If you’re a high mileage runner, you know the benefits are undeniable. You’re experiencing:
- Increased running economy and efficiency
- Better endurance and a higher aerobic capacity
- Injury prevention by adaptation to a higher workload
- The ability to run faster, longer
The #1 barrier that prevents new runners from running faster is endurance. It’s not “speed” (although that’s what every new runner wants) – it’s the ability to hold a certain pace for a long period of time. The best way to do that is to run more.
How exactly do you increase your mileage and how do you do it safely? The golden rule says that you shouldn’t increase your mileage by more than 10% every week. It’s a decent general rule, but ultimately it’s flawed. It doesn’t give you the complete story.
Every runner has a “baseline mileage” that they’re comfortable with. Some runners feel great at 20 miles a week. Other runners are completely comfortable at 90 miles a week but start to break down and feel fatigued after that. For me, I’m at my best when I run about 65 miles per week. With higher mileage I get tired and have to limit my fast workouts.
The Details of “High Mileage”
Let’s talk about the mileage so we’re all on the same page:
Run more: This means run more easy miles in your weekly program. If you currently run four easy 5-mile runs, then increase that to four easy 6-7 mile runs over the course of 4-6 weeks. You can then add another day of easy running. Build your base before you start adding in long runs and tough workouts.
High mileage: This is relative to your ability, injury history, goals, and training history. What is high for you may not be high for a more experienced runner. Stay within your own personal limits.
Running Volume: This is just another word for mileage. It’s the total amount of running that you do, typically measured in a week period. Your weekly mileage or weekly volume are the same thing.
Adding easy volume at first and then tweaking other aspects of your training – like workouts, long runs, and strength workouts – is a much easier route to running your best. Once a particular volume is comfortable, you can add more intensity.
I encourage runners to run as much as their bodies are comfortable running. Never increase your mileage drastically and always pay attention to how your legs feel and your fatigue levels. It’s best to be conservative.
It’s best to think about volume in terms of months and years – not days and weeks. Staying focused on long-term development (not rapid increases in mileage), will allow you to reach your potential much faster than a “get fast quick” scheme, which usually results in injury.
Increasing Your Mileage Without Getting Hurt
To run more miles and stay healthy, you have to make sure you’re not stressing only your aerobic (endurance) capacity. You also have to stress your mechanical (structural) capacity. In other words, your ability to run fast is important, but if your body can’t support all that fast running, you’re in trouble.
You build up your body’s strength and structural fitness in a few ways:
- Get strong with core workouts, strength exercises, and body weight routines that help your muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones get stronger.
- Stay flexible and avoid tight spots by doing dynamic stretching exercises and using a foam roller.
- Rest more. Prioritize sleep and keep in mind that American Marathoner Ryan Hall calls his daily nap a “business meeting” – it’s just as important as running.
It might be helpful to focus on three aspects of “total volume:” weekly mileage, your long run, and your medium-long run (as a marathoner, you should be doing a medium-long run!).
Once you hit your top goal mileage, you can manipulate your long run distance and less important runs, like your weekly easy run, to make your harder days harder and your easy days easier. This will produce better fitness adaptations while also prioritizing recovery on the days you need it most.
These variables are accounted for in the training plans of Run Your BQ. Plus, you can always chat with Matt or Jason during a monthly coach’s chat if you have questions.