physiotherapist don mills and steeles

By: Team Family Physio

Physiotherapists and Massage Therapists

Running is a fantastic way to stay fit and healthy. When runs start feeling easier we often think of challenging ourselves with either our distance, speed or by training for specific distance events. This generally requires you to increase your running mileage. But for beginners, increasing your mileage too quickly can lead to injury. To run longer distances safely, it’s crucial to understand the importance of gradually increasing your mileage. While slowly ramping up your running distance minimizes the risk of injury, it's equally important to consider other factors such as your injury history and running pattern. This comprehensive guide will help you increase your mileage safely, ensuring you stay injury-free and enjoy your running journey.

Why you need to gradually increase your running mileage

Running is a weight bearing exercise that loads your bones, ligaments, tendons, muscles and cartilage. Given sufficient time your body will adapt to these stresses by strengthening these structures. However, if you don't give your body sufficient time to adapt, pain and injuries will often occur. Running injuries are often associated with a too rapid increase in your training volume.

Errors made when you increase your running mileage can result in overtraining or undertraining injuries

Higher weekly mileage is associated with an increased incidence of injury. One study found that running more than 64 km in a week was the strongest factor associated with a higher risk of injury. However, undertraining before a run can also lead to an increase risk of sustaining an injury during your event. So how can you find an appropriate was to increase your mileage?

Mileage progression and the 10% rule of thumb

When it comes to increasing mileage, patience is key. It’s natural to feel motivated and want to run longer distances, but pushing too hard too soon can cause injury. A good rule of thumb is to increase your weekly mileage by no more than 10% each week. This gradual progression allows your body time to adapt and build endurance while minimising the risk of overuse injuries.

Increasing your running mileage by 10% isn't for everyone

Just because you're staying in the 10% range doesn't mean that you'll be immune to injury. Studies show that about 50% of runners will experience an injury on a yearly basis. We've discussed some of these injuries and the factors that can lead to them in our previous article. Other factors that you may need to consider include the following.

Running mileage and your injury history

Every runner's body is unique, and it’s essential to consider your injury history when increasing mileage. If you’ve had a previous running-related injury, especially in the past year, take extra precautions and increase your mileage at an even slower pace. It may also be helpful to incorporate strength training exercises specific to your weaker areas to prevent any recurring injuries.

Your Running Pattern

Another critical factor in safely increasing mileage is to optimize your running pattern. This can include working on your form, such as maintaining a relaxed posture and proper foot strike, and varying your route to prevent overuse of specific muscles. We’ve previously discussed some of these factors in a previous article. Additionally, incorporating rest days and cross-training activities like cycling or swimming can give your body a break from the impact of running and still maintain cardiovascular fitness.

Are you ready to increase your running mileage?

Increasing running mileage safely requires a combination of patience, self-awareness, and proper training techniques. By gradually increasing mileage, monitoring injury history, and optimizing your running pattern, you can build endurance while minimizing the risk of injury. Remember to listen to your body and consult with a physiotherapist that has experience in assessing and treating runners.

Article references:

Sarah Dillon, Aoife Burke, Enda F. Whyte, Siobhán O’Connor, Shane Gore, Kieran A. Moran "Running towards injury? A prospective investigation of factors associated with running injuries" PLOS One Aug 2023

Karl B. Fields, Jeannie C. Sykes, Katherine M. Walker, and Jonathan C. Jackson "Prevention of Running Injuries" American College of Sports Medicine May/June 2010

"Running: How to Safely Increase your Mileage" Journal of Orthopaedic and Sport Physiotherapy 2014 (44)

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