Building A Training Base: What Workouts Should I Run?

Base Building Workouts

My experience of the “introductory period” of Coach Hudson’s Run Faster training plan continues. Currently, my running has only included easy runs to build mileage, a few (short) long runs, and a few sessions of hill sprints to build strength and help prevent injury.

While my training has been fairly routine during these first few weeks, a sneak peak at my upcoming training during the introductory period is very interesting. For example, next week I will run my first “progression run,” and the week after I will run my first fartlek workout.

I am surprised to see that the “base building” phase of the Run Fast plan includes these workouts at such an early stage.

Progression Runs

A progression run is simply a regular easy run that includes a section of increased pace at the end of the run.  The Run Faster program often combines progression runs with long runs – a runner goes on a usual long run, but accelerates to a faster pace for the final 20-30 minutes of the run.

Progression runs are a great way to help build a runner’s aerobic endurance without taxing the body too much.  This makes it a perfect workout to include in the introductory period of a training plan as it provides a bridge between easy base building runs and faster “threshold” workouts.

Fartlek Workouts

I’ve written about fartlek workouts extensively on The Runner’s Resource, but the way that the Run Faster program describes the fartlek was new to me.

As a brief refresher, “fartlek” is Swedish for “speed play” and refers to a workout in which a runner alternates fast a slow running. Generally a fartlek is an unstructured workout that is done on roads or trails.

I have always assumed that this workout should only be used after a runner has developed a solid training base. However, Coach Hudson uses fartleks throughout the entire course of the plan as a “specific endurance” workout.

According to Coach Hudson, fartleks are a great way to get the body accustomed to running at the specific pace of the “goal race” of a training plan – the “hard” portions of a fartlek are run at this specific pace or faster.

For example, if your goal is to run a 20 minute 5k, your goal race pace is 6:26 per mile.  Therefore, the “hard” portions of a fartlek should be run at 6:26 mile pace or faster.

Early in a training plan, the hard sessions of a fartlek are very short in duration (only about 30-45 seconds).  Again, the whole idea is to gently introduce the body to the goal race pace.

As the plan progresses, the hard sessions of the fartlek become longer (i.e. 50 seconds, 400 meters, 800 meters, 1k, etc). By gradually building your body’s tolerance for running at the goal pace, you will give yourself a great chance to achieve your goal time.

I’m excited to get into these early base building workouts and see how they impact my training and racing down the road.  It is a lot of fun to challenge my preconceived notions of what the “base building” portion of a training plan means.


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