What do you need to do to become a better runner?
Clearly, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question.
What you need to do to take the next step in your running journey is what you need to do.
The exact mix of things that you need to do, whatever it is, will be different from what I or any other runner needs to do.
But that doesn’t mean that there are a few common “ingredients” that are likely to be part of your unique “run better” formula.
Over the next few weeks, I will discuss three areas of your training that could be key to your next big PR.
Pump Up the Volume
For many runners, this is the lowest-hanging fruit that there is.
If you want to be a better runner, increasing your total running volume may be a great first step.
To a certain extent, this is probably fairly common sense.
If you start running a bit more than you have been, your body is going to adapt to the increased mileage and extra stress.
Or to put it another way, your base of fitness will improve.
And there are few more beneficial for a runner than a stronger/more solid base.
The Best Way to Add More Miles
If you decide to pump up the volume, what is the best way to add those extra miles to your routine?
The most obvious way is to simply add an extra mile to a couple of the runs you regularly do each week.
That might not sound like much, but two extra miles per week is an additional 100 miles in a year.
For most of us, an extra 100 miles per year is not nothing.
Another relatively simple way to pump up the volume is to add an extra day of running to your week.
Instead of running 4 days per week, can you run five?
Even if you “only” add that extra day every other week, over the course of a year that can be a significant mileage increase.
Adding the occasional double day to your routine would be another option to push yourself with more mileage, but I like one of the other two options better for most runners.
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A Few Suggestions
Before you get too far out in front of your skis, a few things you’d be wise to keep in mind.
Don’t Add Too Much Too Quickly
If you crank up the volume too much too quickly, there’s aa good chance you’ll wind up injured instead of crushing PRs.
The loose rule of thumb, which I’m not exactly a massive fan of, is to increase weekly volume by no more than 10% per week.
Depending on your situation, a 10% bump could be perfect. But it could also be too much and there’s even a chance you could take a bigger swing.
Remember that any volume increase adds stress to your body.
Probably better to err on the side of smaller bumps for a month or two instead of trying to ramp things up quickly.
More Volume, More Recovery
If adding more mileage to your routine is going to add more stress to your body as well, stepping up your recovery game may be necessary.
A couple of extra miles one week is, hopefully, not enough to push you into injury or burnout territory.
But a couple of extra miles, week over week, certainly can become an issue.
Prioritizing rest and recovery is a good idea for any runner, but it’s especially important when you increase your mileage.
A Cutback Week is OK
One of the easiest ways to improve your recovery is to mix in a cutback week every once in a while.
If you’ve bumped up your mileage 3 or 4 weeks in a row, maybe plan a week where you go back to “just” running the volume from before the increases.
A cutback week isn’t a bad thing and you are not going to lose fitness.
A Final Thought on Volume
In a lot of cases, more miles can be a great way to improve your fitness and help you move closer to your race day goals.
But there is a point of diminishing returns for mileage.
There is no universal “maximum mileage” where you would see no benefit of more mileage, but there is a point where it doesn’t make sense to pump up the volume anymore.
So if you’re reading this and thinking to yourself that you already run a lot of miles and you’re running most days of the week so you’re not sure how to add more miles in the pursuit of your goals, take a breath.
You may not need to increase your mileage to become a better runner.
Odds are there is another area (or few) that would do more to help you improve your running than simply adding more miles to your routine.
Consistency and intensity control are two other major areas that can help you improve as a runner, and I’ll be covering those topics over the next two weeks.
Do You Feel Like Running More Miles Would Help You Improve as a Runner? Why/Why Not?
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