As a runner & athlete, you are always looking to progress and improve. While we should always push for progress, it’s good to be smart and not overly aggressive about it. Increasing the amount of running you are doing can come with injuries if done improperly for your body type & training history.
When increasing your volume of running, here are 3 things to keep in mind to make sure you can do it pain-free.
1) Plan Your Mileage Increase
There are 3 aspects to running that contribute to your total load:
Distance per run
Frequency of running
Intensity of the run
Every 3-4 weeks increase either the number of days you’re running, the total distance of your current runs, or the speed of SOME of your shorter runs. These will be addressed below.
A) You should aim to only increase only one of them at a time. If you are running 3mi 3x/week, you should aim to only either add another day of running, preferable 1-2 miles OR add a 1-2miles to one of you already established runs.
While the 10% per week rule is fine, it’s a very good idea to make sure you have been running at a certain volume for 3-4 weeks before adding more volume, even if it’s only 10%.
Your bones, tendons, and muscles need time (read, weeks) to adjust to the amount of stress on them.
B) Oh, and intensity. The speed at which you are running add to the intensity. The more intense your running load is, the more stress your body is taking on. This is something to pay attention to when doing fast interval work.
Every 3-4 weeks increase either the number of days you’re running, the total distance of your current runs, or the speed of SOME of your shorter runs.
Keeping a written running log will help you track this.
2) Make Sure You’re Strength Training
Strength training is essential to maintaining your body’s longevity and increasing performance. You don’t have to become an NFL linebacker to have meaningful improvement in your body from strength training. Just 2-3x a week of strength training can be very beneficial. Doing simply only bodyweight exercises doesn’t create the muscular, tendinous, and skeletal adaptations needed - you have to move some weight! 3 tips:
A) Use squat, deadlift, and lunge variations to improve strength in your leg muscles, tendons, and bones.
B) As a beginner do 2-3 sets of 12-15 repetitions of 2 or 3 leg exercises. If you’re more experienced lifting weights, 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps is good.
C) Use eccentric and isometric tempos. Eccentrics are to “go down slow”. Eccentrics are great for building strength and recovering from an injury. They are a stable in physical therapy.
Isometrics are to “hold the position”. Isometrics are great for acutely making an injury be unfelt in the moment to be able to workout through it - to do eccentrics.
Both of these are great for building up the tendons load capacity to handle stress. 3-8 second per repetition tempos are great for these.
3) Be Sure to Recover and Manage Stress
Running and training creates stress for the body. And while this stress can result in positive changes for the body vs a stressful work or home life, if you don’t manage your overall running load, this stress can build up to become hindering. Here are 4 ways you need to manage your stress to be able to increase your running volume:
A) You should be getting 7-8 hours of sleep at least to make sure your body can rebuild itself. You don’t get better while running, you get better when you’re resting afterwards.
B) Actively take time to stretch, foam roll, get massages, and whatever else you know helps your body feel better after hard work. Active recovery methods help you bounce back faster. Reducing soreness can mentally help you work hard.
C) Eat enough food. Not getting enough calories is going to hold you back from being able to recover from your runs and keep your energy low. Your brain will slow your body down if it’s worried about not getting enough calories for itself. Eating enough calories and lots of nutrient dense foods will help keep your body functioning optimally.
D) Have techniques to manage your work, home, and other stresses. A high stress load can make you more prone to injury and can make progress difficult. I recommend not increasing mileage during very stressful times of your life.
Follow these guidelines and run happily into the sunset. If you have further questions, each out to me!