Pop quiz: what is the most reliable way to run faster? What could you start doing immediately to become a faster runner?
The answer is relatively simple: most runners just need to run more.
Even if you’re running 5k races, you’re an endurance athlete. You need endurance training to achieve your potential and that includes high mileage.
Of course, high mileage is relative based on where you are right now. But more mileage than what you’re doing right now is almost always a good idea. As my former cross country coach Jim Butler always exclaims as the secret to being a good runner: mileage!
And as you begin to run more mileage, you might have questions like:
Today I want to answer your most pressing questions about high mileage, endurance training, and aerobic workouts so you can better plan your running.
The Strength Running PR Guide
One day I asked my newsletter readers: “Send me any question you have about running and I’ll answer them.”
Within an hour, I had enough questions for a great article… but they kept coming. After I had over 25 questions in my inbox, I decided to put together a massive Q&A-style ebook for my readers to showcase the answers to their questions.
The final product is the Strength Running PR Guide – a collection of 35+ questions and answers about…
Every question is from runners just like you so this is truly a cooperative effort: I couldn’t have done it without you! These questions are YOURS and that’s why the guide is for email subscribers only.
I want to thank all of the Strength Running readers who helped make this book possible. If you’d like to read the entire book, just sign up here and you’ll get access to the SR PR Guide (along with even more free running resources).
Alright, let’s get started and answer your questions!
Why are marathon long runs shorter than the race itself?
This gets to the heart of endurance training for runners at the marathon level. The full question is:
Why is it that for most races, it is recommended to run a long run of a greater distance than the race itself but then for marathons, training plans max out long runs at 20-22 miles? People hit the wall at 20 miles – is that because they’ve never run further? Is the ideal training really different for higher mileage races such as marathons and ultras?
Shorter races in the 5k – 10k range are by definition relatively short, so it’s fairly easy for most runners to run longer than these race distances on their long run (and often, for many other runs during the week).
When you start training for the marathon however, you approach a race distance so long that the wear and tear on the body is too great to run longer during training. Even professional marathoners rarely run more than 22-25 miles in training. The risk of injury and the compromises in training you would need to make for several days after a 26+ mile long run are too great to make it a standard part of any training plan.
People “hit the wall” around the 20 mile mark because of fueling issues – in other words, they come close to using all of the stored sugar in their muscles. Your body can only store roughly 2,000 calories worth of glycogen (sugar) in the muscles, blood, and liver – which is enough to carry you roughly 20 miles.
You can increase the distance you can run without hitting the wall by training and taking in carbohydrates during the race. For ultramarathons, consistent fueling is mandatory to just finish the race.
Can you build mileage faster than the 10% Rule?
Another classic! Here’s the full question:
The 10% Rule always assumes that one has never built up to that mileage before. But what about more experienced runners who are coming back from a post-season mileage reduction of a few months? Can I build my mileage faster?
This is such an important question and one that a lot of running “experts” just don’t seem to understand. Of COURSE you can build faster!
Let’s use me as an example: I’m very comfortable running about 60 miles per week. If I take two weeks off after a serious race that included two weeks of reduced mileage during my taper, then I’ll start my mileage at about 40. But in one week I’ll jump straight up to 50 (that’s a 25% increase!) and then settle into a 10-15% increase until I reach 65. Only when I reach my top-end mileage will I be more conservative. When I reach about 70 miles per week, then I rarely add more than 5%.
You can build mileage aggressively until you reach your baseline mileage – this is where your body is comfortable training. Once you start running high mileage (for you; it will be relative), then be more conservative with adding miles to your weekly plan.
A great strategy I frequently use is to only add mileage every 2nd week, allowing 2 weeks for my body to adapt to a certain training volume before an increase.
Another issue to consider is what types of workouts you’re running. Be careful not to increase both volume and the intensity of your workouts too drastically at the same time. A 20% increase in mileage may be fine for you at a certain level, but only if you’re not also increasing your hard workouts.
It’s a balancing act to determine what your body can handle. My advice is to always err on the side of doing slightly too little as opposed to too much. You’d rather be a bit under-trained than injured or over-trained.
Why did my legs feel so tired after months on the elliptical?
An interesting question about the specificity of endurance training. Here’s the question:
Because of the bad winter weather, I’ve worked out on an elliptical for the last three months without any running. I was recently on vacation and went for a short run but it wasn’t easy. Why did my legs feel so tired?
Your legs felt tired because you haven’t been running for three months! The elliptical is a non-impact cardio exercise and is best used as a supplemental aerobic exercise.
There are two good reasons to use the elliptical (or any type of aerobic cross-training exercise): to replace a run when you can’t get outside because of the weather, if you’re hurt and can’t run, or to add more aerobic exercise to your running volume. Cycling and pool running are more specific to running in my opinion and better approximate the actual act of running, but the elliptical isn’t bad at this either.
Running isn’t easy because your body isn’t accustomed to the impact of running. You haven’t done that specific movement in a long time. To be a good runner you have to run; other types of exercise can bolster your fitness but without running, it will always be a challenge to start after a long layoff.
Since your body has been doing zero impact exercise for three months, it’s important to slowly start running again and do lower body strength exercises to enable your legs to handle the stress of running’s impact forces.
[Tweet “Endurance Training Q&A: How Do I Run Faster for Longer? via @jasonfitz1 #TrainingTips”]