I hear so often that if you want to become a better runner, you need to increase your mileage. While this is true to some extent, there definitely is a point where those junk miles start to do more damage than good.
Have you ever wondered how many miles you should run?
Running has an incredible ability to fit into everyone’s lives, no matter how different or unique we all may be. Running has a place in the life of a busy single mom, a chemical engineer, the music teacher down the street, your priest in church, the cashier at the grocery store… you get the picture.
Since running is a part of so many different circumstances, it makes sense that running benefits each of us in different ways.
Even with knowing this, it’s sometimes hard to not play the comparison game. Seeing that a friend finished their 5k a few minutes faster than you did can be a little discouraging. Hearing your coworker exclaim that they fit in a 12 mile run before work this morning has a way of making you feel like you’re not doing enough.
I’m here to remind you that no matter how little you feel like you are doing – the low mileage you are running, how you run less often now than you did a year ago, or the fewer miles you’ve put in since the holidays – that you are doing just fine. There is no right or wrong way to run. It actually is possible to become a better runner while putting in less mileage.
How Running Lower Mileage Has Made Running Feel Easier
Whenever I train for a marathon, I run consistently 4-5 times a week. That’s how I trained for my very first marathon, and how I’ve done it ever since. The very first time I signed up for a marathon, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. Like many others, I’d run a half marathon before, caught the running bug, and wanted to do more. I signed up for a marathon and downloaded the first training plan that I could find.
From there, I began to complete the runs as scheduled, and was lucky enough to make it through training without serious injuries. Race day went really well, so I stuck with the plan and continued on for my second marathon.
In general, I try to avoid signing up for any serious races that will require me to run high mileage throughout the winter, since the weather in Michigan is very unpredictable, and I really despise the treadmill. Running lower mileage allows my body and mind time for a break before increasing my mileage again in the spring.
This winter, though, I signed up to run a 25k in the spring. While the bulk of training doesn’t take place in the prime of winter, training did begin in the midst of a snow storm. It’s no secret that I usually run low mileage in the winter, but this year was especially extreme.
I took two months off to recover from the New York City Marathon. After a full two months off and a few weeks of low mileage, I knew that I would have to make a serious running comeback once training began for this 25k.
This time though, I created a plan for myself that involved running just 3 days a week.
My training plan for this 25k was inspired by the training plan I followed when I ran my best half marathon and took 20 minutes off my previous PR. This was about the time I started taking cross training and strength workouts seriously. I also began incorporating speed workouts for the first time ever. In short, I made sure each workout had a purpose besides just completing it to cross off my training plan.
Related: 4 Simple Tempo Run Variations
After finding so much success with less mileage the first time, I have adopted this method of training that includes running just 3 days a week for quite a few spring running seasons now. This year I am especially excited about where training has taken me so far, and am feeling better than I ever have before.
Running this lower mileage has made running feel easier than ever before.
Running seems almost too good to be true now. Each time I head out for a run, I wonder when my streak will end and a bad run will appear. Each time I return home to discover that my streak is not over yet, and celebrate the fact that I had another amazing run.
This has truly been the best two months of running ever.
My speed workouts all feel challenging, but I am finding continued success hitting paces that are new to me with each run. The long runs continue to feel easy – while there are still those typical long-run-ugh-moments, my legs feel fresh and my body energized with each new week. The mid week miles that dragged on during marathon training now feel like I am floating on a cloud that pumps me full of endorphins.
With all this positive progress, I’ve come to realize that running easier lately is not due to chance, but rather, the change in my training. And what did I change?
I’m running less.
That’s right – I am running lower mileage (significantly), and have noticed a huge difference since then. Now I’m not advocating that this is a method to use year round, but when timing is right, it certainly makes a difference.
Running lower mileage each week has encouraged me to have a clear purpose for each run, so as not to waste the miles on pointless runs. I have a designated speed day, long run day, and one mid week run for some easy miles. On non running days, strength training, yoga, and cross training help keep those running muscles strong and injury free.
If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “how often should I run?” – well, there’s no right or wrong answer. I hear so frequently that to become a better runner you need to run more often. This makes sense, given that practice makes perfect, but there does seem to come a point where you are giving your body more wear and tear than it can handle.
Finding the right balance of mileage is something that is different for each person. When you do find that sweet spot though, oh boy does it make a difference. Running will feel easier than ever before.
Today I am vouching for the fact that it is in fact possible to make running easier by running lower mileage. Get rid of those junk miles that you complete just to cross a day off your training plan even when it’s storming outside. Don’t be afraid to try something new – opportunities for improvement are still there even when you are running less often.
- The Best Interval Workout to Increase Your Speed
- 4 Simple Tempo Run Variations
- How to Make a Running Comeback After Taking Time Off
- How to Break Through a Running Plateau
- Strength Workout for Runners
- The Best Half Marathon Training Plan for Every Runner
- 25k Training Plan