Base training consists mainly of long-slow-distance (LSD) running. The aim is to run as high a mileage as possible without overtraining and to increase gradually the average speed and distance of the training sessions.
Tom Osier (1978; see Exercises 5.4) suggested that base training should continue for at least 6 months and preferably 1 year before any sharpening training begins.
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Have limited reserves of these “juices,” which we must expend with care. This concept is similar to that proposed by Hans Selye in his general adaptation theory and was also alluded to by Moran (1945) when he described the battle-weary troops he doctored in the trenches during World War I (see post 10, p. 419).
Osier contends that stressful conditions use up these competitive juices, and when they are exhausted, the athlete is no longer able to perform to his or her potential. This idea has been confirmed by Barron et al. (1985), who showed that overtrained runners are unable to respond normally to stress because they cannot release the appropriate stress hormones or “juices.”
Osier warns that although base training is a very safe training method, it fails to prepare either body or mind for the stresses of racing. In particular, base training fails to develop the coordination and the relaxation at speed that are necessary for peak performance. Also, it fails to produce those biochemical adaptations that are specific to speed training (see post 3).
Thus the athlete who practices only base training may be able to run forever at a slow pace and will recover very quickly from even the most demanding performance but will never run to his or her potential. All these authors agree that to achieve that potential, each athlete must undergo a period of sharpening, which is described next.
Typical of Osier’s homespun but incisive and individualistic advice is this analogy:
A runner who conditions himself with slow running first is like a builder laying a strong and deep foundation for a skyscraper. The runner who begins with speedwork (sharpening) is like a builder who lays a weak foundation so as to get the first few stories of his structure up quickly. So it is that the runner who begins with speedwork shows the fastest initial improvement. However, just as the builder who laid a weak foundation, is severely limited in the height to which he can raise his structure, so it is that the future performances of our hasty runner will be limited. Whereas our runner who started slow, will eventually surpass the other for his foundation will provide the base from which higher and higher performances will be launched. (Osier, 1967, p. 12)
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