What is Base Training and How to Build It

What is a Base Training Phase?

First, a running base or training base is the initial fitness you gain from a period of easy running and serves as the foundation for your training. This easy running enables you to perform higher intensity workouts later without getting injured.

The biggest difference between base training and race training is that base training is training you to train, while race training is training to handle the stress of racing.

The key importance here is that the benefits of these easy runs will stay with you as you transition to other workouts later in the season. Don’t worry about running fast in these workouts. They key is to keep your miles easy.

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If your base training falls in the winter months, like it does for many runners, make sure you are dressing warm and staying motivated to get out there in the cold weather!

Related: How to Keep Your Motivation for Cold Weather Running

How Do I Build a Strong Running Base?

To build a strong running base in the first phase of your running season, you should incorporate increasing weekly mileage, regular strength training, and a few speed workouts.

Remember, if you are not doing a speed workout, keep your running effort easy. A conversational pace should suffice. The point of a base training phase is to accustom your body to running more miles.

They key to injury prevention when increasing mileage is to keep your effort easy. Trying to increase your miles AND increase your pace at the same time is a recipe for injury. Run at least 80% of your miles at an easy effort, following the 80/20 Running Rule.

Related: 80/20 Running: Why You Need to Slow Down

Increase Your Weekly Mileage

There are three main ways to increase your weekly mileage. You can add an additional day of running to your week, add miles to your existing midweek runs, and add miles to your weekly long run.

Add an Additional Run to Your Week

One of the simplest ways to add mileage is to run an additional day each week. If you are only running 3-4 days per week, this would be an easy option to start with. Add one day so you are running 4-5 days per week. With your additional weekly run, start with a short run of 2 or 3 miles.

Add Miles to Your Midweek Runs

The next way to add mileage to your training week is to add miles on to your midweek runs. Instead or running 3 miles, increase to 4 miles, then 5 miles or more gradually. They key is to add your miles in slowly, not all at once. Pick one run on a weekday when your time is more flexible and add 1 mile to that run. Then add another mile in a couple weeks. If you do this with 1-2 of your midweek runs, you will be able to increase your weekly mileage without greatly increasing your time commitment.

Garmin Running Watch Recommendations:

Increase the Distance of Your Weekly Long Run

The long run is the cornerstone of your training, and it increases our capacity to travel longer distances. When preparing for a race, the long run is vital to help us get ready to go the distance.

In your base training phase, you can increase your total weekly miles by adding 1-2 miles per week to your long run. If you are used to running 6-8 miles on your weekly long run, bumping that up to 10-12 over time will increase your running capacity and prepare your body to run longer distances.

Remember, keep your pace easy and conversational as you add miles in each of these areas. You can employ one method or all three. If you use more than one method, alternate which area you add miles to and let your body adjust for a week or two before increasing in another area.

Related: The Long Run: Why You Can’t Afford to Skip It

build a strong running base during base training

Don’t Forget About Speed Workouts

The focus is not speed in base training, but you shouldn’t throw speed work outs completely away. If you are just starting out or returning after a long break, you can keep the speed workouts minimal.

On the other hand, if you have been incorporating speed workouts into your regular training routine, then base training is not the time to stop altogether. Keep 1-2 speed training workouts in your week to spruce up your base training and maintain your faster paces. This way, you will be able to transition smoothly into race training.

Keep some quick sprints or tempo runs in your training week.

Related: 3 Killer Speed Workouts to Skyrocket Your Race Day Confidence

Include Strength Training to Maximize Your Benefits

Have you heard the scary statistics?

In any given year, 70-80% of recreational and competitive runners will sustain an overuse injury. 8 out of 10 runners! The odds are incredibly stacked against you. Thus, you might want to do everything in your power to decrease your injury risk and stay as healthy as possible so you can make consistent progress in your running.

Besides making sure you follow the Rules of Injury Prevention, the one thing you can do that will make the biggest difference in your running is strength training. Focus on strengthening and stabilizing all the muscles that help you run, and your efforts can go a long way towards preventing overuse injuries.

Incorporate strength training in mini sessions after your runs, or dedicate a non-running day to strength training. Whatever works best for your schedule. I like to schedule my leg strength training right after my speed workout for the week, so I have plenty of time to recover for my long run. I also schedule core or upper body strength training to coincide with my easy, short runs so it doesn’t interfere with my overall workout time.

For the 5 critical strength moves you NEED in your strength training regimen, enter your email below so I can send you my FREE guide, “5 Strength Moves Every Runner Should Be Doing”!

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Related: Why Runners Need Strength Training + 2 Easy Tips for Success

Creating Your Base Training Plan

When you put your entire training plan together, you might feel like there are a lot of different workouts and exercises to fit in!

Here are some guidelines to help you sort through how often to schedule each workout.

Beginner Runners or Runners Who Have Taken Significant Time Off

Beginner Base Training Plan Guidelines:

  • Run 3-4 times total per week
  • Include 1 long run each week (This counts toward your total runs per week)
  • You don’t need to incorporate speed work yet. If you choose to, no more than 1 workout per week.
  • Use easy runs to fill up the other 2-3 runs per week
  • Feel free to use the walk/run method as needed
  • Include 2 strength training sessions
  • Take 2 days completely off for rest and recovery. Active recovery such as a walk, restorative yoga, or easy bike ride is fine, but don’t do a dedicated workout on your rest days.

Intermediate Runners Who Have Already Been Consistently Running

Intermediate Base Training Plan Guidelines:

  • Run 4-5 times total per week
  • Include 1 long run each week
  • Incorporate 1 speed workout per week. You can alternate which speed workout you do each week to include different types of workouts such as intervals, tempo runs, or fartlek runs.
  • Use easy runs to fill up the other 2-3 runs per week
  • Include 2 strength training sessions
  • Take 1-2 days completely off for rest and recovery. Active recovery such as a walk, restorative yoga, or easy bike ride is fine, but don’t do a dedicated workout on your rest days.

Advanced Runners Who Are Looking to Strengthen Their Foundation

Advanced Base Training Plan Guidelines:

  • Run 5-6 times total per week
  • Include 1 long run each week
  • Incorporate 1-2 speed workouts per week.
  • Use easy runs to fill up the other 3-4 runs per week
  • Include 2-3 strength training sessions after your easy runs
  • Take 1 day completely off for rest and recovery. Your body needs it.

What time of year do you accomplish your base training?

Run Happy,


About Me: I’m Alexis, Founder of RunningMyBestLife! I am an avid recreational runner, half marathoner, wife, dog mom, busy professional, downhill skier in Northern Utah. My mission is to help new enthusiasts fall in love with the sport of running. I believe that running is a catalyst to taking control of your life and living your best life by design. Learn More –>