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How To Progress Your Running Dosage

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Running is one of the most common forms of exercise. Injury rates in runners continue to stay higher than many other forms of exercise. While the reasons for injury are multi-faceted, one major factor is that many times people are not progressing and dosing their running appropriately. Another big issue is after an injury, how are you resuming running? What does the buildup look like after a running-related injury?

Let’s first talk about a healthy runner who is looking to progress mileage. There is no “one size fits all” approach but here are some general guidelines. If you are a more experienced runner, then the goal should be to increase your mileage 10-15% per week, which will include different types of workouts such as tempo workouts, speed work, etc. While the 10-15% number is a good guideline, more advanced runners can have times where they increase up to 20% in a single week.

However, if you are a beginning runner the guidelines are different. First and foremost, you can forget about running any speed workouts or tempo workouts. The goal is to build a baseline fitness from running. This means that the goal is simply to get your body used to the demands of running. At this point in your training, you should not be concerned about how fast you are running, you should be running at an “easy” effort level. An easy effort level should be something that you feel like you can sustain for a long time. Some simple guidelines of this are at a conversational pace or if you are using a heart rate monitor you should be in between 50-70% of your max heart rate. (Max heart rate is calculated 220-age).

There is no rule for progressing a certain percentage of your mileage when you are a beginning runner, you should be slightly more conservative increasing mileage every other week. Starting with two short runs and one slightly longer run would be a great place to start (example 3mi-3mi-4mi). Ideally you will have a day in between runs to cross train (strength training, biking, yoga etc.).

When it is time to increase your mileage, you will do it by adding mileage to one or two of your runs. That would take your 3mi-3mi-4mi to a week that looked like 3mi-4mi-5mi. Once you get to a point where increasing mileage doesn’t make sense, you can add another short run so that you will be running four days per week. As your body becomes acclimated to running, you will find that you recover from running quicker and you can use this as a guide as to when to start increasing mileage weekly. Note that this will vary from person to person.

The last group of people are the people who suffered an injury while running. Most running injuries are overuse injuries, so for the sake of this progression we are going to assume that this is an overuse injury. At this point in the rehab process, the runner will be at a point where they are not actively in pain with running for short periods of time. The tricky part is that we need to have them run so their body can adapt to running, but not so much that the injured tissue cannot recover.

One of the most effective ways to do this is to start with a run-walk program to slowly expose yourself to the stresses of running. The walking portion gives your body a chance to recover and gives you a chance to assess if running is causing an increase in pain. An example of a run walk program would look like this:

Day 1: Alternate: Run 1 minute, Walk 1 minute (20 minutes total.
Day 2: OFF/Cross training
Day 3: Alternate: Run 1 min 30s, walk 1 minute (20 minutes total)
Day 4: OFF/Cross Training
Day 5: Alternate: Run 2 minutes, Walk 30 seconds (20 minutes total)
Day 6: Rest Day
Day 7: Run 20 minutes nonstop.

Once you have run 20 minutes non-stop, you can begin increasing your runs based on time or distance. At this point you should be conservative in increasing your time/distance and monitor symptoms. It is also important to make sure that you are taking a day off between runs and not running more than two consecutive days.


Also, if you’re in the Columbus area struggling with any sort of injury limiting you from doing the things you love, give Athletes' Potential a call at 470-355-2106 or fill out a contact request form and we will reach out to you. 


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