Can you increase your weekly mileage without snapping something off? Yes! Unfortunately, many athletes still ramp up their mileage far too quickly, leading to injury.
This mileage conundrum is what keeps beginner athletes at the same level: either they increase their miles too soon or they never increase them because they’re not sure how to do it safely.
Without a plan, all you’re doing is trial and error. But can you really afford to error with all the races coming down the pipe?
In this article, I’ll explain the specific steps you should take in order to progress your training and tally up more miles. If you want to improve and know that, in your case, stronger and longer aerobic efforts might be the key to better race times, you know that very specific steps should be taken.
In this article I’ll outline 3 key methods to running more and for longer. These principles will help you collect more miles every week without niggles and injuries that usually follow.
1. Find your current endurance level
This is the key step that can give you clear guidance of where you currently are and where you want to get. Because without clear goal you simply won’t improve and you’ll end up procrastinating. That’s the harsh reality and chasm separating elite athletes from an average weekend warrior.
There are useful tables online and in a variety of endurance books to help you plot the path to higher mileage, however I lean towards Dr. Richard Diaz’ methodology from his book My Best Race. The reasons I default to Richard’s guidelines are: a) that they’re easy to understand and apply to any training plan, b) his experience is in training OCR and endurance athletes with a big focus on periodised improvement.
Determining your training volume based on your current experience:
Note, that the mileage in the table above is relative. Richard Diaz states, that time on your feet is much better metric to focus on. As an example, think of a marathoner who can cover 26.2mi in 3 hours, meanwhile a beginner athlete might struggle and finish in 4 hours. Time here plays much bigger role and can more clearly express the effort and running economy of both athletes.
2. Don’t increase mileage by more than 10% a week.
Ten percent seems like a standard metric for mileage increase weekly. For example, if you’ve been running 10miles every week, you can safely add 1 mile extra next week, then 1,1 mile week after etc. – the mileage would increase by 10% overtime until you can reach your desired level of fitness.
How do you know what to aim for? Default to the 1st point of understanding your current endurance level. For example, if you’re a beginner based on the table above, and you want to improve to an advanced level to compete with the big boys – it will give you an easy weekly mileage/time markers to aim for.
Furthermore, you should use 10% as a go-to guide any time you stop your training or develop an injury and are recovering. For example, if you’d spend 1 week off, you shouldn’t just jump in and collect the same mile amount as prior to the injury – this is just asking for bigger recurring troubles. Instead you could aim to start with a few test runs in the first recovery week, then the week after add 10% until you rebuild your confidence and are sure that the injury is healed.
3. Collect most of the miles during one weekly long run.
Once you know where you are and how much margin of increase you’ve got every week, it’s time to add up that 10% to your runs. The best way to increase overall mileage is through long slow distance runs (LSD). We’ve talked about these a before and how they can be the key to better race results here.
It is wise to keep other runs, e.g. sprint intervals, hill repeats etc. with minimal change and allow for plenty of slack and recovery. Over time you can increase overall mileage by varying the interval distance, time etc.
Other principles that can allow for easier mileage increase are:
- Cross-training and active recovery
- Using footwear that allows for natural movement patterns (minimal, low to zero drop shoes). Cushion might be useful for a beginner athlete, but just as you can’t ride a bicycle with supporting wheels all your life, same applies to running shoes.
- Listening to your body after every workout. Master the recovery and dealing with niggles (warning signs and discomfort, that can translate into injuries in the long run).
These are the basic principles, that you can apply to increase your weekly mileage to increase overall speed and race performance. However, the caveat here is that you should maintain proper form and body mechanics in place. This means allowing for plenty of recovery, mobility and strength training as well as running skill without any hiccups.