Running is awesome. It gets you fit, you get to see new places and you get to make new friends. It’s only natural that you’d want to do more of it; more running equals more fitness equals more fun right?
Well, yes, but hold your horses just a moment. Before you get carried away and start bumping up your mileage, you should know that there’s a right way and a wrong way to do so. If you’ve got a couple of minutes then this article will show you exactly how to run further without getting injured.
How your body gets fitter
First things first, we need to understand how your body gets fitter. There’s basically a cycle it goes through called Stress, Recovery, and Adaption (SRA for short). SRA describes the process through which Stress (aka running) is applied to your body, you then Recover (by eating and sleeping) and your body Adapts by upgrading your heart, lungs and circulatory system to get fitter and run further.
Where most people go wrong
Where most runners go wrong is they give their body way more stress than it can handle. This means your body can’t recover, and if your body can’t recover then you don’t get fitter. What’s worse, if you do this for an extended length of time you risk injuries.
What you need to do instead is give your body sensible amounts of stress step by step, increasing the amount of stress just a tiny bit each week. How much extra stress each week should you give?Something in the region of 5% extra should be perfect.
Let’s say you go running twice in a week. On both runs, you travel 5km, so in total, you ran 10km that week. Next week you’ll add 5% and can try running a total of 10.5km. So you’ve added an extra half a kilometre. Now, before you panic and think that your progress will be too slow, I’m going to ask you to remember that 5% per week is 250% across a year! Even if you only added half a kilometre to your total training each week, you would still be able to run 36km by the end of the year, which is pretty amazing.
For me, I think of running like travelling. Yes, I would love to see the entire world, but there’s no way I can see every country in the world in the next week or two. I have to take my time, save my money and travel to each country or region one at a time. The exact same is true for running, I need to take my time, be patient and improve little by little.
Listen to your body
Sticking with the theme of patience, sometimes it’s best to listen to your body and have a rest every now and again. I know it can be tempting to keep on running and push through the pain, but those little niggles can turn into bigger issues if you don’t give them enough time to recover. Sometimes it’s better to have an easier week and come back strong the week after.
Remember, little improvements over time are better than massive improvements followed by injury (because then you can’t run properly for months!)
Cross Training is Your Friend
Just because you want to run further it doesn’t mean you have to spend loads of extra time running. If you’re looking to improve your fitness there are plenty of other ways to do so. I’m actually a big fan cycling.
1) Because they’re fun and I get to see cool new areas!
2) Because they’re low impact on my joints, giving my knees and hips time to recover
So before you add an extra run to your weekly training, think about adding a swimming or cycling session instead. You’ll still improve your fitness but you might just reduce your injury risk whilst doing so.
So to summarise:
- Be patient and improve by 5% each week,
- listen to your body and rest when needed,
- use low impact cross training to reduce your injury risk.
I hope these tips can help you increase your distance, stay healthy and reach your running potential!