How to Increase Running Mileage and Avoid Injury

Like many people during the pandemic, I’ve had extra time. I have the time to run more mileage. It’s been easier to add a mile here and a mile there and suddenly you think: How did I end up with so many miles?

One of the most important things you can do is ease into running slowly. Running too much, too soon, will result in an injury. With so many gyms closed, it’s challenging to cross-train or strength train. If you’re increasing weekly running mileage, it’s essential to do so slowly. Nothing in running or fitness comes overnight. In fact, not much in life does.

How to Increase Running Mileage and Avoid Injury

Summer is usually the time for base building training cycle anyway, but the more you run, the more likely you are to get injured. Since most gyms are still closed, running is one of the few exercises we can do safely, which is awesome!  Before you do anything, make sure to get fitted at your local running store for shoes. Getting fitted for the right footwear can help prevent injury later down the road.

Whether you are new to running or training for a not canceled race in 2020, it’s important to build a base. That way, eventually, the speedwork feels easier. You don’t need to be a professional to build a base and even recreational runners benefit.

It’s also much easier to develop overuse injuries if you don’t appropriately build a base. Even if you’ve run high mileage before, overuse injuries can creep up if you jump to fast into the distance. When I had my second metatarsal fracture in 2014, I had run high mileage before. I had run 70 and 80-mile weeks, but my injury came when I ran a 50-mile week. Why? I ran too much, too soon.

These overuse injuries typically come because a runner has increased mileage too quickly. When you increase mileage too fast, your body, especially bones, hasn’t been conditioned to withstand the impact of running.  This could because you took a break (due to life or injury) or because you’re new. It’s essential to treat each “come back to running” as new.

But How many Miles is Best For Me?

Like anything that depends on the person, some people thrive at 50 or 70, 90 or 100, it just depends on you. You’ll have to experiment and see what works best for you.

I’ve run all of my PRs running between 70-80 miles per week with speed work. That doesn’t mean it’s best for everyone; in fact, many people run all of their PRs at 40 miles per week. 

How to Start:

Whether you are a new runner or veteran, the easiest way is the 10 Percent Rule.  The Ten Percent Rule simply means increasing your weekly mileage by ten percent per week.

Even if you’re a veteran runner, coming back consider the 10% rule. When you get into higher mileage, 15% is usually okay, too, but going from 10 miles to 50 in a couple of weeks is a recipe for disaster.

A Few Things to Remember While Increasing Mileage:

  • Focus on time on feet NOT pace: When you increase your running mileage, it’s vital to run easier.  If you focus on increasing pace+distance you’re more likely to get an injury.  If you follow me on Strava, you know my range of paces for easy runs is from 8-10 mins, and I feel like I’m “crushing it” when I run 8 min miles.
  • Easy runs and rest days are just important (if not more) than faster runs.  Pay attention to your heart rate, if you are breathing hard, the run is not easy. You should be able to talk through all easy runs.

Here are a Few Ways to Increase your Mileage:

  • Lengthen your long run by 1 mile each week. By adding a mile to your longer runs, you are building mileage slowly.
  • Add an extra short run each week: Add a run of about 2-4 miles. It could be a double or just a day you don’t usually run.
  • Find a Coach: Sometimes, having the proper guidance and training plan can make a world of difference. Even if you follow an online training plan, a coach will evaluate your specific life and needs.

Include a Rest Week:

Also known as a cut back week, down week, recovery week, or rest week. These weeks might seem counterintuitive, but including a recovery week is what helps keep you healthy. It allows your body to recover from an increased workload and lets small aches heal. In fact, you might not know you had these minor aches and pains.

Increasing your running mileage has enormous benefits, but it’s essential to do so slowly. No one wants a quarantine injury or any injury.

Finally, have you subscribed to the LOLZletter? It’s a free newsletter that comes out each Monday. In the newsletter, I share running industry trends and things relevant to the sport.

Questions for you:

Have you been increasing your running mileage? 

What is typically your weekly running mileage when you’ve set PRs?