If you’re an avid runner, now is about that time you start checking out the summer race schedule. Are you going to sign up for the same list of 5K races, or is this the year you finally step it up in the distance category? I vote for the latter! If you make it a goal to run a little farther, go a little faster, and improve your endurance, you can be successful. It’s all about motivation and having a plan that will keep you healthy and headed down the right direction. So whether you want to take your 5K to a 10K or your 10K to a half marathon this year, I’m here to help with a few smart strategies to increase your mileage for your next finish line!
PS: If you’re currently thinking, “5K? No way, José!” then stop here and head on over to our Beginner’s Guide To Becoming a Runner to get started.
Follow The 10-Percent Rule
Runner’s World cites the 10-percent rule as “one of the most important and time-proven principles in running.” So, what exactly is the 10-percent rule and why did I put it on the top of my list, too? Well, this is a great rule to plan your training schedule leading up to your longer-than-normal race.
Since overuse is a common cause of running injuries, increasing your mileage too fast is never a good idea. The 10-percent rule means that each week, you only increase your distance by 10 percent. For example, if you currently run 20 miles a week now, up that number to 22 miles the next week, then to 24.2 the next week, 26.6, and so on and so forth. (An activity tracker with a GPS, an app like Nike+ Running, or your health app on your iPhone 6 or 6+ is great for finding exact mileage, or you can just round to the nearest half mile. Often when you feel good on a run, you are tempted to just keep going farther. But being systematic about the increase is key to your success. The process seems long, but your body will hold up better with the slow build.
Make Sure To Warm-Up And Get Loose
With more miles comes more work for your body, so don’t just pop your headphones in and then immediately take off down your block like a rocket. Your muscles, bones, and joints need to loosen up and warm-up first to avoid injury. Start by walking for a few minutes to get the blood pumping. Have you ever watched a high school track practice? Add in a couple minutes of dynamic stretches like high knees, butt kicks, power skips, and walking lunges. Now, off you go!
Change Your Running Route Regularly
If you want to break out of a distance rut, it might be time for a change of scenery. Running the same loop past the same park every day gets old fast and frankly, a little uninspiring. Plus, when your body becomes accustomed to the exact same twists, turns, and terrain, switching to new route on race day could lead to injury. A simple way to mix it up is to start running your normal route backward. Then, search out a hill. A change in elevation is a worthwhile challenge if you want to see improvements. Finally, if you’re still having trouble finding a new path, MapMyRun is an awesome app that has over 70 million routes for you to choose from.
Don’t Forget To Take A Load Off
No, I don’t mean sit on the couch. If you’re putting in a lot of mileage outside, always take advantage of the ability to cross-train when you take your workouts inside. Runners love to run but overuse injuries tend to be the biggest sidelining issue. If you only think “treadmill” when you move indoors, perhaps finding a low-impact option to your pavement-pounding is not only smart; it’s probably necessary, especially as you age.
My Indoor Picks:
The elliptical isn’t a new concept and most likely you’ve spent some time on one. I’ve had the opportunity to work with Octane Fitness over the last six years and I’ve learned a lot about the mechanics of an elliptical machine. If you are scoping one out at the gym or even considering purchasing one for home, here is what you should look for in an elliptical machine.
- Cross-training handles. Again, as long as you are indoors, add upper body. You’ll burn off a few extra calories and work your arms, chest, and back.
- Stride length adjustability. This is a feature I’ve come to appreciate from an enjoyment factor. It’s just more comfortable and effective when you are taking a stride length that fits your body frame.
- Smooth motion. Have you ever hopped on a machine that bugs you after about 10 minutes because the motion is choppy and unnatural? Find the machine that flows for you.
- Console sophistication. Let’s face it, indoor workouts lack scenery but an entertainment console and pre-made workouts can help you power through inside workouts on even the coldest, darkest days.
My pick for the best elliptical is the Q37xi. I’ve put in lots of hours on this machine and also love to use the SmartLink app that interfaces with it. Seriously fun, sophisticated technology that tracks your progress.
Another machine you may want to try is a lateral trainer. My pick for a lateral trainer is the Octane LateralX. As a fitness trainer, I’m going to tell you runners that you do too much movement in the sagittal plane (forward and backward) and not nearly enough in the frontal plane (side to side). This LateralX is like an elliptical but will challenge your glutes and hips in new directions and help strengthen the lower body. Again, we are all different heights, so adjustable stride on a lateral machine is necessary.
Okay, here is the big excitement – If you’re a serious runner and/or have been plagued by overuse injuries, you are in for a treat when you check out the newest technology in indoor running, the Zero Runner. The machine is the first of its kind to replicate the real running motion but with zero impact. I did my first mile on it last October and fell in love immediately. No, this is not an elliptical or a glider; this is a new category. The hip and knee joints on the Zero Runner make it possible to mimic a real running motion. You feel like you are running on air but with the same stride as your typical outdoor run. This means you can add miles to your training plan without feeling the impact on your joints. The Zero Runner also helps eliminate junk miles and supports active recovery. This machine is a serious asset for newbies and pros alike. It will help beginners get started and help extend a competitive running career.
Another awesome thing about the Zero Runner is the additional accessories that can help take your running to the next level. The CROSS CiRCUIT attachments combine cardio intervals on the Zero Runner with strength training or stretching exercises off the machine, making cross training convenient and effective. Runners often complain they don’t have time to strength train but this solves the problem for you, plus it’s fun. (If you’re looking at a different machine, the CROSS CiRCUIT attachments can be added to any machine in the Octane Fitness family). The SmartLink app also works with the Zero Runner and tracks your workouts, including your pace, distance, and calories. In addition, SmartLink also traces your stride on the Zero Runner so you can monitor the health of your stride throughout your indoor workouts. Both accessories can help runners address weak links and improve overall strength, flexibility, and running performance.
Bottom line, to increase mileage, it’s important to put your body’s health first or you could end up injured on the couch with your mileage clocking in at a whopping zero. Ramping up your distance slowly but surely, adding a warm-up, changing your route, or taking a load off with low-impact cardio, will all help keep your body healthy, running at full speed, and reaching your race goals. So how about that 10K?
This post is sponsored by Octane Fitness. All opinions are my own.
Do you have additional concerns about overuse injuries? Check out The Number One Workout Mistake You Could Be Making!
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