Appropriate Mileage Increases for Runners

Amber Lenhart, Physical Therapist, DPT, ATC, OCS, CAFS

As physical therapists, a common question we get from runners of all different levels is, “How do I safely increase my mileage?”. The answer to this question is not black and white and often leads to, “it depends”. 

It depends on a few factors, such has your current experience as a runner and how many miles you already run in a week. You may have heard of the 10% rule (It states you should never increase your weekly mileage by more than 10 percent over the previous week). This can be a nice way to increase your miles, but it doesn’t work for everyone. Here at Hulst Jepsen Physical Therapy, we recommend mileage increases based on your level of running experience.

If you have past experience as a runner, the main goal is getting you back to running consistently. Start by running 2-3 times a week with a day of rest in between. Depending on your current fitness level start at 1-3 miles each run. As you are starting out, keep your mileage the same for the first month to allow your body to adapt to the efforts required to run. 

If you are new to running and you’re reading thinking, “I’m not sure I can even do 1 mile”, we recommend starting with intervals of alternating walking with running. Everyone starts somewhere, and choosing a starting point is the best first step to increasing your mileage!

As running becomes more comfortable or natural, you can increase mileage two ways. The first is to add another day of running to your current schedule, for example, moving from 3 days to 4. The second way to increase your mileage is to simply increase your distance for one of your runs.

For example, let’s say you are currently running:

2 miles — 2 miles — 3 miles.

To increase your mileage, you could change that to:

2 miles — 2 miles — 3 miles — 2 miles.

OR

2 miles — 2 miles — 5 miles.

If you are a more experienced runner, and are looking to increase your mileage safely, you can also add another short run to your days moving from 3-4 days a week to 4-5 days, you can choose to add small amounts of mileage to each day, or fit in a longer run on one of your training days. 

Make sure you do not make these changes to your current mileage until you’re comfortable with your running schedule. Once the change is made, take the time to ensure you maintain your new mileage standards until you are comfortable again.

For all levels of running, having the correct running shoe can make all of the difference in your training. It is also important to make sure you keep track of how many miles are on your current pair of shoes. It is recommended at this time you change your running shoes every 300-500 miles depending on what surfaces you are typically running on, i.e. Treadmill vs pavement vs trail; as well as the conditions you typically run in, i.e. Hot pavement vs icy sidewalks. 

As you begin running and increasing mileage, and want more specific recommendations or questions about any issues you have with running, please reach out to any of our 16 Hulst Jepsen Physical Therapy locations. We offer free consultations at any of our clinics and we partner with Gazelle Sports to provide running screens every Monday at their store from 11:30 am – 1:00 pm. We also have a few locations that offer video gait analyses if you are looking for more in-depth specifics about your individual running form. 

If you need shoe recommendations to help you comfortably increase your mileage, visit our friends at Gazelle Sports. They can fit you in the perfect running shoe whether you are just starting out and it is your first pair or if you’ve been running for years and need a new pair to keep hitting your goals.

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