I’m talking about base miles, of course. Base miles are your foundation as a runner. They are the miles you maintain even when you are not training for a race or it is your off-season, which is typically winter. Maintaining a base allows you to increase your miles easier when race season opens back up. It also makes sure you don’t lose the fitness you fought so hard to achieve.
How many miles you maintain depends upon your goals for the spring and the amount of miles you were running at before.
The longer and earlier your spring race is the more miles you will want to maintain during the off-season. Most marathon training programs are between sixteen and twenty weeks long. They start out with low miles and slowly build ten percent each week. If you’ve already spent sixteen weeks building do you really want to start at the beginning again? Most runners do not want to start over every race season, so they maintain a base.
This base means you can jump into the build phase of training as soon as possible, cutting six to eight weeks off of your training programs.
If your goal race is a marathon, I recommend maintaining twenty miles a week as your base or four five-mile runs. If you’re running 5k’s and 10k’s a base of 15 miles is sufficient but I would run four days a week rather than three fives. As a 100 mile ultra-runner, I maintain 50 miles a week during the off season (10, 10, 20, and 10 miles).
Your base miles should be low enough to allow your body to recover and relax, but not lose what you have gained. If you’ve been struggling with any injuries, starting your off season with a two week break may be the best thing you can do. The off season is the ideal time to address any aches or pains which have been hounding you throughout the race season.
Dropping down to half of your peak miles is a good place to start with deciding on how many miles you want to maintain. You can throw in some speed work or tempo runs every ten days to keep your muscles accustomed to running fast. If your bread and butter is the long run then keeping a moderately long run as a part of your base is a good idea.
Think back to your training and find the miles where you were most comfortable. You are looking for that sweet spot with enough miles to take the edge off life, but not make you want to sleep twelve hours a day.
Other considerations are weather, family obligations, holidays, or vacations all of which have to be worked around and worked with. An off-season provides you with the ability to give these, sometimes neglected, aspects of life more attention.