Increasing Weekly Mileage the Safe Way

As you enter the holiday season, and soon the new year, it’s generally time to set some goals for yourself. The goals could be broad, specific, running related or not but no matter what you’ll want to have a plan in place to achieve those goals. Maybe your goal is to increase your weekly running mileage during 2019? If that’s the case, good for you! That’s a great goal and I fully support it! However, I will only lend you my emotional and passionate support (something I know is very important to you) if you do it in a safe and responsible way. 

Building mileage is a key element of training for any runner. Mileage progression is to training as a runner as coagulation and acidification are to making a fine gruyere… too obscure? Okay, how about, mileage progression is VERY, VERY important. 

In order for the body to experience any type of physiological development or growth it has to experience a certain amount of stress or strain. Once your body has become very attune to running a certain amount of mileage at a certain pace, it’s time to either increase intensity (pace) or increase volume (mileage). This weekly volume increase however can be detrimental and can lead to injury if not handled in a patient and progressive way. As always, Charge is here to help! 

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Take it in small doses

No matter what amount of weekly mileage you’re starting at, it is important to only increase by small amounts with every successive progression. Instead of moving from 20 miles per week to 40 miles per week take it in doses no larger than 10% at a time. Moving from 20 miles to 22 miles to 24.4 miles (no need to be THAT specific, 24.5 is fine), and so on may seem all too minor but it will allow your body to be eased into a new routine. Dip your toe in the water a bit first before jumping in.   

Be patient and allow for your body to catch up

Even with smaller, 10% weekly increases your body needs to get used to a period of stability where it can adapt properly to the added volume. This is especially important when you’re moving into the much higher mileage weeks but, as with anything, the sooner you start forming a habit, the better. Because of this you should maintain the same weekly mileage for 2-3 consecutive weeks before increasing another 10%. Give your body a chance to catch up to the “new you.”

Increase more than just your mileage

Running for an extra few miles a week is the easy part. What most often leads to injury problems in runners as they increase their mileage is the lack of adjustment of their added running activities. These include warmups, cool downs, stretching, strengthening, hydration, rest, and nutrition. As your miles increase so should your added running additives. Spend a little bit more time rolling out, working core exercises, walk/jogging before and after runs, drink an extra few glasses of water per day, and stay on top of the necessary “little things” to keep yourself fit, healthy, and injury free.

Listen to your body

One would imagine that you know your own body better than I do, in fact I’d be willing to bet a on that fact. Be conscious of your body’s needs. If a 10% weekly mileage increase becomes too much and you’re experiencing some aches, pains and/or abnormal exhaustion, decrease to 5% per week or maintain your current mileage for 4 weeks versus 2. Building mileage is very individualized and is by no means an exact science. These tips are all a fantastic place to start but be aware of what you find works best for you. As long as you are developing positively and staving off injury, you’re doing it right! 

Find your “sweet spot” 

This last one may seem obvious when explained, but you’d be surprised. The body cannot handle increased mileage to an infinite end. While it is fun as a coach to ponder how much weekly mileage the human body can actually handle, you do not have to be the one to answer my musings. Everyone has an ideal amount of weekly mileage that creates peak performances, is sustainable, and fits into their schedule. Once you’ve found that “sweet spot” don’t be afraid to hang out there for a while. A few weeks of lower mileage tapering and maybe a few weeks of pushing the volume barrier a bit may create added physiological adaptations but that ideal mileage mark can continuously serve as your running home for as long as you’d like.  

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