How to Build a Solid Running Base This Winter

How to Build a Solid Running Base This Winter


Does the idea of maintaining intense race training all winter make you want to curl up in a ball under the covers and hibernate?

I know the feeling.

But there is a different approach to try – build your running base in the winter instead!

While winter running isn’t as bad as you think, some runners despise the cold. So instead of trudging through the snow, ice and wind 5+ days a week trying to maintain the intensity of a race schedule, why not learn how to build a running base instead?

A solid running base will prepare any runner for killer spring races.

Want a PR?

Build a running base in the winter.

Want to feel stronger than ever? Hit a new long distance goal?

Build a running base in the winter.

So how do runners build a strong running base? When should you start?

We’ll explain that (and much more) just keep reading!

What is a Running Base?

How to Build a Running Base-When

A running base is the foundation of your running fitness.

The main goal during this phase is to increase your endurance and aerobic capacity – but many runners also take this time to build up strength with strength training.

Aerobic capacity commonly refers to “stamina”. But from a scientific standpoint, it’s the body’s ability to get oxygen from the lungs and heart to your muscles for use during exercise.

A University of Colorado Sports Medicine article indicates it takes up to 8-12 weeks to build aerobic fitness in beginners who aren’t currently exercising. However, if you’re already a seasoned runner, the ‘minimum’ time frame shrinks to about 6-12 weeks.

Learn more about boosting endurance here: How to Increase Your Running Endurance

When to Build Your Running Base

How to Build a Running Base - Winter

Since many runners train for spring, summer, or fall races, base building often happens early to mid winter, although it can be done anytime.

As mentioned earlier, the basic goal of building a running base is increased aerobic fitness, BUT, runners also need a break from intense race training to avoid burnout and injuries.

So if you’ve recently completed a training cycle for a tough race (whether distance or speed related), any time of year, consider pausing to build your running base back up and take a physical and mental break from the race training schedule.

Why Focus on Building a Running Base?

How to Build a Running Base- Why

This phase is the foundation for future training cycles and sets you up for success in upcoming races.

So, what are all the phases of running?

Good question. To level-set, the 4 training phases for runners preparing for a big race are generally defined as:

  1. Build a Running Base
  2. Strength & Speed
  3. High Intensity Training
  4. Peaking and Tapering

Phase 1 allows time to prepare your body for a future race schedule. In other words, you must prepare your body with a basic “base” of fitness before transitioning to more intense workouts. Otherwise, injuries happen (and believe me…you want to avoid running injuries as much as humanly possible!).

Base building usually has fewer intense workouts and more easy runs.

Kind of a runners dream, right? Just enjoy your sport for a few weeks! 🙂

Plus, this phase also provides your body with training on the basics so you can head into future training schedules with increased stamina, strength and motivation.

Plan to run a half marathon or marathon in 5-6 months? Build your base first.

Most training plans start you off at 5-8 mile long runs (especially marathon plans) so go into the schedule prepared and training will be SO much easier!

How to Build a Running Base

Build a Running Base-What is a Running Base

Ok, we’ve discussed when to build a running base and why…now for the good stuff: HOW to build your running base!

The 3 basics of the base-building phase include:

  • Easy miles
  • The long run
  • Some speed/tempo work (but not as much as intense as during training cycles) unless you are a complete beginner, then skip this

One key piece of advice to remember during this phase for both beginners and experienced runners: don’t push yourself too hard during this phase.

Feel over-tired, lack motivation, or feel close to injury? You’ve pushed it too hard. Back off, even if it’s hard to do.

Aerobic fitness comes from the easy miles and slow and stead long run buildup. Remember that and stay true to it for maximum impact.

For seasoned runners, sprinkle in 1 speed (tempo/fartlek/hill) workout per week, at easy to moderate intensity.

For everyone – it’s highly beneficial to integrate 1-3 strength or cross training days into the base-building phase. While not a “requirement”, you’ll see a huge positive impact within weeks.

Learn more about cross training with Cross Training for Runners: The Hidden Secrets You Need to Know

Strength training especially helps prevent injury now and in future race training cycles because it prepares your muscles for increased intensity later.

Need some strength training moves? Strength Training for Runners: 8 Easy Moves for Beginners


Ok, let’s recap:

  • Start easy, and start with where you are now in your fitness journey (not where you were 3 months ago, or where you want to be…)
  • Increase mileage slowly (add another mile to your long run every 1-2 weeks and the same for your mid-week run)
  • Don’t forget the long run
  • Integrate cross training/strength training
  • Cut back for one week every 4-5 weeks to avoid injury (like with any training schedule)
  • Don’t go all-out – this phase isn’t supposed to be a full-intensity training phase
  • Limit this phase and don’t stay in it permanently (unless you’re a casual runner with no race plans)

Dealing with Running Injuries?

Sometimes runners take a break when a recurring running sidelines them.

Is that why you want to build your base back up?

If so, sign up for the (free) Runner’s Injury Prevention Guide:

Note: Why Aerobic Fitness is So Important for Runners

As mentioned earlier, base-building builds up aerobic fitness, or endurance, through long runs and a slow and steady increase of weekly miles.

Not sure what “endurance” means?

We fully explain it in this article, How to Increase Running Endurance, (totally worth checking out to get a better understanding!). Every runner should understand the reasons behind each workout, and each phase, of training. 

Pin this post for later:

How to Build a Strong Running Base this season and set yourself up for running success next season. #running #runningtips
Build a Strong Running Base this season and set yourself up for running success next season. #running #runningtips
Build a Strong Running Base this season and prevent injuries next race season.
Build a Strong Running Base this season and set yourself up for running success next season. #running #runningtips
How to build a running base to increase endurance and prepare you for next race season properly.

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