As the race season really gets swinging, runners begin to ramp up their miles from their base winter miles. Not all runners only maintain a base through winter months. Some continue to build and others continue to race throughout the winter. It depends on the weather and the particular runner. Through the winter or off season, it is good to maintain a base so when race season starts you are ready to begin ramping up to race training without injury and without a lot of work to do.
How many miles should you maintain throughout the winter or off season? it really depends on how much early season work you want to do, how your prior race season went, and what the conditions you will be running in are.
The goal of an off season is to recover and maintain enough that you don’t have to start over. The lower your miles through the off season the more work you will have to do to get ready for race season. The less intensity work you do the more you will have to put in in the preseason. The first priority of the off season is to recover of course.
You don’t want to cause additional injuries during your off season so lowering the intensity and just maintaining a comfortable amount of miles is a good strategy. It can be a time where you switch your focus to strength and balance training as well as you remove the running stress and the amount of time dedicated to putting in miles.
Your base miles should still include some intensity because you don’t want to regress too much but a few bursts of speed for 30 to 60 seconds during a run once a week is enough during this time. If you end your season with an injury, you may want to significantly reduce your miles or cross train for a week or two before implementing your base mile maintenance plan. This is also a great time to take preventative measures to reduce the risk of injury during race season by increasing your strength in your core and lower legs/ankles. If you have a persistent niggle, figure out ways to resolve it or reduce it and strategies you can use during race season.
The weather may be severe enough to reduce your miles as well. Very cold temperatures, closure of trials, and deep snow can make longer runs more challenging if not dangerous. You may have to turn to running on a treadmill or the roads through the winter. The harder surface may lead to a reduction in miles to reduce injury or at a minimum purchasing different shoes.
Where I am located, more mountain lions come down to the lower trails in the winter to find food. This in combination with me running in the early morning alone, pushes me to the roads for a few months. When mountain lion meals are found within a half mile of your house and sightings are all along the trials you run, it’s best to change your behavior because the lions are not changing theirs.
The amount of miles should be something you are comfortable with and doesn’t wear you down. This may be 60% of what you do during race season or it may be 70%. It can and should bounce up and down a bit but never to the high of race training. Doing one week with low miles and the next week with a bit higher miles can add variety and gives you a bit more time to spend with family and friends who get neglected during race season.
My base miles typically consist of two eight mile runs during the week and then 10 to 15 miles both Saturday and Sunday. During race season, my midweek runs go up to 10-12 miles, I add a speed session on Wednesdays and my weekends increase to 15-25 miles both days.
What do you do for base miles and what impacts your decision on how much to do?
Happy and Healthy Running!