How To Increase Running Distance Without Injury

Jan 22, 2020
By: Lauren Keating

Overtraining is a common cause of running injuries. This happens when we take on too many miles too fast without having enough recovery time. The muscles are then working to exhaustion without the rest so overall performance declines. The muscles need time to adapt to the new load as endurance continues to build.

Other common running injuries that occur when we amp the distance are shin splints, runner’s knee, IT band injuries, plantar fasciitis, and Achilles tendonitis.

The one thing all long-distance training plans have in common is the slow increase of mileage throughout the program. This is exactly the secret sauce to increase running distance without injury.

How To Safely Increase Mileage

1. Have A Running Base

The runner first needs to have a solid base. Don’t expect to go from a 5k finisher to a marathoner in a month.

There needs to be that consistency in mileage, whether it’s being able to handle three miles and then starting a half marathon training plan or five or six miles and starting a marathon plan.

Going from zero to 26.2 is possible, but it’s better to at least have some running experience to prevent injury. And yes, it counts to use the run/walk method.

Being able to complete short distances means having the ability to build up to longer mileage.

2. Long Runs For Increasing Distance

Once there is a base established, the runner can then start increasing distance. Do so slowly.

This includes following a plan that calls for two shorts runs per week, as well as one “long run.”

It’s with the long run where getting to that goal distance is done.

Some use a “10 percent rule,” which mean increasing the long run by 10 percent.

This means running 2 more miles when running 20 miles per week or 3 more for 30 miles per week.

Others opt for increasing by a mile every other week. This allows the body time to adapt to the new mileage injury-free.

Example Of How To Increase Mileage

The long-run might start at four miles, for example. Then the following week, keep two short runs and add another mile to the long run. Do so for a few weeks.

Then cut the mileage for a week.

Those who follow Hal Higdon’s training plan for a half marathon see this cut down to a 5k on week six before going up to nine miles in the following weeks. Then cut back to a 10k for week 9, followed back up to nine, then ten or 11 miles before the half.

His marathon plan has runners increasing the mileage to add one more for two weeks, scaling back the next, then up the next two and repeat.

By week eight the runner should be a half marathon distance and by week 15 comes the infamous 20-mile run. After that, there are two weeks of tapering before the 26.2.

Those who aren’t training for a specific race might just want to add a mile to their long run every two weeks, but scale back once a month or so before resuming the longer distance.

3. Cross Train And Rest

Part of being able to run further without an injury means also incorporating cross-training and recovery days into the week.

Cross-training helps to increase overall strength and fitness. It helps build muscle and prevent injury. Make sure to strength train at least twice a week.

Dedicate one day for a rest day. This means no runs or other workouts.

The body needs time to rest and the muscles time to repair. This helps to prevent injury. So go ahead and take that nap post long run.

Foam roll, get massages and soak in an ice bath after those really long runs.

The Importance Of Running Nutrition

Then other discomforts occur during long runs that aren’t necessarily injuries but still affect performance.

This includes muscle cramping, a side effect some believe is caused from too much lactic acid build-up or dehydration combined with the loss of electrolytes.

Other issues include bonking, a feeling that the runner can no longer continue the workout because of the depletion of glycogen stores, or our body’s fuel.

This is why when increasing mileage, runners need to be properly fueling. Take along a packet or two of Kramp Krushers which prevent muscle cramping before it even occurs.

These energy chews are packed with electrolytes and other trace minerals to keep the body powered throughout the run. This means no tired legs, or hitting the wall because it has the carbs needed to fuel endurance athletes.

Runners need to incorporate fuel into their runs that last over an hour.

Now many runners differ on this. Some can run up to a half marathon distance without needing anything. Others opt to start consuming calories for runs longer than seven miles.

Just make sure to consume five Kramp Krusher gummies before the workout, followed by five more every 30 to 35 minutes to contrite to be fueled for the long run.

Drinking water is also extremely important. Since the loss of electrolytes can lead to dehydration, Kramp Krushers are a great choice since it’s providing runners with all the essentials they need without also having to add a sports drink or salt tablets into the mix.

Plus it aids in muscle recovery so expect not being so sore post endurance-heavy workout.

Things To Remember

To prevent foot, ankle and knee issues, make sure to replace running shoes every 300 to 500 miles.

If there is an injury like shin splints, take a rest day or two. Come back to running slowly. This is a sign that the runner is taking on too much.

Some runners continue to run with plantar fasciitis, but it’s better to be sidelined for a week or two than for months. Take a rest, ice and use a tennis ball or foot roller to massage through the pain.

Take up low-impact cross-training exercises like swimming or cycling to further prevent stress on the joints.

Remember that the number of miles increased depends on the level of experience.

New runners shouldn’t rush things. Those with a long history of running don’t need to be so passive about the increase.

That also means there is no need to start from scratch when taking a week or two for rest or to nurse and injury. Just listen to he body.

Sources:

Hal Higdon Half Marathon Training, https://www.halhigdon.com/training-programs/half-

marathon-training/novice-1-half-marathon/

Forget the 10% Rile: How to Increase Mileage Safely, Jason Fitzgerald, Strength Running https://strengthrunning.com/2010/06/how-to-increase-mileage/