Increasing Mileage Safely
By Susan S. Paul, MS; Track Shack Training Program Director
Fall is almost upon us and hopefully that means some cooler weather! Cooler weather means many runners will want to increase their weekly mileage. It’s hard to resist running longer when the weather is good! What’s a few more miles, right?
The problem with just a few more miles is that anytime we change our running routine, we increase our injury risk. Whether we increase mileage or add speed, the risk of injury is real. So, how can a runner safely increase their weekly mileage? While there are no guarantees, there are ways to run longer that minimize injury risk.
“First and foremost, follow the general guideline of increasing weekly mileage volume by no more than 10 percent. Furthermore, remain at new mileage levels for three weeks before increasing again.”
Next, be certain you are running in the proper shoes. If you have not already done so, get your shoes professionally fit by a Track Shack shoe fitting expert. Replace your shoes often and examine them frequently for signs of wear and tear. If you have suffered any previous running injuries, be sure you have implemented recommendations made by your health care professional, like doing specific strengthening and flexibility exercises or using special shoe inserts.
Include a proper warmup and cool-down phase before each run. Doing a warmup and a cool-down for each run is very important and something that too many runners are guilty of skipping. These phases are even more important for injury-prone runners.
The warmup and/or the cool-down phases are also the perfect places to increase your weekly mileage because they provide a relatively easy and gentle way to increase your overall mileage while placing minimal stress on your body, therefore posing very little risk of injury. Try warming up before your run by walking for five to ten minutes and then gradually move into an easy run pace or, use a combination of walking and running, for another five to ten minutes. For example, if your normal run is four miles, incorporate a one-mile warmup of walking or run/walking at a very comfortable pace, approximately two minutes slower than your normal run pace. After the warmup period, move into your normal run routine.
The cool-down process is also much more important than most runners realize because it brings your body back to its pre-exercise state. To cool down after your run, try walking, running easy, or use a combination of running and walking for an additional half mile after your normal run.
Once your body has adapted well to this increased mileage level in the warmup and cool-down phase, then consider increasing the distance of the workout portion of your runs for additional mileage gains. Again, do small, gradual half-mile incremental increases and allow time for adaptation.
Also, develop and implement preventative care measures like stretching, foam rolling, ice baths, core exercises, and massages on a regular basis. Stretching and foam rolling can be done on a daily basis, and core exercises can be done every other day. Ice baths, or at least cool baths, can be used after every run but especially after longer mileage weekend runs. Regular massage can also help by loosening tight muscles, restoring range of motion, and removing adhesions.
Tips for Increasing Mileage:
1) Stick to no more than a 10% increase in weekly volume
2) Wear the proper shoes and inspect them often for signs of wear and tear
3) Implement a warm up and cool down phase for each run
4) Increase mileage in the warm up and/or the cool down phase first
5) Remain at new mileage levels for three weeks before increasing again
6) Develop a preventative care plan that includes stretching, foam rolling, ice baths, and massage