Sports Performance

How to increase your running distance safely

A common question that I encounter in the clinic is how much should I increase my training distance by when I am running? The answer is as always, well it depends … Are you a couch to 5km or 10km or have you completed 10 half marathons and fancy having a crack at a full Cork Marathon? Do you have a base level strength already built up? Have you completed an 8-12 week strengthening programme? Whilst there is a lot debate around this topic the advice given on the this blog will dramatically reduce your risk of injury when you are running. Read on to find out how to increase your running distance safely and stay injury free.

Little by little

The research shows that the body will adapt according to the load that’s placed upon it, and thrive on this, leading to healthier bones, tendons and muscles, provided that this is done over time. Increasing the load gradually gives the body time to adapt accordingly and in turn will decrease the likelihood of sustaining injuries such as knee pain stress fractures, plantar fasciitis and tendinopathies. These are probably the most common injuries that will occur when increasing running distance too quickly over a short time frame.

So what’s the secret?

10% increase approximately

There is a lot of debate at the moment around this topic at the moment and some people don’t like the 10% rule. I however have seen first hand that by increasing your distance by 10% each week approximately especially for beginners can significantly reduce the risk of injury. Therefore I would recommend to increase running distance by 10% each week so, for example, if you run 5km on Week 4, then on Week 5 your target should be 5.5km and so on until the desired distance is reached. I wouldn’t recommend training any more than four days a week, preferably with a rest day every second day. On your rest day you could do some strength work, swimming or yoga for example.

Strength training is key

Incorporating strength training into your programme would also be an advantage, training roughly four days a week through the off season (non competitive season) and once a week in the competitive running season. It is also essential to do a full warm up and cool down, the end stages of the warm up should match the intensity of the activity at hand.

Track your effort

Using a Fitbit or similar device that records heart rate is great for gauging effort exerted in both the warm up and run. Ideally you should be a little sweaty before starting the run and after the run your heart rate should gradually return to what it was when you set off.

An extra top tip …

Any athlete running long distances should ideally complete 8-12 weeks of a basic strengthening programme prior to running. The stronger muscles are, the less force that will go through joints and bones, resulting in the muscle absorbing more of the impact and thereby preventing injuries from occurring, enabling an injury-free run.

This advice is given on the assumption of a fit and healthy adult with no medical conditions. If you have any medical issues that you are concerned about, always consult a health professional before engaging in physical activity.

Speak to a professional

This blog was written by John Shanahan of Next Level Physiotherapy.  John is a Chartered Physiotherapist, with particular skills in injury prevention and sports performance training. To make an appointment with John to discuss your concerns or requirements fill in our contact form here or give us a call on 087 184 9464.

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