4 Tips To Increase Running Mileage Safely
Open any running book and flip to the chapter on mileage. You’ll inevitably find that the 10 Percent Rule is recommended for runners who want to run more.
The 10 Percent Rule states that you should only increase your weekly mileage (or volume) in increments of 10 percent. So if you are running 30 miles this week, you should only run 3 more miles next week.
There are smarter ways to increase your volume.
Unfortunately, the 10 Percent Rule is too general and doesn’t apply to many training situations. It brings up a lot of questions:
- Are you being too conservative with your mileage?
- Are you being too aggressive?
- Where are you in your training cycle?
- Does your training program have the right ancillary exercise to help you prevent injury?
Four Smarter Mileage Rules
1) If you’re a beginner, forget the 10 Percent Rule.
As someone learning how to start running, your main priority is to run consistently and allow your body to get used to running. Two or three days of running 1 to 4 miles works well depending on your fitness level. Don’t increase your mileage every week; instead, keep it consistent for two to three weeks to allow your body to adjust. When you’re comfortable, then you can run more.
If you run three days per week for 2 miles, 3 miles, and 3 miles and you’re ready for more mileage, you can add another day of running.
Simply add another 2 miler to your schedule. Even though this is a 25 percent increase, it’s entirely safe provided you were comfortable with your previous volume. Stick with your new running schedule of 10 miles for another two to three weeks, and then consider an additional jump.
2) Determine your mileage sweet spot.
Runners with more experience will find that they have a mileage sweet spot. This particular volume will be comfortable for you but running more will be a challenge. You may find yourself overly tired, prone to injury, or running poorly in workouts.
Let’s take a hypothetical runner who finds 25 miles per week easy. We’ll call her Meaghan. She can jump up to this volume quickly and get in fairly good shape.
But to reach big goals in longer races, like qualifying for Boston, Meaghan may need to run 35 or 40 miles every week. This is where she may run into (pun intended) problems. The injury potential beyond her mileage sweet spot of 25 per week is much higher.
To help Meaghan stay healthy, more conservative mileage increases of only 5 percent are more appropriate. She should also maintain her volume for several weeks instead of running more every week.
3) When you’re coming back from a brief break in training, skip the 10 Percent Rule.
Let’s talk about Meaghan again. If she takes a week off from running, she is not starting from scratch. She can easily start running 15 to 20 miles per week and quickly increase to her sweet spot of 25 miles.
If your break from training is longer than two weeks, you may want to be more cautious with increasing your mileage. Start at a conservative level and increase your mileage by 10 to 15 percent every two to three weeks.
4) Be more conservative when you’re in unchartered territory.
When you start running more than you have ever run before, you’re in a potential danger zone. Your body has never run so many miles and a long adjustment period is probably necessary. At least two to three weeks of the same mileage might be necessary before running higher volume.
Mileage Isn’t Everything
Ultimately, your mileage takes a backseat to the consistency of your training. Running an extra 5 or 10 miles next week isn’t meaningful unless it’s done for months. Instead of always trying to do more, try to run consistently. Be patient and gradually increase your volume over months and years (not days and weeks).
There’s no magic number that will make you accomplish your running goals. Focus on consistency, not making stupid mistakes, and only moving up your mileage when you’re ready and comfortable. You may find yourself increasing your volume more or less than 10 percent, but in the end, always listen to your body.