How can I run farther? I feel like I need to run more to hit my goals. Does the 10% rule actually work? I love running and I just want to run all the time!!! A few of the super common questions and statements I get around how to increase running mileage.
Boy do I get it. If could do nothing but run, I likely would.
But increasing your mileage and improving endurance aren’t always the same thing. I’ve talked a previously about the things you can do to help you run farther as a beginner or even regaining endurance post injury.
Right now, we’re talking about that point where you feel good or super excited or maybe you’ve realized you skipped a few weeks of training and you want to jump ahead.
How to Safely Increasing Running Mileage
There’s no one right way to increase mileage, but there are some pretty good rules that you should know and follow. Most training plans refer to what is called the 10% Rule, however there are various methods for building mileage.
The real key is listening to your body and cutting back when you need to. Once you’ve built a solid base of miles, you won’t likely need to start from square one after a break or injury.
Building mileage is important:
- Ensures you can handle time on your feet for distance races
- Improves your endurance for all kinds of events
- Will improve your speed at shorter distances
- Long slow easy runs improve your fat burning
- Runners high seems to happen once you’re consistently doing some longer runs
So, which method is right for you? Try them all out over various training intervals and see which one fits your style best.
The 10% Rule
The most well known method of mileage increase, the 10% rule, states that runners should only increase their total miles at a rate of 10 percent per week in order to avoid injury.
If you’re currently running 20 miles, then the following week, you can run an additional two for a total weekly mileage of 22 miles.
The origins of this rule come from two studies, that showed those who increased mileage faster where more likely to get injured…except that they were increasing 20-30% in both studies. SOOOOO how accurate is it?
The thought is that runners who increase their mileage by more than 10% per week are more susceptible to injury. Largely because the muscles, joints and tendons need time to adapt to the pounding of running and the microtears it causes (which are key to improvements).Is the 10% rule the only way to decide how much you can safely increase your mileage? Find out! #running #marathon #bibchat Click To Tweet
D0es the 10% rule work?
Yes and no. It really depends upon how much training you have been doing.
Newer runners with very low mileage, will be able to progress their total volume faster than runners with existing high mileage programs.
Being smart about slowing increasing the volume or intensity of your runs absolutely prevents injury.
And of course remember that it should not be a constant process of adding miles.
There should be a cycle of increase and then a week of decrease to allow your body to adapt.
The Jack Daniels Method
Olympic running coach Jack Daniels established his own guideline for increasing mileage in his book Daniels Running Formula. Dubbed the Equilibrium Method, Daniels suggests that runners increase mileage by a number that does not exceed the number of weekly training sessions.
If you currently run four days per week, then you can add on four miles. If you want to increase the number of days you run per week, then it’s fine to add the four in that extra training run.
From there, runners stay at that level for 3-4 weeks before increasing again. Once you hit your maximum weekly training load (i.e. six days) then you can continue increasing up to six miles until you reach your peak training load.
3 Build + 1 Recovery
First time half marathoners, marathoners and ultra runners may feel the mental fatigue or lack motivation after several months of training. The idea behind recovery weeks is to recharge the mind and body to become excited for the training ahead. Further, they can help prevent injury when the miles and intensity add up.
Over the course of 3 weeks you might climb from 20 to 24 to 27 and then take one recovery week by dropping your weekly mileage back to 20 miles or less to give your body adequate time to adapt to the demands.
Rule of Thumb: GO SLOW with adding on miles. You can do plenty of low impact cross training while building, which will help to ensure you gain fitness without injury.
Increasing Mileage after Injury or As a New Runner
As you build your base, it’s important not to get carried away with adding too much, too soon.
Start out slowly and stay at a weekly mileage that feels comfortable for 3-4 weeks, gradually increasing as you become stronger and more fit. The 10% rule doesn’t really apply to runners coming off an injury because the additional weekly percentage will exceed 10% based on the low mileage.
As an example, if you are currently running 15 miles per week and add two more miles the following week for a total of 17, that increase is 13 percent.
The same rule applies if you are coming back from a long rest period, returning after pregnancy, or are just starting out.
Adding Miles Without Injury
When you’re ready to increase running mileage and avoid injury, it’s about so much more than just the run. Adding weekly miles is but one part of the equation to becoming a stronger runner.
What else comes into play?
Variation in Running
Maybe you’re only at 2-3 runs a week, so you want to maximize those and suddenly find yourself doing only speed workouts or hard runs.
If you’ve been running a long time that style might be just fine because in between you rest, but when you are first building, you need to ensure you get enough EASY running.
Adding in a Second Run
Running twice a day isn’t something we want to do all the time, but when you are increasing mileage it can be a useful tool. Instead of trying to take an 8 mile run to 10 on a Wednesday you could do 7 and 3, which usually makes the 3 miles feel fresher and lowers the total stress of the daily mileage.
Rest and active recovery days allow the body to heal from the stress of adding in new mileage. While we’re anxious to ramp up the miles or continue cross training to get our fitness up, skipping recovery can eventually lead to missing lots of runs because you’re injured!
- Our muscles don’t heal
- Our performance decreases
- We become fatigued with the sport
- We’re susceptible to overuse injuries
Glute, Core and Hip Strength (aka Pre-Hab)
In order, to increase mileage, you need a body that is ready to handle the load. The most common weakness that leads to knee, ankle, or hip pain is weak hips!
You can work many moves in to your dynamic warm up before each run, but it’s also worth trying to do at least 2 day a week of strength training.
Check out my YouTube channel to find several videos with strength exercises for runners or give any of the following routines a try:
- Hip focused mobility workout
- Improving hip extension
- Upper body strength workout
- Resistance band hip strength
Embracing Extra Sleep
We know that sleep is important, but it becomes even more crucial as you begin to increase the miles and thus the stress on your body. If you find you’re losing sleep because you need to wake up at the crack of dawn to get the miles in, be aware that lack of sleep, can be the source of our running injuries.
When we’re asleep, our bodies…
- Produce the hormone that heals and repairs muscles and tissues
- Synthesize protein
- Create new cells
- Boost the immune system
As we run more, we actually need MORE sleep. So start planning for it!
When you begin to increase the mileage, it’s natural that you are going to feel hungry (or as I say rungry). Beginning runners will especially feel as though they cannot get enough to eat. However, burning more calories does not give you a free ticket to eat whatever you want!
Eating for performance means:
- Fueling properly during runs
- Getting the right food within 90 minutes after a long run
- Balancing carbs and proteins at mealtimes
- Not overeating….
- ….or undereating
Food is what helps our body repair and heal from the endurance exercise we put it through. Without the right fuel, our bodies cannot do their jobs and keep us healthy.
What is your preferred method for increasing mileage?
How do you know when you’ve reached your maximum weekly training distance?
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