Those of you who have been reading my blog for awhile know that I am absolutely NOT a marathon. Yes, I have run 2 marathons, and a handful of half marathons, but I am far from a distance runner. Give me short and fast and I’m a happy camper.
I recently realized that running long distances really takes a toll on my body. I don’t recover well, I have really bad gastrointestinal issues after a long run, and I simply just hate my long runs. Anything over 8 miles and I struggle to not only get out the door, but I also struggle to actually finish the run. I know that it’s important to train your weaknesses as well as your strengths, but as a 5K runner, I just don’t feel like I really need to run long to compete well.
What I do believe, though, is that I do need to increase my weekly mileage in order to be more competitive. Sounds a little oxymoronic, right? But, according to Matt Fitzgerald, “Running more miles is the surest and most potent means to improve as a runner.” I’ve been running fast for a long time now and I’m not seeing the improvements quite like I used to. So, my goal for the past several months has been to increase my mileage.
I typically run about 25 miles per week on average, but I’ve been aching to get it up into the 30-40 miles per week range. I just don’t want to have to spend my Saturday mornings running for 2-3 hours. I’m too busy and, like I said, I just absolutely hate long runs. So, instead of increasing the distance of my runs, I’ve done 2 things to add more weekly miles to my training.
#1: Add an extra day of running. I sort of discovered this by accident. I would typically run 5 days a week, with 1 day of cross training (CrossFit, biking, or swimming) and 1 day of complete rest. My runs would range from 3-5 miles during the week with a long run of 6-8 miles on the weekend, so I would run just about 25 miles per week. When volleyball season rolled around, I knew that my mileage was going to tank because I simply didn’t have the time to run as much as I wanted to but I still wanted to be competitive.
After analyzing my schedule and my training plan, I decided that I would add an extra day of running with an easy 3 mile run instead of doing a day of cross training. What I found was that I started increasing my mileage by accident – and I was feeling better than ever. I was worried that my training would suffer with only 1 rest day, but I was pleasantly surprised when my body was recovering well with the extra day of training.
This is something you absolutely MUST do gradually – don’t add an extra day with a moderately long run of 6 or 7 miles. You would just be setting yourself up for injury. Start with a short and easy long run instead of one of your cross training days. My favorites are 3 mile runs and it was a great distance for me to start with. Now, I will sometimes run 4 or 5 miles on that extra day of running, boosting my mileage even a little bit more.
#2: Two-a-days. So, you know I hate long runs now, right? Hate them. LOATHE THEM. But, I want to be competitive. I want to be running more weekly miles. I already added an extra day of running and did not want to add distance to my long runs. I could add distance to my weekday runs, but that would mean that I would have to take time away from my family, which I also refuse to do.
Like the extra day of running, this is something that just happened by accident. My gym doesn’t open until 5 AM on Monday mornings, and by that time, I have to be in the shower to get ready for work. I love to start my day with a workout because it gives me energy for the day and just makes me feel better. One Monday morning, I decided I would just go downstairs and run an easy 2 miler on the POS treadmill in the basement. I knew I didn’t have a lot of time and 2 miles was just enough to wake me up and get me energized for the day ahead. After work, I did my normal 5 mile run, totaling 7 for the day. And just like that, 2 extra weekly miles added in.
Again, this is something you absolutely have to do gradually. Two miles was the perfect way for me to start, and even now, I’m still only doing a 2-a-day one day per week. But, I’ve increased the distance of them, so I’m getting even a few more extra weekly miles in. I don’t really feel like it takes up any more time since I’m doing half of my running in the morning before work. But, doing it gradually – starting slow with only a few easy miles – is the only way of preventing injury.
For a few weeks, I had been doing both of these things as well as running 9 or 10 miles for my long runs and I was just exhausted. I’ve scaled back my long runs and low and behold, I am feeling better than ever, without really sacrificing my weekly mileage.
This is since I started adding in an extra day and more recently, adding in a 2-a-day. Please note that the very low mileage weeks or skipped weeks are because I forgot to put my runs on Daily Mile. Oops.
So, instead of the 25 miles a week I was comfortable running, I am now averaging between 30 and 35 miles per week and am enjoying every single step. My training is going better than ever, although I know I am slacking on my speed workouts lately. Once I get my speed workouts up to speed (no pun intended), I can only imagine where my training will take me!