Friday, January 13, 2012

Building a Base

The toughest part of running for me right now is I remember the way it used to be. Back when I could confidently say “Four miles? Bah. It’s not even worth tying my shoes for.”

Well, these days I can’t even run half a mile without breaking into a brisk walk. Sure – some of it has to do with the extra 20 pounds I’m carrying (yes – I really let myself go during the last year and a half), but most of it has to do with the fact that I’ve lost *all* of my aerobic base.

Here’s a statistic for you – do you realize that your aerobic system provides about 95% of your energy needs in a 5K and almost 100% of them in a marathon? Yet most of us neglect proper cardio vascular training by doing our long runs too fast and doing too many intervals and hills way too hard.

Building our cardio vascular system involves slow, persistent training over a long period of time. I don’t know if I’ve ever told this story, but (time for some proud parental bragging) two of my children were rowers (the kind who row the big boats like you see in the Olympics, or the opening credits of House). My daughter scholar shipped at an NCAA division I school, and my youngest son was racing internationally at the ripe age of 16. Both of them received coaching from people who rowed internationally at the highest levels (World Cup and Olympics). The two of them would literally spend hours every day on rowing machines or running at *very* low heart rates (65% of max or less) building their aerobic base. Why? Because that is how the elites train. All I know is within a few months they were able to row on the water for hours and not really break much of a sweat.

What can I take away from this? This time I’m not going to fall into the trap of thinking that I *need* to train hard. The key this time around will be weekends – long runs at low intensity. Back to back. Miles of slow running until my body says it’s ready to train hard. How will I know when I’m ready? When my long runs become easy.

Yes. This time I’m going slow and steady.  Say, wasn’t there some Greek fable about that?

This week:

  • Monday: 6 miles easy
  • Tuesday: Rest
  • Wednesday: 4 miles easy.
  • Thursday: Rest.
  • Friday: Rest
  • Saturday: 10 miles easy.
  • Sunday: 8 miles easy
  • Total: 28 miles


  1. congrats to your kids. that is a great thing. growing up in the Seattle being apart of a Crew team was pretty big. The UW had, and still does have a good Crew.

    Yep! I agree with the slow build-up. I also have gained back some weight. 10-12 pound I really wish would find another body to invade. One that actually needs them.

  2. I have just adapted that sort of mentality too as well. My aerobic conditioning has since turned to shit. Believe it or not, on Wednesday I ran a 4.5 miles at a whopping 13 minutes per mile pace and you know what, it felt great. Sure I wasn't getting anywhere fast, but I felt more energetic the rest of the day. I will be going slow and steady for the next 15 weeks. Thanks for this post man, it really motivated me to just go slow. After I am back down to 180 then I will pick it up some, but until then, my heart can thank me for it. Awesomeness on the bragging rights! Take care and keep at it. It's been about 2 weeks for me of shedding 2 pounds and conditioning, and I can see and feel the difference. You really hit the nail on the head!

  3. I haven't been able to run in two weeks and am dreading how slow I'm gonna be when I start up again (because we all know cross training just isn't the same.) Good attitude, Glenn!

  4. Base building requires a lot of patience but taking it slow will keep you injury free and will strengthen your aerobic base for sure.
    Good luck.

  5. ohh i remember those days too. "3 miles? what's the point". now i am out of breath walking to the car... good lesson to learn from your kids training. they obviously have good work ethic!

  6. It takes a lot of discipline to base build, but it pays dividends for sure.

  7. This is an encouraging post for those of us who are slowing down, even if unintentionally.