Building Base Mileage, What is it & How do you do it?

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With most sports the more serious you get about your performance the more complicated your training gets. Running is no exception to this.  When we first took up running as a part of our overall lifestyle change our goals were simple – be able to run around the block, complete a 5k. Seemed easy enough right? It was and it wasn’t! There were challenges to face. I had to learn about running with asthma, there were injuries to overcome and we both learned about the importance of a good pair of shoes! But, that was nothing compared to what we had to learn when we started setting harder goals. One of the most important lessons was the importance of building base mileage.

Building Base Mileage, What is it & How do you do it?

Top 5 reasons to start running

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What is Base Mileage?

Base miles are the foundation of any good training plan. They are typically moderate length easy runs done on a consistent basis. In more technical terms, ‘Building a base’ in regards to running simply means building your aerobic ability and fitness levels to the point where you can withstand more intense training without injury. Building a good base is the first step that any runner should take regardless of their ultimate running goals. The benefits of these early easy runs will stick with you throughout the rest of your training even when you start to work on speed goals.

Building base mileage is a step that no runner should skip, even if you are on a timeline! It’s much better to finish a race injury free then it is to set a new personal record.

How do you Build Base Mileage?

When building your base mileage the majority of your runs should be done at an easy pace. Technically this means that you should be running at around 75% of your total effort – which can be calculated using fitness trackers and heart rate monitors. For those of us who want an easier way to figure it out – we like to call it ‘conversational pace’.  This means that you should be able to run and talk (or sing) without gasping for air and feeling out of breath. If you’re having trouble holding a conversation then your running to fast.

cross training for runners

Starting Out – Becoming a Consistent Runner

If you are a brand new runner then building your base mileage might mean walking and running in intervals. That’s perfectly fine! Your ultimate goal for the first few weeks should be to increase your running time until you can run for about 30 minutes without stopping.

Building base mileage is more about time on your feet and consistency then it is distance or speed. You’re not trying to beat records, you’re just trying to get stronger! For the first 3-4 weeks, you should try to run at least four times between during the week for 30 minutes at an easy pace.

The weekend is a good time to introduce long runs. Pick a day (either Saturday or Sunday) and make it a point to run farther then you do during the week. If you run for 30 minutes on the weekdays try for 40 minutes on the weekend. Every week or every other week try to add a few more minutes to your running.

Always listen to your body! It’s okay to be a bit sore after a long run and if you truly want to improve then this is going to happen but you should never push yourself to the point of actual injury.

A Typical Running Schedule at this point

  • Monday –  Rest
  • Tuesday – Easy 30 minute run
  • Wednesday – Easy 30-minute run
  • Thursday – Easy 30 minute run
  • Friday – Easy 30 minute run
  • Saturday – Rest
  • Sunday – Longer Run (slowly building to 60+ minutes)

Marathon Training, the journey of a first timer

Time to add in some speed

If you have spent the first 3-4 weeks learning how to be a consistent runner and slowly building your ability to run further and farther then you are ready to add in a little bit of speed work. If you have not been consistent or still don’t feel comfortable running for 30-60 minutes at a time then keep following the steps above before continuing.

From now on you will be adding at least one speed workout to your weekly running schedule. Depending on your ultimate goals you might increase this to 2 or 3 but stick to one for now! Your speed workout can be as simple as adding a 200-meter sprint to the middle and end of one of your easy runs. This would mean warming up at your regular pace, sprinting, returning to your easy pace to recover and then finishing at a sprint (simulating an end of a race ‘kick’) before walking to cool off.

As you progress with your running goals it’s likely your speed workout will change. You will start adding more sprints and less recovery but that’s a topic to look into later!

A Typical Running Schedule at this point

  • Monday –  Rest
  • Tuesday – Easy 30-minute run
  • Wednesday – Easy 30-minute run
  • Thursday – Speed Day!
  • Friday – Easy 30 minute run
  • Saturday – Rest
  • Sunday – Longer Run (slowly building to 60+ minutes)

*if you add a second speed day eventually I would suggest Tuesday on this schedule.

Two people running in the woods

Continue Adding to your Long Run

On the weekend you should continue to add time to your long runs. This run should still be run at a conversation pace but continue to add distance and time. Your long run should ultimately last for at least 60 minutes. Do not neglect your long run, this extended time on your feet really helps to build your base fitness level.

Where do I go from here?

This will depend on entirely on your running goals. If you plan to run a marathon or ultra race then you will have to make your easy and long runs progressively longer. If you plan on running a faster 5k then you might consider spending more time on your speedwork. If you want to just stay fit and be healthy this schedule can be maintained as your typical day to day running.

The good news is because you took the time to build your base mileage you can follow any running dream you want armed with the knowledge and fitness you need!

Running with Dogs Header A Golden Retriever and a pair of running shoes

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Building Base Mileage is important and here's why! #Running #runner #run #exercise #fitness #fitnessjourney #FitnessGoals #Runningtips < />
Building Base Mileage is important and here's why! #Running #runner #run #exercise #fitness #fitnessjourney #FitnessGoals #Runningtips < />

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