Build Your Base Miles First.
So if you want to know how to increase your running mileage and reduce the risk of injury. The very first thing that you really have to look at is building an excellent foundation.
Build Endurance First
And this is really about building your ability to endure and to adapt. And the way that you do that is by health by building up your miles without injury.
Now, let’s look at the three ways you can run; you can either run
further, run harder, or run more often.
The danger is that many new runners or runners trying to go longer distances try and do all three at once, which, of course, overwhelms the body and often means that you’re more likely to get injured.
So, for example, if you are starting to try and run further, then what you should be looking at is perhaps making sure that you’re not doing too many speed sessions that are harder for you in those earliest stages.
Just let your body adapt to running further and longer if you’ve only ever run three days a week. Don’t jump up to running six; build it up.
The 10% Rule
This is where you increase by 10% increments. I personally am not a fan of this because it doesn’t take into account where you are or what you’ve done.
If you’ve never run before, then anything you do is a 100% increase! If you been running for many, many years. You might have had a month or two off, but when you come back, you’ll be able to increase your running by much more than 10%.
The truth is, no one actually knows how much you can increase by when you’re running, except probably you and your own body.
I would suggest that you’ve got to build up your consistency. So you begin to run more often, and building up your endurance, and then leave running harder, i.e. speed sessions to when your body has adapted to getting that foundation fully implemented, and then layer on top, the speed sessions, and this will mean that your body is less likely to let you down, and deliver any problems with injury.
Increasing Running Mileage Consistently.
Let’s be honest. We live in an age where we want to get what we want quicker and more easily. I think I would be remiss if I didn’t really mention that the biggest way to increase running mileage and avoid injury is by being consistent.
I see so many runners that they go out for two weeks. Run a certain amount of mileage, stop for two weeks, and then think they can pick that mileage straight back up now; of course, like I’ve mentioned, if you are an experienced runner and you’ve got a lot of miles in the bank, over many years, and that’s more than likely the case that you can do it. But if you’re starting to build your base your endurance for running, consistency is your best friend.
You’re much better going out and doing three miles every day for four days a week for six months. Then to do 10 miles a day for a month, take a month off, and then start again.
Because your body does not ever get a chance to recognise what it is that you’re doing.
That’s the way I look at it is that you’re training your body to understand what you want from it. In, in a very guttural sense.
It’s like the body is thinking…
We need to get our act together because this person is obviously serious about running. So if you do running consistently, your body then says to itself, we need to keep this person safe and to do that, these adaptations need to take place.
I know this conversation, in reality, does not occur, but it’s a handy metaphor to understand you need to send consistent messages to your body to get consistent results.
Stress Outside Of Running Can Increase Injuries.
I think something that many runners do not recognise when they begin running is that stress or life can impact their running.
We tend to put things into boxes, so we look at running as a box, we look at work as a box, and we don’t always connect the dots between all those things. I see so many runners who are trying to increase their mileage. They’re trying to increase their running ability, but their day to day lives don’t support those actions.
Life Can Get In The Way Of Running
Now, I know it’s not always easy. Suppose you’ve got young children. If you’ve got young children who keep you awake at night, you’re getting a lack of sleep; you may have a stressful job. All these things will impact how successful you are in increasing your mileage without getting injured.
Now you might be thinking, well, that’s great, but I cant overnight change my job or stop the fact that my one-year-old child keeps me up half the night.
No, you can’t. However, you can recognise and adapt to the fact these things impact your running.
So if you realise that your life outside of running is creating stress on you mentally or physically, then I would suggest that you have to integrate that knowledge into the type of training you are doing to reduce the risk of injury.
You may be wise, at points in your life like that, to be kind to yourself and not increase mileage too rapidly, and I know it’s a cliche, but it’s true. Listen to your body and drawback from extra mileage if you’re feeling the strain, either mentally or physically.
I know it’s a very subtle balance because running, in effect, it’s particularly long-distance running, is stressful, and you are going to get tired, and that is part of it.
But there’s that tipping point where you are getting fatigued, either mentally or physically, that means that you are leaving yourself wide open to long term injury.
Do Strength Training
Personally, I think doing some level of strength training helps you increase your running mileage and reduce the risk of injury.
You will find a lot of conflicting advice around this, and I think the reason there are so many conflicting opinions is the younger you are, Possibly. When you start running, the fitter you are, the likelihood, the need for strength training may reduce.
Intensity And Volume Of Strength Training Matters.
So let me explain. Let me give you an example. Say that you are an older runner and say in your 40s or your 50s, and you want to increase your mileage. Your body is already under quite a lot of stress and strain, as we’ve already mentioned because you’re going to be probably increasing the mileage and the amount of running you do.
If you then introduce a strength training regime that stresses your body out, even more, it will potentially increase your risk of injury. And this is why some people will say that strength training isn’t a good idea because it actually increases the risk of injury.
I feel that it’s more a case of the type of strength training you do and the amount.
So my coach Liam actually only has me do 10 to 15 minutes of strength training, three times a week, in conjunction with the running I’m doing.
So by doing that, I’m building up strength, I’m building up my body, and as I say, I’m 57 years old. I do need that strength training because your strength does dissipate as you get older.
However, I’m not doing an amount of strength training, that is, in effect, competing with my running and putting too much stress and strain on my body, where we might increase the risk of injury.
I am not saying the above is the way.
The bottom line strengthening your body against the rigours of running that is intense on your body makes perfect sense. You have to balance that out with the increased strain on your body.
Age, fitness and experience will be the most likely guiding factors on this.
Use A Heart Rate Monitor To Increase Mileage Safely.
I am a big fan of using heart rate variability as a good indicator of the level of intensity that Iam running at.
For me, in most cases, it is more accurate in training scenarios than, say, pace.
The reason for this is your body does not recognise pace. It only recognises the intensity or stress of a situation.
So, for example, you could be running the same pace on the flat, up a hill or down a hill; however, the impact on your body is very different.
However, with heart rate, you can track these differences in intensity.
So Why Does This Matter Heart Rate, Variability Matter?
Well, it means, by setting up heart rate zones, you can determine more accurately the level of intensity that you are actually running at.
For example, if you want to do an easy run, you do not stray into a higher intensity than is required.
I wrote a post that covered zones here.
However, I will say that there are times you might not want to follow your heart rate too slavishly. When you are in a race, and your adrenaline is high, extreme weather conditions such as hot weather will push your heart rate up significantly.
And that brings me to…
Use Perceived Effort To Increase Miles Per Week In A Controlled Way.
I suppose spoken about how highly I rate, heart rate variability is a great way to determine how much stress you are under while running, but like I also mentioned, it does have some drawbacks. And this is why I combine heart rate and perceived effort as my main ways of understanding my body when I’m trying to increase mileage without unnecessary injuries.
So What Do I Mean By Perceived Effort?
Where you can score yourself on a level of one to 10, based on your perceived effort, one is really really easy 10 For example, being the fastest, you could go.
And that way, you can get more in touch with your body while you’re running. And I often use this in tandem with my heart rate.
So, for example, as I said earlier, heart rate is brilliant. But sometimes, I’ll be running, and the weather is hot, and I know that the heat will significantly raise my heart rate. I often then switch into using perceived effort, so then I will ask myself,
- So, what perceived effort am I at?
- And then what perceived effort do I want to be at?
Then you can look at your watch; you can look at your heart rate; you can look at your pace and work out if you are in the zone that you need to be in based on how well you feel?
And this can be really powerful, particularly in tandem with watching your heart rate, too.