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All about the base: preparing for an uncertain 2021

As the end of 2020 approaches, I am sure many of us look back at the last 12 months with regrets over races and events that never happened.


After having my South Downs Way 100 mile ultra postponed not once, but twice this year, I myself am taking a short step back with my fingers crossed that third time is a charm for the rescheduled date of June.


And when I say step-back I don't mean not training, but rather a reset of where I am with my programme with an aim to peak again next summer.


Not 'ticking-over' (which is a phrase I hate) but consciously preparing my body for the next training programme to come.


If like me you've had a stop-start year or maybe still grappling with when and what to train for next year, then the best way to spend the next month or two would be a solid period of 'winter base training'.


Whilst we are all unique athletes and need something slightly different, I thought I'd share my top-tips for base-training to get you in great shape ready to smash-out your 2021 goals... when you figure out what they are that is:







1. Take a benchmark measure of fitness to track improvement. A bleep-test measures not only your max heart-rate but optimal interval speed for speed training when it's time. I like the 30-15 ITS (Intermittent Fitness Test) because of its versatility for the track or a football pitch. You run reps of 30s sprints and 15s recoveries at increasing pace until you can't keep up with the bleeps - tough, but fun!


2. Plan for 1-2 months of consistent running of 4 or 5 days a week to build up your aerobic efficiency - and consistency is the key here! This will develop both your maximum aerobic output (VO2 max) and more importantly for endurance runners, your running economy (% of that maximum you can sustain without going into the red).


3. Make one of these a long run of 90+ minutes per week to strengthen your body for the training load to come. When the speed training begins next year your improved musculoskeletal durability will help stave off injuries whilst running beyond your carbohydrate stores will prepare you to push harder in those faster sessions.


4. Gradually increase your training volume (time or mileage) with no more than a 10% increase week-on-week - don't get carried away with piling on the miles as this is all about fitness-prep not endurance. And be sure to build in a drop-down week with a slightly lower training load every 3-5 weeks to give both body and mind a chance to recharge.


5. One you've established a good base-training routine look to build in a steady-state run once a week to further develop this aerobic efficiency. Aim to run for 20-50 mins just below race-pace (i.e. 10km or half-marathon). This still shouldn't feel 'hard' and you can gradually increase the duration as you feel your fitness improve.


6. We also need to make sure our bodies are strong enough to take the higher intensity training to come, and if you're starting from a low base then including a short c15-min routine of bodyweight exercises once or twice each week will give you a great base to build from. Focus on known weaknesses, but some key exercises to include would be squats, lunges, glute bridges, crab-walks, clam shells, press-ups &/or plank.


If you're looking for some support to build up your own bespoke base-training plan, or perhaps set some 'new year goals' then give me a shout and I can help you blaze your own trail to a more fulfilling running year in 2021.

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