Although “long slow distance” (LSD) has become synonymous with base training for runners, this comprises only part of what you need to do to prepare for higher intensity training and racing later in the season. A well-rounded base training program should integrate those staple LSD runs at “conversational pace,” along with short sprints to develop neuromuscular speed and drills to develop good form.
Long Slow Distance (LSD)
Regardless of your training phase, the bulk of your training should be comprised of endurance runs in your aerobic zones. However, during base training, you’ll want to really emphasize building the distance or duration of these endurance runs. Depending upon your starting fitness level, an ‘endurance run’ can be anywhere from 20 minutes up to a few hours or longer—the point is that you remain in an aerobic zone.
In other words, do these runs at a pace that is conversational. The effort should be comfortable enough that you could hold an ongoing conversation with a training partner. To stay relaxed and keep it conversational, focus on breathing through your nose. If you use a heart rate monitor, this intensity will correspond to Zone 2 in the seven-zone system.
The purpose of these workouts is to develop the ability to better metabolize fat and spare glycogen as a long duration energy source (glycogen is the stored form of carbohydrate in the muscles and liver). Designate one of these runs each week as your “long run.” As your base training progresses, gradually increase the distance or duration of this long run. Shorter runs at this conversational pace can incorporate the two additional elements of base training described below.
Acceleration striders are short bursts of speed less than 10 seconds in duration. You can do these in the middle of any of your endurance runs. Start off with four per run, once or twice a week as you begin base training. You can eventually build up to 12 or more.
Although these speed bursts, often called “
I like to do acceleration striders on the infield of a track, but you can also do them on the track itself, on a non-technical dirt trail or on a grassy field at a park (avoid pavement when possible). Start off easy and gradually pick up your pace until you’re at full speed. Hold that top speed for up to 10 seconds; then wind it back down. Think of these striders as “feel good speed”—you want to feel good going fast. Focus on good form. Don’t worry about your time or heart rate during the accelerations, and allow yourself full recovery in between (about 2-3 minutes of easy running).
The final piece of base training involves drills to instantiate good movement patterns and to work on any weaknesses in your form. You can incorporate 5-10 minutes of drills into an endurance run (along with your acceleration striders) or an easy recovery run. Do this once or twice per week during base training. Here are my top-three must-do drills (for more drills and video demonstrations see my previous article, Drills for Proper Running Form).
Carioca or Grapevine
As you move sideways, cross one leg over the other in front and then behind. Hold your arms out to the side to begin. Once you get the hang of the drill, use the same arm motion as you use while running and do a high knee crossover. This drill targets the stabilizing muscles that play a secondary but nevertheless important role in running.
For the A-skip, skip with high knees. As you bring your leg down, pull
This drill also trains that backward pulling motion, which is central to running propulsion. Start the butt kick drill as you would the A-skip drill—that is, by pulling
Consistent implementation of these three base training components early in the season will help you develop a solid aerobic and neuromuscular running base, which you can build upon as the season progresses.