December 23, 2017

How to Build a Base (A Training Plan for Beginner Runners)

I could have sworn I wrote a post about this before, but when I was looking for it a few days ago, I realized that I actually didn't write it. I just wrote the running plan, but not the post. 

When people first start running, their legs obviously aren't as conditioned as someone who has been running for years. And, surprise surprise, the only way to condition our legs to run is to run--a lot. 

It's important not to do too much too soon, though--going from couch potato to running 20 miles a week, for example--so we need to spend some time steadily building our way up to where we need to be to hit our goals. 

If you think of it in terms of a body builder, you know that you can't go from lifting 50 pounds to lifting 200 pounds overnight. It takes a long time and a lot of small increases in weight to get to that point. 

So, in runners terms, we can't go from running 0 miles per week to running 40 miles per week overnight. We have to do a little here and a little there, until our legs build up the conditioning that we need in order to run that kind of mileage. 

In order to build up that "base", as it's called, we have to run frequently--but only increase our distance (or time) spent running by a small amount at a time. Each and every run is important to building a base.

As a certified RRCA coach, the guideline we follow that constitutes a solid base is to run a total of 300-500 miles. The length of base training is 6-16 weeks, and is done entirely at an easy pace (make sure you read this post about the importance of an easy pace!). Building a base is very important, even though it seems overwhelming at first. 

One of my favorite phrases is "How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time." 

And likewise, how do you build a solid running base? One mile at a time.

I've written this base building plan for novice runners who want to get in their mileage and condition their bodies to handle training for a race. It also builds discipline by following a training schedule. 

This plan may not work you up to that 300-500 mile marker, but it does establish a solid foundation and routine. It's a way to develop consistency and discipline. It's a 16-week plan and ALL of it is done at an easy pace. The easy pace is crucial in building a base.  

This plan assumes that you can run 30 minutes, 3 days per week. You should also get permission from your doctor to make sure that your health is good enough to follow the plan. 

You can switch the days around each week however you'd like. Just make sure to run them all at an easy pace

I welcome all feedback, good or bad, so please let me know how it goes for you!


  1. Hello and Merry Christmas! This last week has been awful around here with all the extra sugar and lack of exercise. (because of lack of motivation)

    Anyway, as said by millions before me....after Christmas I am "starting again"....and I have signed up for a 5k in April so this was very timely.


  2. I'm a 58 year old man. 5'9 197lbs. Broad chest and bigger legs. I've been running since 2012 but never build a solid cardio base, so my running pace is slow, 12min.per mile. and I don't improve. Even at a 12mi pace(5.0mph) my hr can get as high as my hr max. 165. Is there a plan for me. I'm athletic, strength train and dream of running a solid 5k & 10k. My last race was a 5k at 36mins. THANKS

    1. It's interesting that your pace hasn't improved even with heart rate training. Have you tried adding in speed work? I would try adding a day every week of running intervals--after warming up, run very fast for a timed duration, and then walk for a timed duration. Check out my "Run Your Best 5K" plan--it's a plan designed to make you faster at your 5K (on the "Running" tab of my blog, go to "Training Plans" and you will find it there).

  3. Hi! I did some walk-run trainning following your plan last year and I finally run my first 7K. I stop running for some time and now I am going to try this plan. I've read your post on Easy runs and not, I wasn't doing it. So I am going to try easy running and getting in the shape to better time and distance later. Your blog is very helpful. Thanks a lot.


I used to publish ALL comments (even the mean ones) but I recently chose not to publish those. I always welcome constructive comments/criticism, but there is no need for unnecessary rudeness/hate. But please--I love reading what you have to say! (This comment form is super finicky, so I apologize if you're unable to comment)

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