In the offseason, athletes often talk about working on their base training. Your base is exactly what it sounds like — the foundation of your fitness that you build from the ground up.
It’s where your strength, stamina and endurance comes from, as well as where you gain your ability to recover quickly. Development of your base strength and endurance is critical for maximizing your athletic development as you shift off of your initial phases of training toward other elements such as speed, lactate threshold and power.
Having a solid base before you begin training such elements allows you to absorb more from your workouts, add more sets and intervals to your work and recover more quickly between workouts and even portions of your workouts. It can also prevent injury.
So where do you start with your base training? Whether you’re already fit or not, it’s always wise to shift into a phase of base training at least once per year. Many endurance athletes will devote multiple periods of their year to building up their base. Others simply pick a season to get after it, but typically the goal would be to spend a minimum of six weeks to four months devoted to building your base.
There are two main components of your base: strength base and aerobic base.
A solid strength base is critical for the support of your joints and spine during whatever sport you play and whatever significant lifts you do. Strength base training involves a great deal of high repetition training in a variety of bodyweight exercises centered around the shoulders, core, glutes and lower back.
Exercises like pushups, pull ups, planks, situps, kettlebell swings, rowing and superman holds should all be added to your routine in great volume. For many of these exercises, starting out once per week and gradually increasing your volume to two-four days per week is recommended.
Volume can also be expanded by increasing your repetition counts per set or total time per interval as the weeks add up and by gradually increasing the number of daily sets. Reducing the rest between sets is another way to continue to improve during base training.
Runners work on building their aerobic base in the offseason as well, by adding high volume mileage to their routine. This mileage boosts their stamina and endurance, as well as their ability to recover quickly during other workouts. Enhancing their aerobic base allows them to push harder in their higher intensity workouts, reduce their recovery time between intervals and absorb more from their speed and threshold training sessions.
The hard and fast rule of building your aerobic base is that you only increase your running mileage by 10 percent per week. There are similar rules regarding other endurance sports but the mileage rules for cycling and swimming differ from running.
Ideally, if using running to increase your aerobic base, you should aim for three consecutive weeks of increasing your mileage volume, followed by one week of reduced mileage to allow your body to recover before repeating the cycle again. You simply need to follow this sequence for a few months to see a dramatic boost in endurance and overall improvement in your distance running ability.
This aerobic base provides you the ability to recovery quicker between hard anaerobic lifts and power efforts as well. You can improve your strength simply by running more. And you’ll become an all around better athlete.
Building your base isn’t necessarily the most fun way to train. It isn’t exciting or glamorous, but if you focus on it before moving on you will enjoy the fruits of your labor. Your ability to train harder will improve, your recovery time will decrease and your engine will be phenomenal, allowing you to retain more from each workout. After all, isn’t the goal of each of your workouts to maximize your time and effort?