What is the most important thing you can do as a runner to hit your goals on race day?
Is it your long runs? The speed workouts? Making sure you take care of all the little things that help you stay healthy?
No question that those all play a role in helping you be fully prepared and ready to go on race day.
But in my opinion, the most important thing you can do to have a good race is what you do before you actually start training for your race.
To put it another way, building and maintaining a solid base of fitness before you officially start training for a race is the most important thing you can do in the pursuit of your running goals.
Firm Foundation Required
In construction, nothing is more important than a firm foundation.
Think about your house for a second.
What would happen if the foundation upon which your house is built gave way? You would no longer have a house!
Can you build a house on a less-than-firm foundation? I suppose so. But it’s only a matter of time before a storm hits and the house is gone.
But when a builder takes the time to solidify the foundation before doing anything else, the house has a very good chance to remain standing in the midst of even the most severe storms.
That’s how important a foundation is when it comes to building a house.
And for your training plan, a solid foundation is equally vital.
Why? Think about what happens when you’re training for a race.
Your weekly mileage starts to increase to build your endurance and you mix in a few really hard workouts to help you get stronger/faster.
The increases in mileage and the addition of harder workouts are the metaphorical storms that can lead to your body breaking down and developing an injury before you even start your race.
If you have built your training on a solid base, there’s a good chance you can come through the storm in one piece.
But if you don’t have a solid base in place before you start building? Not so much.
Keys to Building and Maintaining a Strong Base
If you’ve never really thought about building or maintaining a strong base of fitness, I can’t really blame you.
Base-building isn’t exciting and it doesn’t look particularly flashy when you post about it on social media.
But as I’ve already discussed, it’s vitally important.
So how do you build/maintain your base of fitness?
The key to building a solid base is to keep things nice and easy.
You still need to be running, obviously, but keep the intensity low.
The harder you’re working, the more stress/strain you are putting on your body. Essentially, those hard workouts break down your base instead of building it up.
So when your focus is on base-building, keep the effort low.
Running at an easy pace may not feel like you’re accomplishing much, but I can promise you that those runs are invaluable to building/solidifying your base.
Take a Break from Racing
When you are focused on building/solidifying your base, it’s a good idea to avoid racing.
Well, how often are you going to sign up for a race and then just run the whole thing nice and easy?
Some people can do this, but most of us can’t help but go all out on race day.
And like I just talked about, running hard is going to erode your base more than it’s going to build it up.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a hard workout or a strong race, to your body and your base, hard is hard.
So when base-building is your priority, you’d be wise to skip out on running any races for a month or two just to make sure you keep things nice and easy.
Better Option? Always Build Your Base
When it comes to building your base, one option is to have a dedicated six to eight- week period on your calendar where base-building is your only focus.
Everything is easy. No races. Just building up your base before you start really training for your goal race.
My preference, both for myself and for the runners I coach, is to make base-building and maintaining a regular occurrence.
How? By running easy most of the time.
It really is that simple.
Instead of pushing yourself with every run, dial back the effort most of the time.
You can still push the pace every so often, but if you keep most of your miles easy, you’ll essentially be shoring up your base with most of your runs.
And then when it’s time to start training for your next goal race?
You will already have a strong base, and you will be ready to start working toward your goal!