Most runners find themselves increasing running distance with each new season of training. Whether you’re preparing for your first 5k or a marathon, learning how to run farther is a skill you’ll likely use repeatedly for each new goal.
Unfortunately, many seasoned and beginner runners alike make the mistake of running increasing mileage too quickly, which usually results in injury or burnout. Doing so shocks the body with a sudden increase in activity – one that it has not had time to adequately prepare to tolerate.
How to increase running distance safely?
Learning how to increase running distance safely is key to success over the long term.
Many runners fall into the trap of letting their excitement and motivation get the best of them. Regardless of how you feel, the safest way to increase running distance is to to do so gradually. Adding a few miles at a time miles to your long run or slowly increasing overall distance allows your body to get stronger and adapt over time.
Related: How to Run Long Distance | 10 Tips for Long Distance Running
But even so, increasing your running distance doesn’t have to be a long process. It’s possible to increase running mileage in a short amount of time while still doing so safely.
Running farther requires more time, effort and energy. The extra mileage takes more time and strength to complete each week; but it also opens the window to more and more opportunities to achieve your dreams..
So how do you run farther?
It’s simple: create a plan, focus on the long run, and incorporate recovery.
Running increasing 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, spending time working to increase running distance is a natural part of every training season..
Here are a few simple strategies to do so safely, while setting yourself up for a lifetime of healthy distance running.
4 Ways to Increase Running Distance
If you’re at the beginning of a training season, your end goal might sound a bit intimidating. Comparing where you are now to your final goal likely feels a bit overwhelming – but with a little planning and preparation, the training will fall into place. Here are 4 ways to increase running mileage and start running farther in no time.
Increase long run distance by 1-2 miles per week.
Most runners have heard of the “10% rule” – but the last thing anyone wants to do when heading out for a run is calculate percentages. Adding up mileage and finding 10% to tack on to a long run is just too much math. Thinking in miles, rather than percentage, is usually much easier to calculate.
The safest way to increase running distance 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 by no more than 2 miles each week – especially as you’re beginning. 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 unnaturally hard. Plus, it’ll also helps avoid overuse injuries and burnout.
Incorporate “cut back” recovery weeks.
Incorporating recovery weeks every 4-5 weeks throughout 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 only about 50% what it usually is.
Keep your midweek running distance consistent during these recovery weeks, but decrease the intensity of any speed workouts.
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.
Related: A Guide to Long Run Recovery – What to Do Post Run
Begin with your current base mileage.
No matter how eager you may feel to get started, begin the process of increasing running distance by completing a few training weeks with your current base mileage.
When beginning a training plan, take inventory of you current mileage. During base training, long runs are usually significantly shorter (if they exist at all), and the goal of training is simply to stay in shape.
Schedule the first week or two of your training to begin with your base mileage. If you’re currently comfortable running 1-3 miles, spend a week running this for each run. If you’re regularly running 6-8 miles at a time, plan to begin training with a long run distance of 8 miles.
>>Avoid increasing mileage right off the bat.
While it may be tempting to begin increasing distance 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 10, pushing yourself to run increasing mileage too soon 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 first on 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 farther, 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.
Running increasing mileage takes time.
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, running farther will soon 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.
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