Many of us benefit from running higher mileage. However, jumping to higher mileage without proper recovery will set you up for injury or burnout.
Running higher mileage can help you become a more efficient runner. However, it’s critical to understand that you can’t just run hundreds of miles and expect to get faster. It’s also important to remember that, just because you once ran X amount of miles in a different chapter of your life, that you will always be able to do that. Mileage thresholds change, and the “right” amount of mileage for you is fluid with different stages of life. Don’t be afraid to run more or less if it feels good!
Tips For Running Higher Mileage (Properly)
Follow the 10-15% Rule:
Many running injuries occur when you increase your mileage too quickly. When increasing mileage, new and even veteran runners are more susceptible to injuries to their muscles, bones, tendons, and ligaments.
That’s because increasing too fast means your body hasn’t had time to adapt to the impact of the additional running. It’s important to note that, just because you “once did a certain amount of miles,” doesn’t mean you can do that now.
Increasing your mileage by 10-15% per week helps you ease into running more miles without overdoing it. This is especially important when coming back from long periods off or from an injury. Listening to your body is always the most important. If running more mileage doesn’t feel good, don’t do it!
Take Rest Weeks:
Equally as important as building mileage are the rest weeks. Without rest, you cannot increase your mileage. Every three weeks, it’s important to take a down week to allow your body to rest and rebuild.
It’s recommended to increase mileage by about 10% for three weeks, followed by running a lower mileage week. Then repeat the cycle. The rest week allows your body to build muscle memory before increasing mileage again.
Focus on Distance Not Speed:
As you build mileage, focus on completing the distance versus the speed you’re running. A mistake many of us make is focusing on the pace. You are still getting the same benefit of increased mileage even when you run slower. In fact, you might find your body recovers faster because you are running easier. Increasing your mileage volume and stepping up your pace at the same time can also result in overuse injuries.
Increase Your Long Run Gradually:
Many marathon runners do most of their weekly mileage in their long runs. It can seem easy to increase your long-run distance quickly. But this is especially dangerous because your body is already tired and susceptible to injuries. Just as with your weekly mileage, increase your weekly long run slowly also.
Change Your Route Often:
Instead of running the same route every day, change where you run. Run new loops, different distances, and routes. Why? It makes your run more interesting and helps you to avoid comparing your run to that of previous days. Some runs might not feel great. Others will! There is no need to compare.
Plus, it’s important not to run the same distance every single day. Running the same distance at the same pace on the same route can set you up for an overuse injury. And from a safety standpoint, it can be dangerous because you never know who is watching.
Focus on Recovery:
It’s easy to put recovery on the back burner, but recovering well is the only way you can build mileage successfully. Recovery includes getting enough sleep, proper nutrition, and even strength training.
No one likes to “do the little things,” but adding mileage alone sets us up for injury. Each of these “little things” helps you increase your mileage and stay healthy. Sleep is free and is the best tool for recovery.
Finally, Look Out for Injury Warning Signs:
Most injuries don’t just “come out of nowhere.” If you begin to feel tight in a certain area, begin to monitor it. Again, listen to your body. If you don’t feel better within a few runs, consider taking some time off to rest. Rest days can save entire running seasons. So, while it stinks to take a few days off, you will want to do that before you find yourself with a serious issue that requires weeks of reduced running or even none at all.
Most runners can increase their weekly mileage without getting injured, but you have to do it right! It’s also important to remember that what constitutes the proper amount changes with each season of life. Just because you could handle X mileage in the past doesn’t mean that you can now.