Over the last couple of months (well except for the 10 days I was on vacation), I’ve been attempting to get my base mileage up. My weeks leading up to vacation were: 72 km, 58 km, 90 km, and 100 km. Running two weeks over 80 kpw (50 mpw) when I don’t have a long race on the horizon for 3 months might seem like overkill to some, or like I’m asking for burnout or injury. I don’t think they are, and here is why I’m training like this.
For the last few years (since I had my second daughter) I’ve been consistently working at getting my mileage higher. This has been a multi year effort. After having my second daughter, running 50 km’s per week was my max comfortable mileage. I could bump it up for a week or two into the 70-80 km’s range but it left my body tired and at higher risk of injury.
I’ve noticed since that time that each year I’ve been able to move that baseline comfortable mileage higher and higher. I’m to the point now where 80 km’s per week feels ok. I can do speedwork, and quality runs, and I do not get injured. My body is stronger and used to this volume. How did I get here?
Firstly, I took my time. I believe this is the most important step. If you want to be able to comfortably do marathon training cycles where you are getting higher mileage weeks in, you need to work up to that mileage slowly. I also think that when you are working up in mileage you really need to limit your intensity. Over the last year, I took about 9 months to just run volume, I’ve been working on getting my body ready to run ultras, where distance and time on your feet are king. I know that I got slower over those 9 months, but my body also got more durable, and my endurance improved.
Secondly, I strength trained. I cannot emphasize this enough. I think that every runner should do a very minimum of strength training, something at the very least to strengthen their core and hips. I think that a lot of injuries occur simply because people’s bodies are not strong enough, not ready to run. I try to strength train twice a week, but make once a week an absolute minimum. This includes core, and hips, but also focuses on rear chain (hamstrings, glutes, calves, back, etc). One strength training session is almost always full body, and takes 45 minutes, when I do two or three the additional sessions are usually 30 minutes, and I’m happy to get whatever I can in.
Alright, so that’s the basics of how I’ve increased my mileage, but why am I running such high mileage weeks when I don’t have a race super soon.
Firstly, I like running. Seriously, I just like it. I don’t really get tired or burned out, or haven’t yet on this schedule. I love going out for long runs on the weekends, spending 3+ hrs either on a long run in the city, or better yet, in the mountains, on the trails. It makes me happy. We all need to find a balance where we are happy.
Second, I think it’s better for my body, and for preventing injury. This is basically a Hudson school of thought. He thinks that running consistently high mileage is better for your body, it makes it more robust. It makes sense to me, so long as you take your time getting there, and listen to your body once you are there.
Third, I’m hoping, and thinking it’s going to make me a better runner, especially over longer distances. My long race this year is 100 km’s. <<INSERT FREAK-OUT>>. Yes, 100 km’s is a long freaking way, I think that my body has to be used to going the distance, and I don’t see any better way to do that than to run, lots, most weeks.
On recovery, cutback weeks and an off season.
These are things that I also believe are vital. What they look like will be very individual. After a marathon or longer effort race, I like to take a week off. Marathons especially seem to be hard on my body, I need to respect the recovery, so one full week without running, and then a full month without expecting any quality from my legs. I’m not sure what this will look like in these long ultras but I’m going to play it by ear, and respect my body.
I do still take cutback weeks. Usually one per month. I can usually feel when I need one, my legs start to feel tired, I get uneven tightness on one side, or my HR starts to seem high when it shouldn’t. I try to cutback to 2/3rds mileage for a week, and usually feel good to jump back in after.
As for an off season, this is also important to me. It doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m not running, right now, a week post race is enough. Mostly an off season means that I’m not scheduling my runs, I’m not looking ahead during the week and trying to make it to a certain mileage goal. I think it’s as much a mental break as a physical one. I love planning out my week of training, it’s one of my favorite things about my running, but I also see the need to take a step back from the planning and obsessing.
This is what is working for me right now, I’d love to hear what works for you! I’m also happy to share any other tidbits that I’ve learned along the way if anyone ever wants to know more. Please ask!!