Base Training

Base Building. Staying in the Game.

Ever wonder what you're supposed to do before your half marathon or marathon race training plans actually start? The average runner is not constantly in race training (if you feel like you are, stop and talk to us about recovery!). This period in between recovery and race training is hard for a lot us who thrive off of structure and goals.  For others coming back from an injury or time off from running, you might have the same question: How do you stay fresh and ready to dive into more technical demands of race training like intense hill and speed workouts and long runs? The answer? Do three simple things:


What I mean here is vary your pace and vary your terrain at least once a week. You can be very structured about this or spontaneous depending on what works best for you and your lifestyle. Either way, start to incorporate faster intervals and hill work once a week. This can include progression runs where you get faster and faster each mile, short and long speed intervals (1 to 5 minutes), tempo runs, hill repeats or hill surges on a hilly run.  For specific workout ideas, download our Base Training Plan.


In order to be race training ready, it's good to have the body accustomed to some longer distances so the long run isn't so taxing on the body. Accordingly, building up and maintaining the ability to run for 90 minutes is a good base line to settle in at during "spring training." Remember, as with any running routine, you want recovery weeks. So, every couple of weeks, drop your long run down to 60 or 70 minutes to give your body a break. Once you can do 90 minutes comfortably, start to challenge yourself on these runs either by harder terrain, faster paces in the middle or the end of the run.

The majority of runners make just enough time in their day to get their run in. Maybe a few extra minutes for stretching . . . maybe.  But, building a strong foundation during this phase is just as important as maintaining the frequency of your running. While training plans aren't taking over your life, this is a good time to really commit to strength work at least two times a week. Focus on a couple core exercises and a couple lower body exercises. Honestly, 30-minutes a week is a good start (2, 15-minute strength sessions). Do it. Check out our video library for exercise suggestions.

Would you like extra guidance on how these three principles play out in a base training training plan? Download our free Base Training Plan. Once you have a chance to review it, feel free to reach out to us with questions about how to make it your own. Base building is casual and carefree - this is not a time to stress about missed runs, but it is a time to start mixing things up!

Tip of the Week - 3 Do Anywhere Exercises


The following 3 exercises are our favorites because you can do them anywhere - house, hotel room, park, rest stop, gas station and airport - if you don't mind some funny looks! They hit the major muscles groups for an easy total body workout and will get your heart rate up. Do 3-5 rounds at the same time or split it up over the day. We like to do a set or 2 at each rest stop while road tripping. Try variations as well - we've listed a few for you. Happy exercising!

Squats: Strengthens the hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes and improves overall muscle balance and mobility. Focus on keeping the knees over the ankles and sitting as far back as you can while keeping your chest up. Add some variety: slow down the up and down movements; lower down to where it burns a bit and pulse; widen your stance into a ballet second position or sumo squat; or try the variation (video on the right) that adds more leg movement: Squat to Leg Extention


Pushups: Strengthen shoulders, arms and core. This is a great exercise for runners because it improves the upper body strength you need to maintain proper form as your lower body begin to fatigue & essential in hilly terrain to help drive your body uphill. Keep your core nice and tight throughout for a true full-body workout. There are a ton of variations as well: keep your arms close to your body for a yoga/tricep pushup, move your arms far away from your body and move one arm forward and keep the other by your shoulder. The modified version (on the right) is great and you can do those variations on your knees too. Aim for 10-15 for 1 set.


Planks:Targets your entire core. Our favorite way to do planks is in a 2 minute series: 30 sec forearm plank, 30 sec side plank, 30 sec other side and end with 30 sec forearm plank. Try the variation (video on the right) for added oblique work - Plank Knee Tucks


Base Training: Head for the Hills

Base training is a time to reconnect with your friends, the hills! If a hilly run or a few hill repeats here and there aren't a part of your weekly routine, starting making them.

Incorporating hills into your workouts builds leg strength, increases your endurance and stamina, improves your running form, and reduces risk of injury once race training begins. Not to mention, most race courses have at least one or two hills in them!

Nutrition for Base Training: Stocking Your Fridge/Pantry

By Caitlin Grams

When taking on something new, you will experience the greatest success if you come prepared. Take running, for example: without shoes or a mapped out running route, a great run would be near impossible. Cleaning up your diet is the same way - you have to come prepared in order to succeed. In order to kick off your base training properly fueled and energized for a successful training season, here are my top 3 tips: 


1. Clean it out. Get rid of anything that might tempt you to stray from a clean diet. Chips, candy, processed foods, ice cream, sodas (even diet sodas), high fat meat and dairy products - avoid most things in packages and with additives. Toss them out, bring them to a food bank, donate to friends - but get it out of your kitchen.


2. Restock. Head to a grocery store or better yet a farmer's market. Choose foods that don't come in a box and that are fresh and in season. Fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains and healthy fats are the building blocks of a healthy diet. Find healthier replacements for your old unhealthy favorites - make kale chips instead of regular potato chips, frozen yogurt instead of ice cream, sparkling water instead of soda.


3. Prepare! Chop vegetables for salads and snacks, grill or bake enough lean protein for the week, make a large batch of quinoa, black beans or brown rice, and roast vegetables. Pre-portion nuts and fruits for snacks. Keep healthy snacks and meals at the office or in your car so you are never tempted to stray from a clean diet. 


Now that your kitchen is clean and stocked, you are ready to take on your base training and start cooking up some Hot Bird Recipes!

