Normally I enjoy long runs, but this year has been anything but normal.
During 2020, instead of happily getting 10 miles done first thing on a Saturday morning, I’ve found running just 10k a challenge and sometimes simply getting out the door has been a struggle.
But, knowing that in the new year I’ll be starting my Edinburgh Marathon training, I’ve decided it’s time to start upping my miles.
Despite having run four full marathons and countless halfs, these last few weeks of running have felt like starting from scratch again.
Luckily, I have the advantage of muscle memory and lots of experience in marathon training to help get me to where I need to be. Already I’ve managed an eight mile run, something that would have been a huge challenge just a few months ago. And I’m aiming to do 10 miles before December – which I’m on track to achieve!
Although it can be tempting to go out and try and do the 10 miles straightaway and without steadily increasing my miles, I know that this is a great way to get injured. Instead, I’m planning on building up my miles slowly and using my previous experience to stay injury-free as I do it.
If, like me, you’re returning to long distance running after a bit or a break, or you’ve only recently taken up running and want to increase your miles, these are some of the tips I’ve picked up over the years on how to do it without getting injured.
When increasing the miles you run, adding a couple of strength training sessions to your training plan will help to prevent injuries. We are currently in a second lockdown, so gyms are closed again, but strength training for runners doesn’t need to involve weights (although they do help). Instead, I’ve been focusing on body weight exercises, such as air squats, lunges and press ups, along with pilates and using resistance bands, to help keep up my strength training while the gyms are closed.
Build up the miles slowly
When it comes to the actual running, look at increasing your miles slowly. Generally, there is a 10% rule when it comes to increasing miles – only increase your total mileage by 10% each week. As well as this, many experts suggest that runners don’t just continue increasing the miles of their longest run week-by-week, but instead consider dropping miles some weeks and add more on for others. For example if you are able to run 5k (3.1 miles) and are aiming to increase it to 10k (6.2 miles), one week you could run 3.5 miles as your longest run, the second week drop your longest run to 3 miles and the following week increase your longest run to 4 miles. This gives your body the week in between the increased miles to recover.
It’s fine to walk
Many runners, especially those new to running, think that walking during a run is a sign of failure. Personally, I prefer to add short walks into my long run if it means I can get the distance done, rather than running the entire way and giving up early. But, if I do need to walk, each week I’ll try and reduce the amount of walking I do so that eventually I’m able to run the entire distance.
Increase fitness using cross training
Running is a great way to increase fitness, but long runs should be done at an easy pace, which helps build endurance but not great at increasing fitness levels. Over the years I’ve found that cross training is a great way for me to increase my fitness and, as it means I’m not constantly running, it helps to reduce the chances of getting injured from running too many miles. I’m a big fan of HIIT classes and I’m really missing them during the current lockdown. I also enjoy spin classes, rowing, and other cardio gym classes such as bodycombat as ways to cross train.