Back to Basics


by John Stanton

Just in time for back-to-school season, here is a review of the three main components of your running program.

Base Training
In our Running Room training programs, the primary emphasis is on building an endurance base. Base training prepares the cardiovascular system to better handle the demands of exercise and will train the specific muscles involved to go the distance. The heart will become stronger and more efficient at delivering oxygenated blood to the muscles; in turn, the muscles will be more efficient at utilizing oxygen for energy and have better resistance to muscular fatigue. These training adaptations lead to enhanced aerobic fitness.

Ian Hunter

Aerobic fitness is developed through continuous periods of steady effort. For programs using the 10:1 method, the continuous effort is interspersed with short rest breaks. The pace should be relaxed, easy and comfortable. The duration of a base training run can go from 25 minutes (for a regular workout) to 150 minutes or more (for long sessions of marathon training). The goal is the duration of the session, not the intensity. Base training runs should be completed multiple times per week, following the prescribed duration of your personal training plan. Any increases should be made in small increments, as appropriate to the runner’s fitness level

Hill Training
Hill training is a form of strength training to improve your running. There is whole-body strength, as in general conditioning, as well as specific strength, which is most effective within the range of motion of a given sport.

Hill training sessions strengthen the key running muscles in your lower legs, allowing you to shift your weight further forward and use your ankles for efficient mechanical advantage during push-off. The intensity for these workouts is higher than the base training sessions. At higher levels of intensity, our physiology is designed to slow us down in a short period of time, so we must be aware of this limitation. Hill workouts should occur once a week, on a hill with a 6 to 8% grade, about 400 to 600 metres in length. Run uphill at 80 to 85% effort (or about 5K race pace). Jog at an easy pace between repeats to recover. Start with 4 repeats and build up to 8 to 10 repeats per session.

Speed Work
Speed and power are critical to high-level performance. Developing these components of fitness should not be a focus for a beginner program. Before attempting any speed work, you must have built a good base; namely, two to three months of running plus six to 10 weeks of running with weekly hill workouts.

For an endurance athlete, this kind of maximum-effort training is done only for a short period of time (a maximum of four weeks) before an important period of competition. If you are not intending to compete, there is little need to enter this high-intensity physiological zone.

During a period of speed training, speed work replaces hill work. The primary benefit of speed work is to teach the body how to run fast when the muscles can’t get enough oxygen. To run faster than you have ever run before, you must go beyond your capacity. Speed workouts take you beyond this point in a regular series of small extensions (for example, a 200 metre sprint). By the end of a speed session, you should have simulated the demands of the race itself. Gradually build the number of repetitions, ensuring adequate rest between long runs, speed work and races.


John Stanton is the President and Founder of the Running Room. He is the author of 10 books about running, walking and family fitness.

One Reply to “Back to Basics”

  1. Hey John, I know someone in the Australian outback that has to wait a year a half for the only event in the country. No running room events ever there. There is a huge market there and runners chomping at the bit for races. If you can get something going they would be so happy. Can you and your team Please try to get something going Down Under. I am not sure how but maybe they have a chamber of commerce or something to reach out to. Big cities like Sydney and smaller ones like Queensbury. Pardon the Pun If you build it they will come.

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