Can I Handle The Mileage?

So you’ve decided to take the next leap in training — you’ve been running for 2 years now and have seen a lot of improvement, but you seem to have reached a plateau. You’ve been running 3-5 days a week but you are ready to up the ante and take on the challenge.
You’ve decided to take the plunge, but can you handle the mileage?

It’s tough, but like anything, a lot of the hangups when it comes to mileage increase — or more time spent running– are mental. The idea of running 40 miles a week when you’re running 25 miles a week can seem daunting However, when you break it down to miles per day, it isn’t astronomical– especially when you take it slow and smartly build up.

As an example:

Going into my freshman year of college, I had only run 35 miles a week at the very top of my high school training, so the idea of needing to be running 60 miles a week by the start of cross country season seemed like an up hill climb. However, I took it as smart as I could! I built to 40, then to 45, then to 50, then a down week. I was also doing two-a-days and taking every precaution I could with foam rolling and staying healthy. I had a lot of PRs freshman year, and from there I built to 70 miles a week during my sophomore year, and up to 90 miles a week my junior year!

I’m not talking about running mileage for the sake of running mileage; there are many benefits to spending more time on your feet. However, the biggest benefit is that it allows you to handle a larger workload, or more volume, during workouts, and allows you to run a more quality long run. These benefits can not be overlooked! But the question then becomes, “Can your body handle the pounding?” Well, that leads us to my next question:

Is it better to run your miles all at once, or split them up?

Training dogma (and perhaps common sense) would have you think that fitting your miles in one go would be the best way to gain that aerobic adaptation that we are searching for when talking about running more mileage.

However, there has been an increasing amount of evidence — both experimental and empirical — that splitting those miles has no effect on your aerobic system’s development and can in fact aid in recovery.

The reason your body can still make the same aerobic adaptations has to do with glycogen depletion and cumulative fatigue as you advance in your training cycle — in simpler terms, your body is already in a depleted state at the start of your second run, so the break in between runs still allows you to gain fitness because the same enzymes are triggered as with single runs.

Ok, maybe that wasn’t a simpler explanation, but the point is: whether you are running singles or doubles, you are still gaining the aerobic fitness that you are looking for during an easy run.

It’s all about optimizing your schedule and working with your body.

Have any other questions about mileage and what’s right for you? You can always reach out to me on Twitter, Instagram or drop by my Anthrophysique page.
Happy Running,
-Justin
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