All ‘Bout More Base

It’s All ‘Bout the Base [1] & [2] discussed how East African runners, specifically Kenyans, amass 10,000+ km of base training simply by running to and from school as children. This is base training, aerobic conditioning achieved before these athletes go on to any formal training, before they start working with a coach.

In hopes of explaining the success of East African athletes being achieved by anything other than simple consistent base training, and perhaps in hopes of finding an easily monetized short cut that can be packaged and sold, genetic testing has been performed countless times on these athletes. It has been to no avail as no running or endurance gene exists, there is nothing genetically ‘special’ about East African athletes. What is special is that as children they trained, trained, trained and trained not even knowing they were training as they ran to & from school. This is great news because it means that World Champions are not born, they are made, making the podium available to anyone who commits themselves wholeheartedly.

Proof exists in plain sight: children who grow up in Kenya’s cities, children who have access to transportation including children of former Kenyan Cross Country, Road, and Track Champions and Olympians who as a result of their parents’ success live a privileged life of ease driven to and fro, do not become top level runners. To date, all of Kenya’s top runners have come from rural areas, and predominantly from the Rift Valley region.

How then do consistent champions develop? Over time. Slow cooker style. Over years and years, sometimes unknowingly, thru chores (e.g. Usain Bolt), play (e.g. Amanda Beard), and by simply hopping, bouncing (e.g. David Rudisha), running, riding and swimming with friends as part of daily life.

Again, proof exists in plain sight…

At this years Ironman World Championships in Hawaii, German men took all 3 podium positions: 2008 Beijing Olympic gold medalist in triathlon Jan Frodeno held his title as World Champion, former World Ironman Champion Sebastian Kienle took 2nd, and Ironman rookie Patrick Lange took 3rd. Last time the German men took all 3 podium positions was 1997, but since 1997, German men have taken 17 of all 36 podium positions since.

Question: How?

Answer: Its All ‘Bout the Base, ‘Bout the Base.

German Andy Boecherer who placed 5th this year at Ironman WC was asked to explain the success of Germans. Andy replied in a interview as follows:

“You know I think our bike [legs] are so good because it’s the first thing that we start—riding bikes to school. When I’m in America, I see everyone get dropped off at school. Boecherer’s advice to the youth of America? We [German kids] have like 10,000 km [in our legs] already, so yeah, go out and train!”

No different than East African athletes who run daily to school and end up international level runners; German children ride daily to school and end up international level cyclists.

If this is indeed true, then German success should not be limited to triathlon, but it should occur equally in UCI cycling competitions.  Based on this year’s UCI World Champs in Doha, Qatar, the evidence continues to pile up that it is all about the base. Germans dominated in the U23 TT, and Germany’s Tony Martin won the men’s time trial [TT] for a record tying fourth time. Germans also hit the podium in the U23 Road Race.


Tony Martin TT Doha, Qatar 2016

So… if you think that a power meter, that a new aero helmet or bike, or deep rim carbon fiber wheels are your ticket to cycling and time trialing success, think again. If you want to truly develop as an athlete, irrespective of the sport, it starts with building a base, a massive base, the bigger the better. If your base is measured in anything less than thousands of hours or kilometers, then you are kidding yourself that you can proceed to HIIT training, to power meter workouts, or to any other form of training designed to peak you.  You may set a P.B. doing so, but that type of P.B. is no different than placing in a kindergarten finger painting contest… who cares! It doesn’t reflect your ability, and it doesn’t come close to representing your truest potential.

Take the time to develop your base, the physiology and psychology that arises from years of dedication, commitment, and sacrifice.  You do not develop at the core following a 10 or 12 week ‘learn to’ program.  You do not develop to your potential in one or two seasons of peaking for competition, and you definitely do not achieve anything simply by crossing a finish line.

Want to explore your potential?  Then you need to start at the beginning, from scratch, from where all World Champions arise… consistent low intensity aerobic conditioning woven with skills and drills (non-technically referred to as ‘play’ by World Champs to be).

The amazing and awesome part about starting at the beginning, is that if you are a parent, you can do it with your children, you too can play, have fun, swim, bike, run, play soccer, shoot hoops, play catch.  Do it for hours, lose track of the time, don’t count or log the throws, or baskets, or the time spent.  Just do it, and then do it tomorrow, and the day after and the day after.

Your days of being a World Champion may or may not be over (see Project Japan 2020 in case your days aren’t over), but you can definitely set your kids up to rise up to being Champions in their own way. Start right, start smart, and you will finish with the success that you truly desire.



To read all the blog posts on the topic of base, using this websites search tool look up “All Bout the Base” or from the tag list in the footer of this website, click on ‘base training’.