Building Base Over the Winter

author : mikericci
comments : 0

I'm reading and hearing a bunch about the winter time being a base building time - what do you mean by that? And what kind of base should I be thinking of for my type of goals for next summer?

Member Question

So I'm new at all this.  I'm just getting started training for some stuff next summer, and I did a 10K this fall (turkey trot) just for fun. I started out with a couch-to-5k plan in the spring through mid-summer, now my long run is seven miles, with three mile runs on two other days during the week, two bike rides a week (10-15 miles training and sometimes another 10 mile slow bike with my son), and just getting started with swims. 

Next summer I'd like to do a half marathon in the beginning of June, a couple sprints (one in July, one in August) and then a marathon in October. This seems like a lot, but spread out OK...maybe? 

Anyway, I'm reading and hearing a bunch about the winter time being a base building time- what do you mean by that? And what kind of base should I be thinking of for my type of goals for next summer? I'm not looking for record times or anything, just finishing without collapsing!

Answer from Mike Ricci
Head Coach D3

This is a great question and thanks for asking. This leads to a few different questions from the coaching side and let’s take a few different angles on this subject.

If you are new to running and or endurance sports, like it sounds, then you’ll want to work on building up your endurance and that should be the main focus of your program. We’ll get into that in a few minutes, but first let’s talk about what else you can do to improve outside of building endurance.

The main factor that inhibits progress in endurance sports is injury. This comes in many forms, obviously, but mostly it’s due to weak or imbalanced muscles. This can be corrected with an assessment from your physical therapist or certified personal strength coach. Once you have an idea of what your weaknesses are, you’ll need a plan to improve those issues and get your body moving well in cohesion.

I wouldn’t ever advise that someone increases mileage or volume without getting an assessment done and knowing what we are dealing with in terms of past injury or muscle imbalances. 

The second most important factor that comes into play with endurance sports, is being consistent with training. That’s a lot easier to do when you aren’t nursing an injury or on the cusp of one. So, just to reiterate, get yourself checked out, and then you’ll be able to load the muscles with the stress needed to improve.

So, what does that look like? If your main focus is running, and you want to use the swim and bike workouts as recovery or just for fun, that’s great.

I would look at this year’s weekly mileage, and hopefully you logged your workouts, so you can see what your starting point is. One program that I like to use is called 3:2:1 Running. Basically you take your total weekly mileage and your run long would be 25% of the total mileage of that for the week. Your shortest run would be 1/3 the distance of the longest run, and your middle distance run would be 2x that of your short run.

Let’s look at an example:
If your weekly long run is 10 miles, or say, 90 minutes, your shortest run would be 30 minutes and your mid-distance run would be 60 minutes. In addition, you would build up to three shorter runs, two middle distance runs, and one long run per week. That would be a total of six runs at the peak and you would run about four hours per week. The week would include 3 x 30 minutes runs, 2x 60 minute runs and then 1 x 90 minute runs. I think for half marathon training this is a perfect goal to have, even if you are running up to 2:15 for your half marathon. As you get closer to your race, you can adjust the long runs, maybe moving them up to two hours, meaning your shorter runs would be 40 minutes and your mid-distance runs would be 80 minutes 

In terms of your overall winter training plan, I would incorporate the swims and bikes into the run program and set it up like such:

Swim: 2-3 days, focus on technique, with the help of a swim coach. These are low impact, low HR type of workouts, so I would treat them as recovery workouts.

Bike: since your longest race will be 12 miles, I wouldn’t put in too many long rides on the schedule in the winter. My goal would be to focus on pedaling drills 2-3 times per week and also some high intensity efforts too. One workout should be dedicated to drills – one leg spinning, high rpm spinning, some standing and aero bar riding. Another bike workout I would do would be a VO2 max workout. After a nice solid warm up, I would ride 10x30 seconds at a very hard effort with equal rest. This is enough work to start with and you can add a few reps every week or two. A third workout could be easy or you could add in some drills, but either would work!

For your running and winter base, I would be as consistent as possible and I would focus on being bullet proof. No injuries, no missed weeks of running and just focus on staying healthy! I hope this helps you line up your winter training!

Best of luck! 

Coach Mike


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date: December 27, 2013