The Fall Foundation - Part 1

So far the year 2020 has been and will continue to be a year unlike any that we have ever seen before. I think that aside from the obvious of everything being turned upside down, cancelled, or postponed...

Terrence Mahon

·6 min read

A New Twist on Base Training

So far the year 2020 has been and will continue to be a year unlike any that we have ever seen before. I think that aside from the obvious of everything being turned upside down, cancelled, or postponed - there are some great opportunities ahead for us if only we take a moment to think it through and look at it with the right perspective.

It is now almost October and the end of summer ushers in shorter days, crisper mornings and a season that many of us as runners hold dear. It is the season that most would say is their favorite time of the year to be out running. The stifling heat has finally subsided and there is not a chance of snow in the immediate future. Ok so maybe the last part doesn’t relate to everyone, but you get the point. The fall is just that special time when putting in more miles feels a whole lot easier. It is no wonder that this is when we all feel a special calling to go back to our roots - to just go out and run for the pure enjoyment of it. This opportunity we have right now to engage with nature and embrace our surroundings should be a calling we need now more than ever.

Doesn’t it make sense why all the 10ks, half marathons and marathons usually take place over these next few months? It is so much more inviting to just keep running when the weather makes you feel like you can go forever. However, not that it is my goal here to return us back to reality, but it is 2020 and races have gone virtual or been pushed to another time and space. So what should we do? Do we put in our fall base training in hopes of something magical happening soon? I think we tried that one back in April & May and we all know how that ended up. Instead I think we need a new approach to how we look at base training so that we can enjoy the fruits of its labor even more.

The first thing that we need to do is look closely at what the word “base” actually means in relation to running. Of course, when we talk about a base we imply building a foundation, but need that foundation only be related to running through lots of long and slow miles as has for so many years prior? I think not. If we look a little closer we will see that there are so many more foundations that we can build upon at this time of year. We need to create the building blocks now for our speed work, our intervals, our tempo work and everything in between. All of them can help us to be a better runner - regardless of whether there is another race to run in the next month or the next year.

Personally, I have always thought of my running in the fall as both a chance to start things over and a chance to start something new. By getting into the fall season I have often used it to shed away the past and to forge ahead towards a new goal. To accomplish this I realized that this time of year wasn’t just about hitting the repeat button, but about adding something more. So as I logged the miles I came to understand that this time wasn’t just about running many slow miles, it was about coming to a better understanding of how all of those miles work. I realize that the “Fall Foundation” was indeed a time to build out everything from the ground up. This is not only where I put in the foundation for my long runs, but also for my short & fast ones as well. Let me tell you from experience - it is equally as hard to be effective at sprinting when you haven’t done your homework as it is to go out for that 20 miler when you haven’t taken the necessary steps along the way. Our foundations are everything and so we need to look at all the ones we can use to make our running more complete.

Where to start? Let’s first look at how fast you normally run and how fast you want to run. If you have a goal of running faster than it won’t be accomplished by just running more miles or willing yourself to run faster than before. We need to build the base. So we start with just a mile per week - that’s all I ask as a start. Do one mile broken up into any segments you can handle and run your goal 1 mile pace for those intervals. Just get the speed in and have it be a total of 1 mile of volume by the end of the week. You can even break it up over 2 or 3 days in the week if you like. After that we increase the volume and then in the following weeks we add in other race paces.

What you will come to see is that as you are adding in these faster paces week by week you are also getting faster in a lot of your regular training runs. Running these faster intervals each week has now made it easier to run your traditional fall training miles because you have improved your running economy. You have built the base for getting your entire body (heart, lungs, nervous system and all the working muscles) on the same page. Each system has been challenged, trained and tuned up in a way that it now all works in harmony. This is a type of training that I call the “Outside In” approach. We start with both the long, slow runs as well as the short, fast ones simultaneously. Once developed we continue to work our way in from both ends over the next few months until we finally get to race pace. Approaching fall training in this fashion keeps the body in balance. It is quite a bit different than the classical training approach, but I have found it to be much more effective.

When you look at your Fall Foundation training in this light you will come to see that from here you are ready for anything. If a mile pops up on the calendar then you can do it and actually expect to run fast. If a 5k comes to happen, whether it be virtual or live, don’t be surprised if you run a PR. What about the marathon? Come on now… logging those fall miles has always been about the long races. Piece of cake. Now you have your choice of distances to choose from with a fall training program like this one. I would think that it is nice to have a few more knowns with your running in such a time of unknowns. Give it a try and let me know how it goes.