Injury-free running volume: how to safely increase your mileage

For high results, you need to run a lot: the more you run in training, the better time you show in competitions. Inexperienced athletes think something like this, believing that running volume directly affects the result, and completely forgetting that a sharp increase in mileage can lead to injuries.

In this article, along with sports equipment brand Falke, we will find out what running volume consists of, how much it is really necessary for improving performance, and how to get it efficiently and without injury.

What is running volume? 

Running volume in kilometers

Most often, this term means the total mileage that an athlete runs over a certain period. Usually they are guided by the weekly and monthly running volume. However, some athletes may have individual micro-cycles ranging from 4 to 10 days, in which case the volume will be calculated at the end of each such stage.

In addition, many athletes monitor the number of “running” kilometers at the end of the year. In sports communities, there are even special challenges that motivate you to conquer some beautiful figure.

Running volume in hours

The amount of training load can be calculated not only in kilometers. After all, the same 10 km jog or at a competitive pace require completely different efforts. And on tracks with difficult surfaces, for example, in deep snow, you can move much slower than usual, but at the same time get more tired. 

That is why an additional guideline is the calculation of training hours: the time that you devoted to classes. They more accurately show the load also because the schedule can include not only running workouts. Gym, exercise on the bike station, swimming in the pool – everything that is included in the training plan should be taken into account in the calculation. 

Running volume by climb

An additional parameter for trailrunners and skyrunners in particular is the total climb. It’s no secret that we run slower uphill than on a flat highway. And the steeper the angle of inclination, the slower the movement will be.

Therefore, it is not so important how many kilometers were covered during the training in the mountains. In this case, the time on the course and the total climb for the training are taken into account. And the degree of load is determined not by the pace, which is difficult to predict on difficult terrain, but by the pulse and sensations.

Injury-free running volume: how to safely increase your mileage
The total climb is important to consider when preparing for mountain trails. Pictured is Falke’s running gear

For what distances is running volume important?

It makes no sense to try to copy someone else’s training schedule: different athletes have different initial data and tasks. Someone is preparing for short distances and focuses on high-speed work, while someone is going to storm the marathon and train general endurance.

In general, the weekly volume directly depends on the target distance. The more you plan to run in the competition, the more training mileage should be. 

Different coaches have different approaches to building a training schedule, and not always a huge mileage is the key to success. Practicing multi-kilometer crosses, you will become more enduring and will be able to run longer, but not faster. For speed, it is imperative to include exercises for muscle strength and speed qualities in the schedule.

What is the difference between running volume for short and long distances

The total number of kilometers per week depends on the target start. Beginners who are training for 10K or shorter distances can average 25-40K per week. For advanced runners, these numbers will be higher: 25-65 km per week. 

For beginning half-marathoners, the minimum running volume ranges from 25-65 km per week. For experienced runners – reaches 80 km weekly.

If a physically developed person can overcome shorter distances without long training, then this is unlikely to happen with a marathon. To conquer 42.2 km, a beginner runner will need from 35 km of weekly mileage, and advanced amateurs – at least 55 km.

Ultra distances can be singled out in a separate category, since there is no upper bar for mileage here. Each runner who trains for endurance races gradually gains experience on how much and how he personally needs to prepare for starts. 

Separately, it is necessary to mention that not only physical, but also psychological preparation is important for ultramarathon runners. Some runners specifically train at night, simulating the sleepless hours of a race, or go out for a tough run after a day’s work to learn how to fight fatigue.

Injury-free running volume: how to safely increase your mileage
The mileage of running training depends on the distance you are preparing for.

5 steps to increase running volume

Step 1: Calculate Running Volume

First of all, it is necessary to determine the current level of training. Even if the goal is to finish a marathon, and we know that, in theory, to prepare for this distance you need to run 40 (50, 60, etc.) kilometers a week, you still won’t be able to jump to such loads abruptly. 

Most likely, the number of kilometers that you run weekly is not the same. As a starting point, you can take the average value for the last month. This information is easily obtained from electronic trackers that record workouts.

Step 2: Increase Weekly Volume

Now that we know our initial data, we can begin to gradually increase the weekly volume. The word “gradually” is key here: a sharp increase in mileage can adversely affect physical fitness. This will lead to chronic fatigue, overtraining and injuries, after which, on the contrary, you will have to reduce the intensity of your workouts.

10% rule

Many athletes have heard that weekly mileage can be increased by no more than 10% per week. In fact, this is an approximate figure, and everything is very individual. At the level of 20 km per week, it will be only 2 km, which will not affect the overall load in any way. And for an experienced runner with a set of 140 km, the volume will increase by 14 km, that is, for one full workout.

You need to focus primarily on your own feelings and, most importantly, do not constantly increase weekly volumes. They become smaller during the lead-up to the competition, so that the athlete is in good shape, but not tired, and immediately after the competition when the body needs to be allowed to recover.

Maximum mileage for long runs

Long runs are one of the important tools in building running volume. These are cross-country runs of a higher length than a regular workout, which are aimed at developing endurance. Such activities require a lot of time, so runners traditionally do them on weekends.

For those preparing for their first marathon, it sometimes feels like they need to run 40K in training first. In fact, almost none of the coaches recommends such exhausting runs, limiting themselves to long runs of 30-36 km even during the peak mileage period before the competition. 

The length of a long training session depends on the total weekly mileage. If you train 3-4 days a week, your longest run should not exceed 50% of your total volume. If your weekly schedule has 5 or more running workouts, then the maximum length of a long one should be limited to 35% of the total volume.

