I received a comment/question from a reader a couple weeks ago and thought the topic warranted it’s own blog post since it’s such a popular topic among runners I thought you guys would have some great information as well.
When you first began running did you go through aches and pains as your mileage increased? What advice can you give a new runner?
I have done a post on high mileage before which has some helpful tips on how I handle, and why I run, the mileage I run (high being a relative term). Increasing mileage without getting injured is a pretty common inquiry from runners, especially new ones, so hopefully this post is helpful.
Although I don’t have a definite answer because every runner is different, I do have what has worked best for me.
Build It Up
Be smart about your mileage increase and build it up slowly. If you have been running 30 miles per week for the last 6 months, don’t turn around and start running 50 mile weeks without building up your mileage in between. I like to have a strong solid base at X miles before I start to increase to a higher number of miles. The 10% rule is a safe rule that runners like to use to measure their mileage increase (increasing no more than 10% your total weekly mileage week to week).
I don’t really follow the 10% rule much these days, but I know what my body can handle pretty safely and know what signs to look for that I am pushing the limits. If I was building my mileage higher to something that is a standard base mileage for me (in marathon training), I would definitely be more conscious of my increases and measure them more closely.
A recap of my marathon training cycles to show mileage/speed build over time:
#1: Peaked at 40mpw with occasional speedwork and 4 days of running.
#2: Peaked at 50mpw with one day of speedwork a week and 4-5 days of running.
#3: Peaked at 55mpw with one day of speedwork a week and 4-5 days of running.
#4: "Marathon May" short cycle, piggy backing off of #3.
#5: Peaked at 61mpw with one day of speedwork a week and 5-6 days of running.
#6: Peaked at 66mpw with one day of speedwork a week and 6 days of running.
#7: Peaked at 62mpw with two days of speedwork and 6 days of running.
#8: Peaked at 70mpw with two days of speedwork and 6 days of running
#9: Peaked at 67mpw with two days of speedwork and 6 days of running
#10: 13 days after #9, not much running at all, recovery was key
#11: Peaked at 57mpw, winging it with speedwork, 6 days of running
A big no-no for me and many runners is building mileage while also increasing speed. When you are increasing your mileage, you have to understand that you are going to be tired and your legs will need their recovery time. Make sure to run your recovery runs easy and not push the pace too much on other runs, especially when entering into unchartered mileage territory for the first time.
I still remember my first 50 mile week ever. I was exhausted and I finished the week in tears. I was so upset with how “slow” my long run was, and it wasn’t even slow! I had been so used to seeing certain paces on my long runs, but as I was building to a new weekly mileage high, I had to slow it down to compensate. Make sure to take a step back and look at the big picture of your overall week.
You can also see with my recap above, that I worked speedwork into my training plans as I went. I started with occasional speed work, worked in one day a week and eventually had a tempo run and track workout in the same week. Building my overall weekly mileage took time, as well as building in speed work and increasing days of running. Patience is key!
Training Pain vs. Injury Pain
I think one of the hardest things to learn as a runner is what is normal training pain and what is injury. When you are training for a big race, you hurt. I don’t think I have ever gone into a marathon without some nagging ailment, but they were training pains, not injury pains. You have to know the line for your own body and make sure you listen and don’t cross over to the bad side.
The first time I did the Pfitz 12/55 training plan, my shins ached nonstop. I constantly wore compression socks, used my ice bucket and babied my shins. After my marathon I made sure to take extra recovery time, and the next time I trained on the same plan it wasn’t so bad. I still usually think of my shins as a tender area during training, but it isn’t nearly as bad as it used to be.
When increasing your mileage, it’s really important to make sure you are taking steps to prevent injury. While those steps are different for different people the ones that have worked best in the past for me are icing, stretching, ART, foam rolling, trigger point, compression socks, rest days and sleeping!
Some past posts on injury prevention:
Listen To Your Body
I think this was one of the most important things I learned when I first started running. Your body will talk to you and tell you when you need a rest day, when you need to slow down, or when you can keep pushing it. It’s ok to take an extra rest day if you need one. It’s ok to deviate from a training plan if you need to. Know your body, listen, be nice to it and hopefully you can increase your mileage and stay injury free.
It’s been a long process for me and luckily my body has handled whatever I throw at it pretty well. This did come with many different aches and pains, but luckily nothing ever turning into serious injury. Running hurts sometimes, but taking care of your body and making sure you are taking the right injury prevention steps is a big key to success. Also knowing your body to be able to figure out the difference between training pains vs. injury pains.
Any other tips to increasing mileage? What has worked for you?