working hard and being patient in seeing the results.
Below, I’ve listed some of the biggest benefits that I believe comes from a base training phase:
- The easier, consistent miles of the base phase build aerobic endurance which results in improved performance.
- The steady state workouts within the base phase increase aerobic threshold, while some quicker work, such as fartleks, or strides improve turnover and efficiency
- The base that comes from this phase of training goes a long way in preventing injury throughout racing season.
- The body adapts to the consistent higher mileage and learns to recover faster, which helps in preparation for the rigours of race-specific training.
- Mentally speaking, base training changes up the routine and puts discipline and patients into practice.