An aerobic base is essential for just about any physical activity – especially running. Building a solid aerobic base will set you up for success in training of any kind. Whether you’re planning for a long distance race, a new PR or completing your first 5k, aerobic base training is a necessary first step.
What is aerobic base?
“Aerobic base” is essentially a fancy way of describing your foundational fitness. In more technical terms, it describes your ability to run as far and fast as desired while maintaining aerobic ATP production – not venturing into an anaerobic state.
In an aerobic state, the muscles are relying on oxygen to fuel themselves; whereas in an anaerobic state, they rely on energy stores. Most mild to moderate forms of exercise all take place in an aerobic state. Building your aerobic base increases the range of effort that you can exert before transitioning to an anaerobic state.
What is aerobic base training?
Aerobic base training simply involves training that is completed with the goal of improving your aerobic base. While in base training, runners’ bodies are able to increase the mitochondrial density of the muscles to become more efficient.
Base training typically refers to the initial training periods – the time when runners focus on foundation before attempting to increase speed or distance.
How do you build an aerobic base?
Building an aerobic base requires consistency and time. In order to do so, runners will need to plan a few weeks or months prior to the start of their training plans, during which they can focus on the basics. Here are some key aspects of aerobic base building.
- Intensity is low to moderate
- Speed remains consistent
- Distance builds very gradually over time
- Strength training is supplemental
- Incorporate longer base training prior to harder goals
- Beginner runners begin very slowly and gradually
- Never push to the point of pain
6 Benefits of Aerobic Base Training
It is tempting to believe that running slower and shorter will result in lower performance over time. Many runners fall into the trap of running too far and too fast for the duration of their training – which often leads to poor performance on race day.
On the contrary, spending time base training helps set the body up for success and better performance during hard workouts and long runs in the future. Here are some of the most profound benefits of aerobic base training.
Faster and more efficient recovery
Aerobic base training is an effective way to improve your recovery. Not only does it increase the rate at which your body is able to recover, but it also provides time for your body to adjust and adapt to running before increasing the intensity.
Reduced risk of injury
Taking the time to build an aerobic base helps reduce the risk of injury later on, when training intensity increases. During aerobic base training, the body adapts to the activity and slowly improves its efficiency and strength. By the time regular training begins, it is already strong and ready for more intense efforts.
Increased muscle and oxygen efficiency
The main point of aerobic base building is to increase the mitochondrial density within the muscles, thus increasing their strength and ability to utilize oxygen as fuel.
Similar to increasing muscle and oxygen efficiency, higher mitochondrial densities will greatly improve your overall strength for running.
Proper form and running efficiency
Base training provides a perfect opportunity to focus on form and all of the nitty-gritty aspects of running. As you begin by running relatively easy paces and distances, you’re able to spend time evaluating your form and making small adjustments to improve.
Increased training capacity
Building an aerobic base improves your overall strength and efficiency, thus increasing the body’s ability to tolerate higher efforts and intensity levels once training begins to progress. Your performance will be higher during peak workouts and long runs after aerobic base training.
How to Structure Aerobic Base Building
Most runners read the benefits of aerobic base building and are excited to give it a try. However, deciding exactly how to structure this base building period is often a bit tricky. Too much intensity, and the runner is never able to fully build their base; on the other hand, too little intensity leads to a lack of benefits or improvements.
Here are some tips to design and structure your aerobic base building period to reap maximum benefits and increase performance during your goal race.
- Keep your heart rate below 70% of its max
- Maintain a pace that allows you to hold a conversation
- Increase mileage by no more than 10% each week
- Prioritize consistency over speed
- Respond to your body’s signals and adjust accordingly
- Use this time to build strength
- Implement regular recovery measures – stretching, yoga, etc.
Effectively building an aerobic base usually requires at least a few weeks to a few months of time prior to beginning a regular training plan (one without a base phase built in). Whether you are just starting running for the first time or are coming back after a break or off season, taking this extra time at the beginning will certainly benefit you on race day.
12 Week Aerobic Base Building Plan
This 12 Week Base Building Training Plan is a great precursor to any training plan – whether you’re a beginner or simply coming back from an off season.
While these distances might not feel like anything momentous, they serve to help your body adjust and adapt over the 3 month period. It will gradually improve its efficiency to set you up for maximum performance during tough workouts afterwards.
Download this 12 Week Aerobic Base Building Plan for free, here!
Spending time building an aerobic base isn’t always glamourous, but it certainly pays off. Try implementing these tips for just a week or two before your training plan begins – or, for even more impressive results, designate your entire off season to aerobic base training.