Why foundation training is key to your running


When I was still planning for my A-Race taking place in October, I read a lot about trail running, running in general and how to optimize my training. I read a lot of testimonials and portraits about my favorite runners as well as the one I don’t know. I realized one topic was always coming back, like a sweet catchy tune that never goes away and that you can’t forget. All the sources agreed on one point: that foundation training is key to our running.
My reaction at that time? – Oh I would love to work on my base but you know, I have my race in a few months, I can’t spend 5 month building it up. I’ll do it later, after the race, after the season, after the…

You can’t build a great building on a weak foundation. You must have a solid foundation if you’re going to have a strong superstructure. – Gordon B. Hinckley


Reality did catch me at some point, and lucky me, soon enough. I canceled my race because of work and lack of training (as well a the loss of my mojo). And while planning for 2016 – yes I am already planning – I realized oh surprise, that I can actually do foundation training. That means more conversational pace while running and some (a lot of) core training. Five to six months until my first race of the new season will give me full time to rebuild a strong base necessary for my 2016 goals and a peaceful mind.

What does it mean to build my base?

Usually when you start training for a race, you receive a twelve weeks plan – maybe six weeks for a half-marathon. When you read carefully, some of the plans give you the prerequisite to be able to start, this being your actual current fitness. Rome was not built in a day. Preparing an ultra, a trail race or a marathon without a solid base is silly. Before entering the specific preparation for a race, you need to do foundation training, which could be a kind of general preparation if you want.
Building your base means starting strong in a specific preparation.
Building your base means preparing for the specific and sometimes
– often – brutal and enjoyable part of race-training.
Building your base means preparing your body and your mind for painful workouts.

The benefits of foundation training

Building up our base is necessary for beginners, for runners coming back from injuries or for runners coming back from an after-season break.
It benefits to all of us, no exception.
The foundation training is key to developing your aerobic potential. We often associate this term of with the running of long and slower distances, mostly at a pace where you can keep talking. Some elite runners say that once you develop a strong aerobic zone, you will be able to run faster without having your heart rate reaching maximum high.
Injuries. Yes, injuries. Building up your base will enhance the strength in your muscles and sinews. Adding some cross-training such as cycling, walking or power hiking on hills will also ensure lower impact on your muscles, and help to become stronger.

Which form takes foundation training?

In my opinion, and for myself, I decided to create a twelve week planning with a different focus. All my run are slow runs with variations in the distances. I will increase the mileage by 10% every week but also work with my body feeling. If it’s too much, it’s okay to keep a lower mileage.
But I don’t want to make it all about running. I increased my core training sessions since I have access to a gym. I want to emphasize the training for the legs (especially the butt and thighs muscles) but I will also add arms and abs. I need a strong core if I want to be able to move in the mountains while training on flat.
And last but not least, I consider discovering other activities that are fun like bouldering, hiking… yoga? I always say I need to start yoga and never do. But it’s going to be necessary now!


So if you are interested in building a strong aerobic base, focus on foundation training by running slow distances, and diversify your training with other fun but necessary activities.



Picture: Alexis Martín /Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0)

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