How to Safely Increase Your Running Volume
For us fair weather runners, it’s almost time to start running outside! The sidewalks are clearing, and the temperature is comfortable and you may be thinking about starting a new running program! As an aside, I do want to give a special shoutout to those who run outside all winter, you’re definitely a different breed than the rest of us.
If you’re new to running, or if you’ve been running on a treadmill all winter (running outside has different requirements on your body), and want to know how to increase your running volume, this post is for you!
When you start running outside, just like with any new training program, you put a new load on the tissues of your body. Our bodies are designed to adapt and respond to load to make us stronger,and more fit, but if you push it too far or too hard or too fast, it can lead to injury. This is when your demand exceeds your capacity (sound familiar?). It is also called overtraining.
One of the major keys to preventing injury in runners is to change your training program gradually.
To change up your program, there are several factors that you can manipulate as a runner: your volume (how much), intensity (how hard), frequency (how often) and type (what you’re doing). How to manipulate those variables appropriately is a common question. There is a longstanding rule in running that when you increase your volume or mileage you want to do it by 10% per week. As an example, if you ran 20km total last week, you can add 2km total next week. This is generally a good rule of thumb to follow, but you can sometimes add more than 10% safely, and you sometimes shouldn’t add 10% at all! You need to use a little common sense to apply it. Let me go through a few examples to explain:
If you have been running pretty comfortably around 15km (or less) a week for a few weeks, you can likely add more than 1.5km (or 10%) into your program safely. This is an example of adding more than 10%.
If you’re comfortably running around 55 km comfortably in a week, increasing your distance by 10% a week might be quite an aggressive move. Most runners have a total mileage that they know they’re comfortable with on a weekly basis, and running more may lead to injury, fatigue or poor workouts.
If you’ve been increasing by 10% for a few weeks, you can’t likely maintain that increase. You’ll want to add in a maintenance week (or adaptation week - the same amount of volume) or a recovery week (less volume). It’s rare that you’ll be able to increase by 10% week after week, and you shouldn’t attempt to do so for more than a couple weeks at a time.
These are by no means the only examples, but are just intended to get you thinking about how you can apply the 10% rule to your own training. The takeaway I want you to have is whether you are new to running, or starting to run outside again, or are trying to increase your volume your body needs time to adapt. Please change your training program gradually. Keep the 10% rule in the back of your mind as a general rule of thumb. When your weekly volume is not too easy or too hard for you to maintain, it’s acceptable to increase by 10%. Otherwise it may be appropriate to increase by more or less. If you have any questions about how to apply this to yourself, or any nagging pains or injuries you want looked at before you start running, please feel free to come visit me in the clinic.
Incorporate a warmup and cooldown into your runs.
Mix 80% slow and easy work with 20% higher intensity of speed work.
Increase your weekly volume by around 10% (or less or more by listening to your body!) for 2-3 weeks, and then have a maintenance week (same) or recovery week (less).
Adequate rest is crucial for your recovery.
Have fun out there!