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How to Build a Fitness Base



To reach new fitness heights, begin with a great foundation.

Can you imagine being in the absolute best shape of your life? With a healthy dose of preparation, you will get there. And fitness professionals agree the best way to achieve peak fitness—and avoid burnout and injury—is to start slowly and build a strong base.

What is base training and why does it matter? For any athlete, fitness gains result from progressively harder workouts. These increasingly difficult workouts challenge our bodies to adapt to the stresses placed on it, i.e. our bodies get stronger. For the greatest gains in strength and speed, you need to build them on a solid base. Base training increases our endurance, also known as aerobic capacity, the platform on top of which all subsequent gains will rest. Going long also burns a lot of calories, helping any athlete safely and effectively reach their target weight.


Mileage, or workout volume, is among the best metrics for success. It’s all about stamina: the longer you’re able to run or ride, the faster you’re likely to race without tiring out. The first priority is to slowly but steadily increase your mileage to build a strong and efficient aerobic engine.

For professional athletes, base training serves as a bridge between the off-season and a serious training or racing program. Essentially, base training starts before you even begin a training program. If you were to transition too quickly into an intense training program, your body would not recover and adapt quickly enough; the benefits from workouts would go down and the chance of injuries would rise. Base miles not only increase endurance but strengthens your muscles, bones, and connective tissues to safely permit more vigorous workouts later, while reducing recovery time and increasing the gains of your later workouts. And the psychological edge of knowing you’ve prepared properly is just as important. A half-marathon will never intimidate a runner who knows they run longer distances regularly!

As you build a base and gradually increase mileage and endurance, focus on three metrics:
  1. Increasing your longest weekly run by about 1 mile every 1-2 weeks. (If you bike or row, gradually increase time and distance at a similar increment, around 10 minutes.)
  2. Adding 1-2 miles to shorter runs every 2-3 weeks. (Again, bikers and rowers can add around 10 minutes to their shorter workouts.)
  3. Adding 1 more run/ride/row workout per week until you’re training 4-6 days per week. This includes easy-day recovery workouts.

The end result should be a gradual, progressive increase in mileage that will help build endurance, injury resistance, and efficiency as muscles work in better coordination.

While going long and slow takes a little patience, the rewards of building a base before you begin high-intensity training are proven. There’s no surer method to propel yourself to new fitness highs and personal records.

So, get out there and go slow!