The best way to become a better runner is to run….of course.
Accumulating lots of miles (volume) will certainly help you become a better athlete.
With increased volume there is also an increased potential for injury or burnout. The experts say to increase weekly volume (for up to three weeks) no more than 10% of the previous week, recovering every fourth week with fewer miles before slowly increasing mileage again.
The progressive volume of running may look something like this:
- Week 1 = 20 miles
- Week 2 = 22 miles
- Week 3 = 23 miles
- Week 4 = 17 miles (Recovery)
- Week 5 = 23 miles
- Week 6 = 25 miles
- Week 7 = 27 miles
- Week 8 = 20 miles (Recovery)
Build-Rest and then Build Back Up – Repeat.
This seems to be the best bet (according to the experts) to give yourself a good pre-season base as well as increase volume for a longer race.
What else can you do to increase (or maintain) fitness without risking overuse and over fatigue of your muscles (mental and physical ones)?
Consider adding some cross-training to your weekly workout routine. Mix it up. Here are some potential benefits I have experienced:
- Stay fresh, less miles = more productive runs
- Longer recovery period between runs = quicker speed workouts
- Mixing up your workouts will keep you motivated and break the monotony that comes with increased running volume
- Avoid overuse of your “running” muscles while developing other “muscles” — swimming increases your “lung” muscles and improves breathing patterns; cycling (or spinning) increases your “cadence” (turn over) muscles with lower impact (to joints; ankles, knees, hips, etc.)
If you choose to cross-training…. Start slowly. If you train 4 days a week, try swimming, cycling or cross-fitness strength training one of those days. Your legs (and feet) will thank you for it.
Once you acclimate your body to cross training you can even try to mix up your workout with multiple activities (often referred to as BRICKS, by triathletes), where you swim/bike, bike/run, run/bike, bike/swim, run/swim, etc., with little or no rest between each set. These are called BRICKS because you are stacking workouts (like bricks in a wall), they make you tough like a brick wall, and because your legs will feel like a “ton of bricks” in the beginning of the second session, especially bike to run.
This should keep things interesting and fun. If you try it, please let me know how it went (good or bad). I would love your feedback.
PS I am currently training for a 50K using this “marathon” plan by Hal Higgons (only with added swimming and cycling volume) compared to last year where I logged 50-60 miles during my peak weeks. I will report back and let you know if the cross-training helped improved my performance from last year’s 50K.