It’s all about that base


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.

The Off Season

off season


Many runners use the winter as their “off” season. They reduce their miles to a minimum base, but don’t stop running entirely. The off season allows your body to recover and gives you a prime opportunity to build strength in those supporting muscles.

You don’t want to stop running during the off season because you will lose all that aerobic fitness you have fought so hard to gain. You will also lose the muscle you have worked on building. The aerobic fitness loss happens within two weeks.

How many miles should you maintain? It really depends on your goals. If you plan to run an early season Marathon, it’s a good idea to maintain between 20 to 30 mile weekly base. For someone who runs 5k and 10k races, I’d suggest maintaining 15 to 20 miles as a base throughout the off season. You’ll want to throw in speed and hill training as well just to remind your muscles what they need to do.

Most runners use the colder months of the year as their off season. It’s just hard to get out into the cold, especially when it takes you thirty minutes to put on all the layers you need when temperatures are really cold.

There are a lot of things you can do to boost your running fitness during your off season. Strength training is an excellent way to prepare your body for the increase in miles as race season rolls around. Overall body strength is the most beneficial to runners, so don’t just focus on your legs. Your upper body maintains your running form in the late stages of a race. Poor form means poor energy efficiency. Hip strength is another place you will want to work on. Many running injuries develop from weak hips including shin splints, runners knee, and ITBand issues. You don’t want to build bulk just strong long lean muscle.

Team sports are another great choice. Most team sports require you to move forward, backward, and laterally. This lateral movement is going to strengthen those supporting and stabilizing muscles that get neglected during race season, but can really cripple you if they are injured. The team aspect is an excellent way to rebuild all of those relationships you let slid during your peak race season.

Other options, if you like the snow and cold, are snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. These work different muscles than running like your hips. It also keeps you in the outdoors, which is helpful for those with seasonal blues.

Other things you can work on during the off season are learning about different aspects of running, improving your food choices, implementing a foam rolling routine, and set goals for the next race season.

Take advantage of your off-season whenever it may be, relax and rebuild.