If you want to run further, here’s how to increase your run volume safely.
Every runner at some point has to increase their run volume in order to meet the demands of their sport. Whether you’re a veteran runner increasing their mileage in preparation for an ultra or marathon or a beginner making the transition from running 3k to 5k. The main point to remember any time your running volume is being increased is that the amount you increase your volume by is completely dependent upon your body’s reaction to the increase. In other words, it doesn’t matter who you are, too much too soon will probably hurt you.
How much is too much?
There are plenty of suggestions out there about increasing mileage but probably the most popular is the 10% rule, i.e. don’t add more than 10% of your current mileage per week. It isn’t bad advice in some cases but there are plenty of times when the ten percent rule is just plain bad advice.
One example would be a return to running, for whatever reason.
You’ve had a three month lay-off from running, during week one you run twice that week for 3 miles each time. Week two you apply the ten percent rule (another 965 meters) over two runs again, that’s an extra 482 meters each run. Not a massive amount but when you apply the 10% rule over the next four weeks as well, you’re now trying to run 8.78 miles.
From week one to week five you have transitioned from 6 miles to 8.78 miles. That’s just over half a mile a week. Not a massive amount I hear you say but let me ask you this; where was your fitness at the beginning of week one? Adding 2.78 miles over a five week period to a detrained, unfit body is a huge step up in volume. In this case a four week period at 6 miles would be a much safer option, it gives your body time to get used to the new increase. And once you’re certain that your body is returning to previous fitness levels then adding 10% to 20% is probably a safe option.
Another example is at the other end of the scale.
You’re a keen advanced uninjured runner who pushes out forty miles a week and you decide to apply the 10 percent rule.
That’s another 4 miles on top of your current training, a big step up but easily manageable right? Let me ask you this; what if you’re already at your physical training limit? If you are, you now run the risk of overtraining. The point at which the rest in-between your training sessions is no longer sufficient to repair your body in time for your next run. I have written about this before in my Effective Recovery blog post.
What if you’re under-training?
You’re running volume is down from where it should be for you as an individual taking into account your current fitness levels. Adding 10% may not be enough.
The body adapts to the demands being placed upon it. If you’re physically capable of more volume but mentally you haven’t realised, then your fitness levels will plateau where they are.
Everybody’s mileage sweet spot is different, for some it may be 12 miles a week for some it is as much as 70. Your body will be able to cope with a certain volume per week but that doesn’t necessarily mean the sky’s the limit.
Even with good quality training, rest, nutrition, strength and conditioning, there will a volume point that you reach where your body will say ‘no more please’. This can manifest itself in many different ways but the main ones include; pain, tiredness, unusually high heart rates, slower running or illness.
Whenever you make an increase in your volume give your body time to adapt to that new volume, two to three weeks should be sufficient, before you increase further.
Above all ‘listen’ to your body and only increase when it’s not complaining. Be careful to ensure that other factors aren’t increasing or decreasing at the same time. It’s no good watching your mileage carefully if you suddenly start running faster (speed), running up or down hills (increased intensity) or back to back training days (less rest). When broadening the subject to include these factors it is easy to see how training programs can tip you over the edge in terms of maintaining health while running.
Enjoy your running, but don’t do too much too soon!