Your Optimal Weekly Mileage: 7 Clever Ways to Find It Without Risking Injury and Setback

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Top US Marathoner and Running Coach  with RunDoyen, Ryan Vail, shares his seven tips for finding your perfect weekly mileage

I get it. It can be a challenge determining how much to run every week. You don’t want to overdo it and risk injury, but you also want to improve and get stronger, faster and more efficient. What’s a runner to do?? The most suitable volume for each runner is based on numerous factors including:

  • Age
  • Experience
  • Goal race distance
  • Injury history
  • Career obligations
  • Weather
  • Family

While the only true way to dial in your mileage is through trial and error, here are pointers that have helped me in my career to help you hit the ground running:

Listen to Your Body & Be Patient

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BONUS: Want personalized info on training and achieving the best weekly mileage for you? Use code RoadRunnerRyan on RunDoyen.com for 10% off a Personal Coaching or Custom Training Plan with Ryan Vail. 

Add volume to your current base slowly and conservatively to find your weekly mileage. Yes, you heard me right: Slowly and conservatively. Resist the urge to go all out – that could lead to overuse and injury. The rate at which you increase is very much individual, but consider starting in the 10-15% per week range and see how your body reacts. Some runners are able to increase faster, others need more time in order to avoid injury and allow their body to adapt to the added workload. Listen to your body.

Don’t Overdo It and Risk Injury

Remember, you can’t keep adding continuously. You will eventually reach a breaking point, risking injury. No good! After slowly increasing my mileage for approximately 10 years, I finally found my breaking point: 150 miles per week. I ended up tackling an impressive streak of stress fractures (navicular, sacral, femoral). I now know not to attempt those numbers again and am satisfied dropping it back down to a safe zone. Bigger isn’t always better!

Take Things One Step at a Time

Do not increase weekly mileage and intensity at the same time. Allow yourself a base-building period to reach your goal mileage before adding in higher intensity training or new types of workouts. Having patience while building mileage is the most mentally challenging part of a training block as I feel pressure to start knocking out workouts as race day approaches. Resist this pressure! This not only reduces injury and the risk of over-fatigue, but will also help you peak at the right race.

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Adjust for Your Goal Race

Typically the longer the race, the higher required volume. For example, a 5k training plan will likely include lower volume and higher intensity workouts, while a marathon plan should favor higher volume with lower intensity training sessions. A marathon plan will also place a higher percentage of weekly miles on one long run. I will run up to 30% less miles when training for a 10k as opposed to a marathon in order to handle the shorter, higher intensity training.

Don’t Get Married to the Mileage

Find your own optimal mileage. Just because a particular number of miles per week works for someone else, does not mean it will work for you. There is no magic number to reach in order to achieve your goals. You need to find the weekly mileage that allows you to hit your key workouts while recovering between sessions.

If You’re Injured, Listen to Your Body

If you have to take a day off for injury, illness, or schedule, do not attempt to make up for it by adding miles to the rest of your week. Maintain the same daily average and forget about the missed day and the total miles. None of the training matters if you don’t show up to the start line feeling fresh and healthy! After my aforementioned period of stress fractures, I started forcing (yes, forcing) myself to take a day off bi-weekly. As long as my daily average remains the same, I don’t consider my training load lessened, but I’m reducing risk and aiding recovery.

Find Your Balance: Spread Effort Evenly

Distribute your higher intensity or longer sessions and rest days throughout the week in a way that allows for recovery. Use the entire week to avoid accumulating your workload in a handful of days. The number of days you run depends on your own preferences, lifestyle, and injury history. The more days per week you run, the higher volume you can reach with a lower daily average, but you also limit your recovery by eliminating rest days. Find your balance. I always include a minimum of 1-2 days in between hard sessions and long runs. For marathon training, I allow 2-3 days as the higher volume requires more recovery time.

For 1-1 Personal Coaching, Training Plans, Video Chat Consultations or to learn more about Ryan, visit: RunDoyen.com/Ryan. And don’t forget about that 10% discount on Personal Coaching or a Custom Training Plan with Ryan!

Author bio: Ryan Vail is a 2:10 marathoner and finished in the top of major marathons from London to Berlin to New York City. He’s grown to live, love and excel at the marathon lifestyle. Vail raced for the United States at the World Cross Country Championship, a race many consider the most competitive in the world, on five separate occasions. He’s passionate about bringing what he’s learned about running, preparation and competition from around the world, to athletes of all paces and races.

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