Nutrition For Base Training: Cleaning Up Your Diet

By Caitlin Grams

There are so many factors that go into getting your body ready for a race. Training is all about preparation: getting your mind and body in prime condition to have the best possible outcome on race day. Getting your body ready to race is about more than just getting your legs in shape - in order to perform at your peak, nutrition is equally as important as your workouts. Not only will you ensure that you are properly fueling your body by cleaning up your diet, but your stomach will thank you - and any runner can tell you that keeping your stomach happy is key to a great race. 
Here are a few tips for cleaning up your diet during base training:
*Limit sugar. So many of us know that sugar is bad for us but we eat it anyway. Why limit sugar intake? Here are just a few good reasons: it is high in calories but low in nutritional benefits, it can lead to excess weight gain, it suppresses the immune system and can cause inflammation as well as surges and drops in energy (sugar crash anyone?)  - need i say more?
*Avoid excess dairy and high fat foods. These are two enemies of healthy digestion - most people don't tolerate dairy well, and foods that are high in fat are also difficult to digest -  which can lead to all kinds of stomach issues. Stick to lean proteins, green veggies and whole grains and your stomach will thank you. 
*Up your veggie intake. Vegetables keep your digestive system running smoothly, provide essential nutrients, calcium, and support immune function, among many other benefits.

Base Training - Changing up the Pace

Preparing for fall race season isn't just about building up strength and mileage. It's about quality mileage. At least once a week, start reintroducing faster paced runs into your routine with interval training and tempo runs at half marathon effort.  Why? By easing structured speed back into your routine before official training begins, you prepare the mind and body for the harder, faster, higher intensity speed and stamina workouts in the months ahead.  As a result, you'll be ready to dive head first into training rather than spending the first half re-conditioning your body, reawakening the fast twitch muscles and building up your stamina to handle tempo runs at your target pace.

We're not talking about intense track sessions during base training. Instead, try these three key workouts:

Tempo Runs: After a mile warm up, pick up the pace to a comfortably hard effort for 15-20 minutes. What's a comfortably hard effort? We like to think of it as one that's difficult to carry on a conversation, but not impossible to respond to questions with one word answers. Implement these once a week or every other week.

Intervals: After a mile warm up, alternate between 1 to 3 minutes of faster paced runnning and an equal amount of slow, recovery time.  Continue your intervals for 15 minutes total in the beginning and build up to 30-40 minutes of intervals (total time includes both your speed and recovery intervals). If you know your half marathon pace, then aim for this pace during your faster intervals. If not, then aim for a similar pace to the tempo runs.  Implement these every 2 or 3 weeks.

Fartleks:  After at least a mile warm up, incorporate spontaneous bursts of faster paced running into a regular run - either up hills or on the flats. The duration and pace of your faster bursts can be random and undefined. The purpose is to reintroduce faster feet and start recruiting the fast-twitch muscle fibers with bouts of faster paced running without having too much structure in your running. Avoid all out sprints, aim for fun and use what's around you (mailboxes, lamp posts). Incorporate these runs every 2-3 weeks.   

Base Training - Muscle Strength

You’ve spent the last few weeks or so stabilizing your muscles and now you are ready to strengthen them so that you are able to run longer without fatiguing.

Most people think “lean and lanky” when they think of the typical runner’s body. While that might be true, it doesn’t mean weak. The most effective runners are powerhouses because they know that being strong translates to faster, more efficient and more injury resistant. And remember, running is a full-body exercise so you have to be full-body strong – not just your legs.

Below are some of our favorite ways to strengthen and tone. Do each exercise for 30 to 60 seconds and repeat 3x for 1-2 weeks.
Squat to Overhead Raise
Bridge with Tricep Dip
Renegade Row
Dumbell Woodchop

Base Training - Muscle Stability

A major part of staying injury free and hitting your target or goal race times is muscle stability. Your muscles need to work together, harmoniously, to properly turn over and keep you going for 20+ miles. Thus, you need strong, stable muscles and not just in your legs. We are talking core and upper body as well. A strong core will help you pick up your knees, which translates into faster times (think turnover, how many times your feet hit the ground) and a strong upper body will help keep you upright and keep those arms pumping.

Below we highlight a few exercises that we recommend to stabilize your muscles and prepare for more strength work and longer miles.  Do 30-60 seconds of each exercise, 2x. Click on each exercise to see a brief video and explanation.

  1. Bridge with Single Leg Raise
  2. Plank - Side Plank Series
  3. Opposite Arm/Leg Extension
  4. Single Leg Deadlift
  5. Single Leg Calf Raise
  6. Squat to Leg Extension
  7. Donkey Kicks
  8. Glute Press Up

Base Training 101 - Prepare for Race Season

Marathon Season is approaching fast! What are you doing now so you’re ready to hit the ground running (literally) once race training formally begins? The answer - invest in a solid base training program.

What is base training? Base training involves a healthy combination of strength workouts, longer distance runs, stamina building tempo and interval runs and hill work during the weeks leading up to formal race training. During this time, you work on strengthening and balancing major running muscles, safely re-introducing intervals and hill workouts at medium intensity and improving your stamina with weekly runs at a harder, sustained effort.

Why do I need it? The goal of base training is to develop your muscular strength and cardiovascular endurance to enter race training with a proper foundation. This way you can jump into higher intensity workouts without risk of injury, and effectively execute each workout to reap the most benefits.

When to implement? Six to nine weeks before race specific training begins. We recommend a solid nine weeks for maximum strength and endurance adaptations.

Who is it for? Anyone who can comfortably run at least three times per week for a total of 10-15 miles a week and is beginning a formal race training program in the upcoming months.

The month of May at Hot Bird Running is all about base training. Whether you’re coming off a spring half marathon and ready to get back into running or you’re in the final count down before your marathon training starts this summer, base training is for you. Maintain a year round, balanced approach to running with a proper base training plan. Stay tuned all month for our base training tips - get the base before the race.