Pre-Basing: Preparing for the Training Season

A look at pre-basing, that period that gets you ready for more focused training.

By on January 13, 2021 | Comments

Whether by accident or with intention, I’ve routinely had a running down season in the autumn or winter for at least the past decade and, likely, longer. I’ve always felt that these multi-week or multi-month breaks have refreshed my body and mind, providing for renewed energy and passion in the coming season as well as what I hope are many more decades of exploring the world on foot. The flip side of this rest is that my fitness slides and confidence wanes. Fortunately, there’s rarely a rush for me to get back to top fitness as my key races of summer and autumn are half a year or more away. That’s where today’s topic of pre-basing comes in.

Pre-Basing - Silverton Winter

I think I came up with the term pre-basing early last decade. It sprang out of a pattern that emerged in the years when I’d get into the Western States 100. (It was way easier to get in then.) In those days, I’d plan to start training with some purpose at the start of the new year with roughly six months before the late-June race. Having usually taken some downtime in the autumn, I’d use December as a month of pre-basing. Basically, that had two aims: (1) returning to the habit of (near) daily running, and (2) returning my training volume and fitness to a place where I could easily and safely do base training.

Until four years ago when I began my run streak and for most of my post-collegiate running career, I’ve been a fairly irregular runner when I’ve not been training for anything and that was particularly the case when I was actively recovering. I’ve tended to revert to that irregular running unless and until I’ve built a weeks-long habit of near daily running, at which point I can keep that habit rolling. In kicking off pre-base periods, I’d often aim for a daily run streak of two weeks. I found that worked well in restarting my habit of running nearly every day, especially when I kept that near daily running (even just a short run) for the rest of the month.

Back when I’ve lived in easier running terrain, I considered 50 miles (80 kilometers) per week as a solid base-building target when kicking off focused training. That translated to roughly an hour a day over the course of a week. In pre-basing, my target was running at least 40 miles (65 km) per week, and generally not over 50 miles per week (and not by much even when I might). When running every day, that’s just five to six miles daily. That’s enough to feel like a run without ever being taxing. For me, it’s felt like a sweet spot for getting back into the running routine.

After a decade of use, when a big summer race comes on my calendar, I still turn to pre-basing as a way to transition from couch to training. It gets me out the door and into the running habit while being low enough volume to not lead to injury. All in all, I’ll keep pre-basing as a tool as I prepare for more serious training in the future.

Call for Comments

How do you manage your transition from running down times to more regular or focused training?

Bryon Powell

Bryon Powell is the Founding Editor of iRunFar. He’s been writing about trail running, ultrarunning, and running gear for more than 15 years. Aside from iRunFar, he’s authored the books Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons and Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running, been a contributing editor at Trail Runner magazine, written for publications including Outside, Sierra, and Running Times, and coached ultrarunners of all abilities. Based in Silverton, Colorado, Bryon is an avid trail runner and ultrarunner who competes in events from the Hardrock 100 Mile just out his front door to races long and short around the world, that is, when he’s not fly fishing or tending to his garden.