Whether you’ve just completed your first 5k, are wanting to start running for the very first time or hoping to train for a marathon – it’s important to be smart about how you increase your running mileage.
No matter how ambitious you may feel, taking a leap and running drastically farther in a short amount of time will likely result in injury or burnout. Not to mention the fact that your body won’t be prepared for this new distance and will likely feel terrible the entire time.
But luckily, increasing your running mileage doesn’t have to be a long process. It’s possible to increase your running distance in a short amount of time while still doing so safely.
So how do you run farther?
Increasing your running mileage may sound like a hefty challenge, but when done correctly, you likely won’t even realize you’re running farther than before.
Each week you’ll accomplish new goals, break old records, and surprise yourself with what your body is able to accomplish.
And the best part – ANY runner can do it. Whether you’re a brand new runner or seasoned pro coming back from a break, we all have to spend some time building our running mileage now and again.
Here are a few simple strategies to safely increase your running mileage for lifelong distance running.
4 Ways to Safely Increase Your Running Mileage
Increase long run distance by no more than 1-2 miles per week.
I always hated the “10%” rule. While I am definitely a numbers person, the last thing I want to do when I’m eager to head out for a run is calculate percentages. Adding up mileage and finding 10% to add on to a long run distance is just too much calculation when all I want to do is run. I find that thinking in miles, rather than percentage, is much easier to calculate.
To increase your running mileage, the safest way is to consolidate the majority of extra miles to one run per week. Designate one day each week for a “long run“, and stick to it throughout training. This run will eventually be significantly longer than your other mid-week runs.
The distance of your long run should increase no more than 2 miles each week, especially as you begin. If you’re starting from scratch, try increasing your long run mileage by .25 to .5 miles each week until you feel comfortable.
If you’re coming back from an off season or running break, increase your long run mileage by 1-2 miles each week until you build up to your goal. This gradual mileage increase will help build your running endurance over time, so running new distances won’t feel unbearably hard. Plus, it’ll also help you avoid overuse injuries and burnout.
Incorporate “cut back” recovery weeks.
Incorporating recovery weeks every 4-5 weeks in a training plan is a great strategy to avoid both mental and physical burnout. When training for a long distance race, schedule in recovery weeks, during which your long run distance is less than 50% what it usually is.
Keep your midweek running distance consistent during these recovery weeks, but plan a significantly shorter long run.
While it may feel counter-intuitive, these occasional cut back weeks help your body build fitness, stay strong, and remain fresh throughout the rest of training. Not to mention, a recovery week provides your legs with some much needed rest and recovery time.
Begin with your current base mileage.
No matter how eager you may feel to get started, begin increasing your mileage by completing a few training weeks at your current running base.
When beginning a training plan, take inventory of you current mileage. Usually during base training, long runs are significantly shorter (if they exist at all), and you’ve been training simply to stay in shape.
Schedule the first week or so of your training to incorporate your base mileage. If you’re currently comfortable running 1-3 miles, spend a week running this every other day. If you’re regularly running 6-8 miles at a time, plan to begin training with a long run distance of 8 miles.
While it may be tempting to begin increasing your running mileage from the very first week of training, taking a week or two to establish your running base helps your body adjust, prepare and adapt to your new schedule of running.
Everyone is different, so understanding your current fitness level is key to knowing where to start. Remember: there is no right or wrong place to begin. Whether you’re beginning with 1 mile or at 40, pushing yourself to increase mileage right away will only lead to burnout or injury.
Spend time increasing distance before adding speed.
Many training plans incorporate speed work and hard running workouts at least once a week. While these types of runs are a great asset when training for a goal, you’ll want to avoid them when you first begin increasing your running mileage.
Focus on first increasing your running distance before adding any extra elements to your training plan. Running a few extra miles each week is already taxing to your body, so take the time to adjust to this increased mileage before adding extra stress.
Complete your long runs at a comfortable, easy pace, and don’t worry if this pace is slower than you expect. After your body has adapted to this increase in mileage, your pace will likely follow.
Once you’ve spent a few weeks running your goal mileage, you can begin to incorporate speed workouts if you desire. You’ll know when you’re ready to add extra workouts to your training when your long runs begin to feel easier, your natural pace increases during long distances, and you recover quickly.
There is nothing more exciting for a runner than a fresh new training plan. Signing up for a race brings a boost of motivation that is much needed after an off season or break from running.
If you are smart in maintaining your excitement, increasing running mileage will feel natural. Before you know it, you’ll be running farther each week than you ever imagined. Enjoy pushing yourself to new limits, and remember to treat your body well along the way.
More tips for running long distances:
- How Running Lower Mileage Made Running Feel Easier
- 10 Game Changing Tips for Long Distance Running
- 10 Ways to Have Your Best Long Run Ever
- 12 Week Running Base Building Training Plan