Running More? Here’s How to Avoid Injuries When You Increase Your Mileage

Jennifer Geer

Exercise can boost mood and combat anxiety, but if you add too much too soon, you risk getting injured

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If you’re like me and running brings you peace, you may be finding yourself wanting to run more than usual these days. When I’m out on a run, social distancing, of course, I can pretend for just a short time the world is normal. It makes me think I want to run forever.

But that could be disastrous. This is not a good time to deal with a running injury. I can’t get to the gym for cross-training. So I need to stay safe and increase my mileage the smart way.

Here are some tips to keep you healthy if you find yourself wanting to push beyond your usual mileage.

Tip #1: Increase mileage slowly

Your baseline miles are the number of miles you comfortably run per week that are neither too easy nor too hard. Look over your past few months of running and determine the mileage that you feel comfortable with. That’s your baseline.

Once you’ve got your baseline number, you can build from there. Experts recommend adding no more than 10% per week. For example, if your weekly baseline is 20 miles, you can add 2 miles the first week.

Tip #2: Don’t neglect recovery weeks

You don’t want to keep adding 10% to your miles week after week, without a break. Let your body adjust to the added miles. A popular method is to have a down week once a month. Don’t add miles during this recovery week, you can even cut back a bit.

The harder you’re training, the more you need a recovery week. Rest helps your body to avoid stress fractures, rebuild muscles, and repair tendons. Once you resume your regular training schedule, you may find yourself feeling stronger than ever after your week of cutting back.

Tip #3: Run in the proper shoes

Running is a simple sport. You don’t need much gear. But you need a good pair of shoes that fit properly, that gives your foot the amount of support it needs, and provides cushioning from the hard pavement.

Shoes don’t last forever. They begin to wear down after 300 to 500 miles. This can vary based on the surface you run on, your weight, and your footstrike. Keep track of how many miles you’ve run in your shoes, but also pay attention to the shoes themselves. Has the tread worn down, are your feet sore after a run, does the midsole feel tough? These are all signs you need a fresh pair of shoes.

Tip #4: Eat a nutritious diet

Running is hard work and it requires a lot of energy. If you want to increase your mileage, be sure you’re fueling yourself properly. This doesn’t give you a license to eat whatever you want. Too many calories in versus calories out will still cause you to gain weight, even if you’ve ramped up your running.

But you do need to be sure you’re getting enough to eat and that it’s a high-quality diet. Protein and fiber will help to keep your stomach full and curb those cravings you may get from increased exercise. And don’t neglect the carbs. Runners need carbohydrates to keep energized, but be sure to choose the right kind. The best kind of carbohydrates for your body are whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

Tip #5: Listen to your body

Last, but not least, this could be the most important tip on this list. Don’t run through any pains, don’t continue to push yourself when something feels off. It’s okay to take a recovery day or recovery week, even if it’s not on your schedule.

You know better than any expert about how your body is feeling. You may think that you’re ready for more miles, but if you get shin splints, knee twinges, or some other type of pain, that’s a sign to back off and slow it down.

Exercise can benefit you in so many ways, but be smart when you ramp up your training. The goal is to keep on running, injury-free.

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Jennifer covers lifestyle content and local news for the Chicago area.

Chicago, IL
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