I didn't realize that I was really working on base building, but I was. If you remember from the Weight Loss post I knew that running burned the most calories per hour, so that needed to be the staple of my winter workouts. I still think it's important to get some cross training in, so I did that on the stationary bike as well.
The four days a week I was running was actually a base building phase - I had no idea that was going to happen. I knew I needed to keep my runs under 45 minutes. I wanted to use the treadmill to see the calorie counter on there, and I eventually figured out that the most effective workouts were burning less than 600 calories. When I ran long I didn't lose any weight. Long runs have no place in base building either.
The first thing I noticed when building my base was the basic endurance factor of not taking any walk breaks. It builds up over time like any other endurance base. First I would go a mile without walking, then two, then three. That's when I started to notice - hey I didn't have to walk for that 3 mile run. Then I could go four, five, or six miles without walking. All still at the same 10 min/mile pace.
If you want to run fast, run fast. Once I got comfortable going 10k at a 10m/m pace it got boring. So I started trying to speed it up some. Some runs turned into 5k at a 9m/m pace. Then 10k at 9m/m. This all just happened naturally.
I did start throwing some intervals in there once I got closer to my goal weight. Interval training isn't base building, but I know they were in there.
The biggest point of base building for speed is to walk less and keep the milage low. Actually don't walk at all and don't make a single run over 10k. If you run like I did 4 times a week at 3, 4, 5, or 6 miles then you've established a base of around 18 miles a week.
Endurance comes before speed
Yes I know that this is the exact opposite of the above framework for base building. But hear me out. It doesn't take much endurance, and we can use it to our advantage. It's really dealing with endurance for the event.
Now it's time to start thinking ahead to a goal. Want to run a fast 5k? After Ironman I'm going to try and break 20 minutes in a 5k. Our base training has taught us that we can run a 5k at a faster pace than 5 miles. So you want to run a 5k at a 6:23 pace (that's 19:50, or 9.4 mph)?
Get ready to run 5 miles very often. Once or twice a week hit a 5 mile tempo run, and keep trying to get that faster until you're about a 34:50 total run time. That's a 6:58 pace, or an 8.6 speed on the treadmill. 5 miles is less than 10k so it fits our base model, and the run is still under 45 minutes so it fits our calorie burn model. Actually that might end up burning too many calories.
Lots of 5 mile runs will give you the endurance you need to run a fast 5k. Going 10, 12, or 15 miles will not give you as much benefit as a solid 5 mile speed base will for a 5k. You want to set a half marathon PR? Break 2 hours for the first time? Great. Run 15 at least twice in the month before your race and you've given yourself a much better shot. Once you feel comfortable holding a given pace for 15 miles then holding a slightly faster pace for 13.1 on race day is in the bag. This also gives you a huge mental advantage.
Base and Endurance Conclusion
I didn't make a conscious decision to run lots of base miles in order to get fast, I did it to get thin. I got fast because I started with a solid base of slow miles. As I got thinner, it got easier to run faster, so I kept the same milage and just kept increasing the speed. Now it feels really awkward to run any slower than an 8:00 pace, and when running outside with no Garmin telling me to slow down my natural gate keeps about a 7:30 pace. I know how to push that up for shorter distance races and can force myself to slow down for longer races.
So build your base, then add some endurance and your speed will follow. Give it 6-15 weeks to really get a solid base established. I took 5 months leading up to my ironman training plan to really get that base established and only ran more than 6 miles three or four times. Consistency is the key. Unlock your potential!
Next up is going to be how to get fast at swimming and cycling!