What is a running base and why does it matter?

We’re all about that base. 

When it comes to any sort of distance running (we’re talking anywhere from 1km to 100 miles) building a solid base or foundation for your training is extremely important to achieving your goals. 


If you’re in good physical shape already, you might be able to go from absolutely zero running to completing a 5k out of nowhere, but believe us, it WILL hurt and you might actually get hurt. This is because even if the distance you’re aiming to run is “short” according to you if your body is not used to running there is a potential for injury and a lot of pain. 

What does it mean to build a running base? 

You can’t just buy a plot of land and stick a house on it; it needs a foundation or the house will start to crumble. Maybe not right away, but eventually, things will start to cave in. 

The same goes for running. Just like you wouldn’t build a house with no foundation, you shouldn’t begin any training cycle without building a foundation of easy running to acclimate your body first. 

So if you’re about to start a marathon training cycle that is 16 weeks long, you’ll need to add another four weeks of easy running prior to the start of that cycle to ensure you go into workouts and long runs primed. 

Why should you spend time building a running base? 

While you might feel great at the start of a training cycle without a base, things can quickly deteriorate and you may wind up with overuse injuries like stress fractures or excessive muscle tightness leading to IT band problems or Achilles tendonitis. 

It’s important to note that base building isn’t for gaining speed. You should be able to complete your runs while having a conversation without getting out of breath. This is for building your aerobic fitness and capacity in order to complete the workouts and long runs that will be coming up in your training plans. 

How to start building aerobic capacity? 

If you are new to running and have not been physically active in a while, building your base might take longer than someone who has been running for years. That’s okay. You want to build up your capacity slowly so that you can participate in the sport for years to come. Not just achieve your goal and go back to zero. 

If you are new to running but are regularly physically active in other ways like cycling, weight lifting, or other sports, you should still take at least one month to build up to running for 40-60 minutes straight before beginning a training cycle. 

The pace is not important. Time on your feet is. You do not need a fancy GPS watch or even any sort of watch at this stage. Just time yourself on your phone or any nearby clock and spend time every day slowly building up to 40-60 minutes on your feet. 

For someone completely new to running, the first week might look like this: 

Monday - 40 minutes walking

Tuesday - 5 minutes jogging + 5 minutes walking x 4

Wednesday - 50 minutes walking

Thursday - 10 minutes jogging + 1 minute walking x 4

Friday - 60 minutes walking

Saturday - 40 minutes jogging (walk breaks as necessary)

Sunday - 60 minutes walking 

Remember, everyone is different and this plan might not work for you. Working with a coach and listening to your body is the best way to determine what works and what doesn’t. 

If your goal is to run a marathon, your base will a lot bigger than if your goal is to run a 10k. Base building will also look different for beginner runners starting from scratch than it will for intermediate runners. Keep this in mind when working with your coach.  

What else goes along with base training? 

First, you will spend 4-6 weeks building your running base of primarily easy runs. Intermediates might throw in some longer runs, hills, or fartlek training, but this shouldn’t be more than 1-2 times per week. 

Next up, you’ll continue building your strength with some more endurance-focused training and supplemental strength workouts. 

Before your race, you’ll focus on adding speed into your weekly running routines, either in the form of track/speed workouts or hill sprint repeats. 

Finally, you’ll reach your cutback weeks and your fitness will start peaking just before your race. 

If any of this information seems confusing, consider working with a coach. 

Not sure how to start running safely and build a strong foundation that will allow you to reach your goals and perform injury-free? Our run club and coaches are now accepting new members. 

Don’t worry if you’re not ready to take the leap into coaching just yet. Start with this printable 12-week base-building plan from Runnin’ for Sweets 😉 or stop by the store to chat with our expert staff about your plan to build up your running schedule.