It’s rare to find a runner who doesn’t want to run a bit longer and farther — at least at some point during their life, year or training cycle.
We all want to push a little farther, be a little faster, experience a new distance for the first time. But how do you add on miles without burning out or getting injured?
Here are a few tips:
— Slowly tack on the miles you’re running each week: That means adding just 1-2 miles onto your weekly long run and no more than 10-20% more mileage overall each week. This allows your body to adapt to pounding the pavement or trail for longer periods of time.
— Consider giving a training plan a try: Every training plan I’ve ever looked at makes sure to slowly increase mileage and give you enough time to prepare for whatever event you’re eyeing. They’re meant to help you take your running to the next level.
— Make sure you’re taking adequate rest days: Some folks will disagree, but in my book everyone needs at least one day of total rest each week. That means no running, no strength training, no cross training. Nothing other than your normal daily activities or a walk around the block. And one day may not be enough — you may need two or more depending on your fitness, lifestyle, abilities and goals.
— Add some cross training to your workout routine: While you do need rest, you should definitely be cross training, too. That could be anything from yoga to cycle to swim. All are great ways to complement your running. These sort of low-impact activities help you build muscle and recover. Yoga is especially helpful, and something I wish I’d hopped on sooner. It really helps me stretch out my body in between all my running — not to mention the way it makes me destress.
— Don’t let strength training go by the wayside: If yoga is important, strength training is just as important if not more so. I’ve occasionally let this fall by the wayside, but I’ve been better this training cycle at hitting the weights once a week. It helped when I switched from post-work sessions to pre-work sessions. I was less hungry and rushed to get my session over with. Strength training builds the muscles you need while you’re on the run and greatly reduces injury.
— Add in drop-back, or decreased mileage, weeks: Resting at least one day a week is important, but so is scheduling intermittent weeks — every 3-4 weeks or so — in your training cycle where you back off a bit. These are called drop-back weeks. They provide a little added recovery so you can jump up to the next level in your workouts. It doesn’t mean you don’t run at all — but you scale back significantly on your long run and weekly mileage. You can add in a couple of light or medium cross training sessions if you still feel the need to workout. In addition to drop-back weeks, you should also explore off seasons, where you essentially do drop-back weeks a number of times in a row.