Steps to Increase Mileage and Stay Healthy
Increasing your mileage and staying healthy can be difficult!
As runners, we all want to run more miles and stay healthy. I used to have the firm belief of more miles=better. Over the last year and a half, my personal life has gotten much busier. I don’t have the time to dedicate to more and more and more. And that’s okay! Plus, more is not always better. I’m doing less than many earlier years, and I’ve PRed in both the half and full marathon.
When you begin running, it’s important to increase your mileage slowly. I’ve increased running mileage too fast, only to pay the price with an injury. You can increase your mileage and stay healthy; you just have to do it smartly.
After my post about my personal struggles with injury, a few people asked, what are the steps to increase mileage and stay healthy?
Please remember, I’m not the “be all end all” of advice, and it’s important to remember what works for you might not work for everyone. This is just what has worked for me.
How to Increase Mileage and Stay Healthy:
Slow and Steady Wins the Race:
If you increase your mileage too quickly, you will get injured and be sidelined. Follow the 10 Percent Rule to increase mileage. If you ran 40 miles last, adding 10% will give you 44. The “10 percent rule” just means increasing your weekly mileage by 10% to avoid increasing too quickly. Make sure to give your body time to adapt to your new training volume, or you might end up with a running-related injury. This is the most standard advice for increasing mileage and staying healthy.
I wasn’t always great with this, and I believe it’s what led to one of my fractures. After 2016, my mileage dropped, and I’ve stayed more healthy.
Decrease with your Increase:
This step has multiple parts.
Part 1: Recovery Week:
Every few weeks, it’s important to take a recovery week. This is one of the hardest things to do as a distance runner! In order to increase your mileage and stay healthy, you also have to take cutback weeks.
It’s the golden rule, but your body must rest and recover to build muscle, speed, and endurance. Personally, I like to add 1-2 more rest days and drop 1 or both of my speed workouts. There is no set amount of days per week to run, and taking an extra rest day can save your running season. If you continue to increase all of the time, your body will break from an overuse injury.
Over the last three months of training, I’ve had something pop up at least once a week, sometimes twice. Sudden events have forced a rest day due to “not enough time.” By that, I mean I chose sleep so I can give 100% in other areas of my life. Most days, it isn’t worth it to me to get 5 hours of sleep so that I can wake up for a run. I’m miserable for the rest of the day.
Part 2: Decrease Your Speed with Increased Mileage
Reducing speed with increased weekly mileage is an important but overlooked fact. You can’t run the same speed while running 10 miles a week and running 100. Sprinting a 100-mile week will result in massive fatigue, exhaustion, and ultimately injury. Decreasing speed while increasing mileage and staying healthy is often overlooked.
While I didn’t run 100-mile weeks, too much speed is the reason for my first stress fracture. I ran all of my runs too fast, and my body broke. I thought you needed to run everything at a race pace. The faster, the better right? Wrong!
I was running about 50 miles a week and more fatigued than when I used to run 70-80. Now, I rarely even time my easy days. I run with friends or on a known route. I’ll run 10-minute miles or 8…it really doesn’t matter as long as my body feels as though it’s easy. Run your easy runs faster rarely helps anything.
If you are worried about pace for an easy run, remember, no one cares. Your ego shouldn’t be the deciding factor for running, but it definitely shouldn’t be your deciding factor for an easy run. For most easy runs, I leave my GPS watch at home. Did I run 3.1 miles or 3.2? 9:04 pace or 9:06? The world will never know…
When Increasing Your Weekly Mileage, Know your Limits:
Running injuries don’t typically come out of nowhere. Know your personal weak spots. Running is a lifelong process, and it takes months to build a strong base.
You don’t build fitness in a day, and you don’t lose it either. Increasing your mileage takes time and patience.
Don’t rush the process because you’ll be sidelined with a minor or major injury. If you feel a small ache or pain, keep a mental note about it. Make sure it doesn’t become worse. Remember you’re in the sport for the long run (pun intended), so don’t rush the process.
Don’t Forget About Cross Training:
Not everyone has the time or wants to add cross-training, but adding strength training or a low impact activity can help strengthen your body to withstand the extra weekly mileage.
It’s possible to increase your mileage and stay healthy, but you must do it smartly. You cannot go crazy and make sudden jumps. Running is lifelong, not a single week or even month.
Questions for you:
How many miles do you run weekly?
How do you increase mileage and stay healthy?