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088: Will running more miles make me a faster runner?

May 16, 2019

If it works, just do more of it.  

The theme of today’s episode is increasing mileage.  Why it would be a good idea, and why might it be a bad idea.  

First, upping mileage is a great coaching trick for easy improvements.  If runners have become comfortable with their current training level, then increasing weekly mileage by 10-20% is almost guaranteed to give positive results.  Changing speeds will also give results, but it’s easier to tell someone to run 5 miles instead of 4.

Also, for basically any race lasting longer than a minute or so, the primary energy system needed is the aerobic system.  Running longer and slow is a great method of improving this system. The greater the race distance, the more important the aerobic capacity, and the more a few extra miles will create a benefit.  

However, the philosophy behind so much of our coaching is to do the least required to reach the goal fitness.  With this view in mind, let’s take a look at why extra miles could be a terrible choice.

First, more miles create a greater chance of injury.  Running is good, and more can be better, but not when more is done with poor mechanics.  Running is a physical skill that can and should be improved.

Fundamental skills needed to run include proper posture, foot strike, arm swing, cadence, and breathing.  Muscle weakness and severe muscle imbalances should also be addressed before ramping up the miles. You wouldn’t drive across the country in a car with bald tires out of alignment and in need of air.  Fix the foundation before going crazy of the mileage.

Next, there is a lot of methods of improving fitness from strength to speed to more miles, but the improvement actually comes during the recovery.  Don’t be so worried about getting your extra miles that you neglect easy days, off days, and sleep.

Finally, training is a balancing act.  This is why coaching is so much fun to me.  Within a training plan, you can alter volume, intensity, density, strength, order of workouts, recovery, and on and on.  Which cord to tug on to get the desired results depends a good deal on what those desired results are.

Maybe more mileage is the best path in your training, but remember a few things before you start.  Get your fundamentals in order and do not go too much too soon. Enjoy the journey.


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