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Base Training – Rookie runners!

Base Training – Rookie runners!

I found this gem in an old document I downloaded a couple of years ago. The title was “A guide for misguided beginners”

The idea of base training is to both strengthen your body and to get your body used to exercising for long periods. Some people like to do regular shorter runs mixed with cross training and some people prefer to do a once a week long run as their main method of building up a base. Both methods work, but the more regularly you can get out exercising, then the more your body will adapt.

Trail running is more stressful on the body than flat road running due to the hills, the uneven terrain with rocks and tree roots, tight corners, slippery ground and the need to vary the stride length and power to suit the conditions. This translates itself into new demands on the body, particularly for the feet, knees, calves, groin and upper body. Strength training for particularly the quads and lower abdomen can help here, but generally the best way of adapting the body to these new stresses is to go out and run in the typical conditions. However, especially for base training you will need to build up gradually using normal periodisation techniques ( you might need to google this rookie!) – there is no point in going out too hard or too long initially and ending up sore (and injured!). You should find that your body will get used to the new stresses relatively quickly though – even being able to notice the difference from one week to the next.

Getting your body used to exercising for long periods is the other main requirement for ultra trail runs. When running a marathon, people typically run out of glycogen and hit the wall at about 30-35km. By training your body appropriately, by reducing the pace and consuming food regularly, this distance does not need to be a limiting factor. The aim of this training is to teach your body to efficiently use its fat supplies as a source of energy. Everyone has sufficient fat reserves to be able to exercise continuously for days on end, so what is needed is to teach your body to tap into these reserves efficiently enough so that you can maintain your desired pace. In taking food (carbohydrate) in addition helps to make it easier for the body to provide the energy required.

To be effective in getting your body to adapt, sufficient training needs to be done so that your body runs out of glycogen and starts tapping into its fat supplies. Note that this is a simplification in that you will gradually change from using glycogen to using fats as a source of energy as you exercise.

The better your body is at using fats, the earlier you will start using a bigger proportion of fat for an energy source and thus the glycogen will be conserved. If at the end of a long run, you are running out of energy and feeling like you will hit the wall soon, then you will be teaching your body to utilize its fat reserves and thus improving your long distance running. By depleting your glycogen stores in running a previous day (eg a 5km or 10km race), then you will hit the wall much sooner and your long run can be shorter. This means that for long distance running training, if possible it is good not to have a rest day before your long run. However, as long as you run for long enough to lower your glycogen stores and start utilizing fats, then you will be training your body to run for long distances.

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Pieter Steyn

Founder at Ultrarunner_ZA
Big Dreamer...Loving Husband to a beautiful wife :) Runner and Wannabee UltraRunner! Takes life too seriously.
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Big Dreamer...Loving Husband to a beautiful wife :) Runner and Wannabee UltraRunner! Takes life too seriously.

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