Long workout time limit

On average, the lower limit of the duration of a long workout starts from 90 minutes of running. At the same time, many coaches note that it is pointless to arrange a long one for more than 3-3.5 hours. Time beyond this limit will not help increase stamina, but will only continue to deplete the body. 

For ultramarathoners, these figures may be higher, but long-distance mileage will never reach 100% of the distance. For more impact and endurance, it’s best to include a 2-4 day combo with moderately long runs into your plan. The cumulative effect of such a load will be stronger, and there will be less stress for the body.

Injury-free running volume: how to safely increase your mileage
Several moderately long workouts will bring more benefits than one very long one.

Step 3: Increase the number of workouts per week

How many times a week should you run

The question of the number of workouts per week depends not only on physical fitness, but also on opportunities. Not every amateur runner has enough free time to devote as much attention to sports as they would like. 

For most experienced amateurs and professional athletes, paradoxically, the number of training sessions is the same. Both of them train six days a week, giving themselves a mandatory rest day to recover. For beginners, the average numbers are 3-4 workouts per week.

Where to find time for additional training

Sooner or later, the moment comes when the weekly mileage needs to be increased further, but six training sessions are definitely not enough for this. Where can I get extra days?

At this point, you can try adding a second workout, usually a light recovery cross. It is not necessary to do two workouts daily, it is enough to double one or two days a week. 

How Commute Running Can Help

For many amateurs, it’s not easy to find time for one workout, so two runs a day look completely utopian. Of course, it is not easy to combine life, family, work and full-fledged preparation for competitions, but the experience of successful athletes shows that everything is possible if you wish.

Commute running can be an interesting tool for gaining weekly volume. This is the name of running on business, primarily moving to and from work. Of course, this is not a full-fledged replacement for all workouts, but as an addition it looks like a completely working tool. If you don’t have the opportunity to take a shower after a run in your office, you can limit yourself to the work-to-home route.

Injury-free running volume: how to safely increase your mileage
Two easy runs of half an hour each will increase the weekly volume by 10 km

Step 4: Train Without Injury 

When increasing running volumes, it is important not to rush and let the body get used to the new load. Other components also affect the safety of training, and I would like to talk about them in more detail.

1. Proper equipment

On a long run, a little discomfort can become a big problem, and uncomfortable clothes can ruin the whole workout. It is important that the equipment is sized, breathes well, and removes moisture. Otherwise, during a stop, you can easily cool down and freeze.

Particular attention should be paid to socks, which are as important for a runner as good running shoes. Grated corns can disable even the most experienced athlete for a long time. For long runs, you should choose tight-fitting socks with compacted inserts that protect the foot from chafing.

2. Recovery weeks

Even if the body perceives the increase in load well, you should not increase volumes without interruption. Every 3-4 weeks include a recovery week in your training plan, during which the intensity of training decreases. On average, the load needs to be reduced by 20%.

Such a respite will give the muscles and joints the necessary rest. And then the chances that the next cycle of increasing mileage will pass without injury will increase significantly.

3. Full sleep

The longer the workouts become, the more difficult it is to find time for them. Many recreational runners have to go for a run at dawn in order to be in time for the work day. Or, conversely, train late at night. 

Increasing training hours should not lead to reduced sleep time. Because for progress, rest hours are as important as training time. And without proper sleep at night, it will not be possible to show good results in competitions.

4. Eating and drinking during exercise

If on weekly runs we almost always do without food, and we take water with us only in very hot weather, then with long runs everything is different. It is important to have at least a supply of liquid with you or to know for sure that if necessary you will be able to drink from a spring / pump or buy water in a store.

Regarding the power supply and its frequency, everything is ambiguous. On the one hand, in order to run long and efficiently, you must eat. To do this, you can use not only energy gels, as in competitions, but also ordinary food rich in carbohydrates. Dates or any other dried fruits are fine.

On the other hand, the tasks of training and competition are different. Long training runs with a minimum of nutrition will not be as effective in terms of speed, but this is a good way to accelerate lipid metabolism and accustom the body to use internal reserves.

5. Strength training

Injuries occur due to the fact that our musculoskeletal system is not ready for the load that we offer it. The more we run, the stronger the muscles become and the lower the risk of injury.

For greater effect, it is desirable to supplement running training with strength exercises for quadriceps, biceps femoris and calf muscles. This will help create a strong muscular corset and reduce the risk of running injuries.

Read on: Review of Falke thermal underwear and socks for running, skiing and outdoor activities

Injury-free running volume: how to safely increase your mileage
Classes on the stairs have a positive effect on the technicality of running and include stabilizing muscles

Step 5: Make your workouts more varied

Sooner or later, the first euphoria from running passes, and training turns into a pleasant, but still routine. How not to get bored, running kilometer after kilometer, and not lose motivation for classes? There are several solutions:

  • change of location

Running the same route day after day quickly gets boring. Try to explore new territories by going to the nearest forest park or to the picturesque embankment.

  • audiobooks and podcasts

During calm long runs, it is quite possible to listen to something else, in addition to the energetic music that we often choose for training. A fascinating story occupies thoughts, and time flies on a run unnoticed.

If running for the sake of running starts to feel pointless, try creating a goal for yourself. For example, to run to some point of interest on the other side of the city. Or run to a distant bakery to close the carbohydrate window with fresh pastries.

  • running in company

It is more fun to overcome kilometers together, look for like-minded people. The comfortable pace of long runs allows you to have conversations on the run, so even a boring workout turns into a friendly conversation.

There is no formula that will calculate how you become a winner. Someone should pay more attention to mileage, and someone successfully replaces part of the runs with strength training in the gym. One thing is certain: with proper planning and good equipment, progress is inevitable.