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Three steps to safely increase your mileage

Follow these guidelines to run more while avoiding injuries

Whether you’re training for a longer race or simply trying to bump up your mileage to snag a new personal best, increasing your weekly running volume without overtraining or getting injured can often be a challenge. If you’re trying to increase your mileage, follow these guidelines to ensure you do so safely.

Determine your starting point

Before you start adding mileage to your weekly total, first determine your starting point. This should be an amount of running that you know you’re comfortable with — it shouldn’t be too easy, but it shouldn’t challenge you, either. 

To determine this total, ask yourself a few questions: what’s the number of kilometres that I can run in a day that doesn’t leave me wiped out? How many days off do I need so that I get to the end of the week still feeling good? Can I add a long run? Keep in mind that this is base mileage, so this is an amount you can comfortably run at a steady pace, without any speedwork thrown into the mix. Another easy way to figure out your starting point is to look back into your training over the last several months and find the weeks that were comfortable for you.

Once you’ve determined that number, how quickly you increase your mileage depends on where you’re at currently. If you’re building up to your starting point, you can add mileage more aggressively, but once you surpass that number, you should be much more conservative. Adding between five and 10 per cent every other week is a good way to build gradually while decreasing your risk for injuries.

Repeat your training

It takes time for your body to adapt to higher mileage or bigger workouts, so one way to give yourself more time to adapt is simply to repeat a week of training. This is especially helpful for injury-prone runners who need more time for their bodies to get used to increases in volume or intensity.

Yes, this means doing word-for-word, kilometre-for-kilometre the same week as the one prior. Same workouts, same long run, same recovery runs. You may not need to do this if you’re building up to your starting point, but once you’re over your comfortable level of mileage, this is a very useful tool to build safely.

Add in taper weeks

As you’re building toward a goal race, plan your training so you can include a mini-taper week every four to six weeks. This gives your body a chance to absorb the training you’ve been doing and to recover and prepare to resume your training program the following week. Depending on your experience level or your injury history, you should decrease your training during these weeks by 10 to 25 per cent. 

This means that if you’re running 50 km per week, you should decrease your weekly total by five to 12 kilometres. If you’re running 60 km, you should decrease your total by six to 15 kilometres. Keep in mind that this decrease should be spread across the entire week — don’t just shorten your long run and call it a day. All of your runs and workouts should reflect the decrease in mileage.

Following these guidelines will take some patience, but will help you increase your weekly mileage in a safe and controlled way. Remember, you should never rush yourself into fitness, especially when you’re training for a new, longer distance. Give yourself time to build up slowly so you can get to the start line healthy.