Many runners wonder what’s more important: running quality miles or just running lots of them. The answer is both are important. Of course you want every single mile you run to be a high quality one. The trouble? Running lots of miles, unfortunately, doesn’t guarantee they’ll be good ones.
It takes time to build the strength, stamina and durability you need to run correctly all the time. Diving into a high mileage program without experience is a recipe for disaster. Injuries, over training and frustration are the menu if you get overly ambitious. Yes, it’s true that high quality along with high quantity is a proven recipe for success but not everyone has that kind of time or the necessary resources.
Beginners should slowly build mileage until their bones, tendons, ligaments and muscle can take the pounding running puts on them. Running quality miles is much more important than volume early on. Even experienced runners have full time jobs and lives outside of running that make it nearly impossible to log 100+ miles each week. Does that mean you should give up on your newest goal?
No way! It means you’ll have to focus on getting the most you can from each workout. With a lower mileage program, you’ll likely have a bit more intensity and fewer recovery, or easy, runs. Runners who have time constrictions might replace one easy outing with yoga or a short body weight workout rather than a longer session. The key is to make sure each workout has a specific purpose that will help you reach your next goal and that you’re fully recovering from the harder efforts. Remember, a few good miles are much more valuable than a bunch of not so useful ones.
Work with a coach to discover what volume works best for your body at your current level of fitness. Then stick with your coach to get strong enough to increase it. Making sure you can keep your running quality high as you increase your volume means you’ll be able to have both the quality and quantity you need.
Many people each year get excited to run. The supportive community, the free beer after a race, the fresh air and wonderful scenery all make more great people want to start running. Unfortunately lots of these enthusiastic new runners will have their brand new running dreams derailed by injury. With all the couch to 5k (C25K) plans available out there, it’s hard to know where to begin. Here’s how to approach any program you choose with little stress, no injuries and lots of reward.
Start running for time. Not per mile time or pace but chunks of time on your feet. It can be as little as 30 seconds in the beginning. Especially when you’re starting a new program spending time on your feet is more important than how far you actually travel. Getting moving helps your body build aerobic capacity, the ability to use oxygen over a certain period of time. The better your aerobic capacity is the further and faster you’ll be able to go. Building aerobic capacity is done with long moderate efforts rather than short fast intervals. Running for time allows you to find the zone you’re comfortable in while building your fitness without feeling pressured about how far you’ve gone.
By choosing to run for time rather than distance you also decrease the intimidation factor. Adding another five or ten minutes to your workout is much more friendly than adding two miles. Taking small steps toward your goal will help find success more often, keeping you motivated and excited to work hard. Small increases are also key to staying injury free when you start running.
Since we all know injuries are the worst, doing all we can to avoid them is pretty important. Suddenly putting lots of miles on legs that aren’t used to it can cause big problems. From stress fractures to shin splints and IT Band syndrome, upping the miles too quickly is dangerous. Gradually increasing the length of each timed running interval will help ensure your body adjusts to the additional load without fighting back.
Start running today with a few rounds of run-walk intervals and you’ll be conquering that 5k course in no time!