You need to run to get faster or run longer distances, but like all things there is a point where diminishing returns set in. This is especially true in distance running where running miles above what is necessary, commonly known as junk miles, can put you at risk of staying at a training plateau, getting injured, burnt out, and affect your life outside of running.
Get Better Results with Quality Training Sessions, Not Longer Miles
Quality versus quantity running can be a hard balance to achieve, as you need some sort of running base to properly train for your desired distance. However, you don’t need to run 100+ miles a week to be an effective marathoner or even run over 25 miles a week to be ready for your first 5K. Instead of packing on the miles as the single method for running, try to incorporate specific running sessions that focus to building strength, speed, and even agility. This includes and is not limited to hill repeats, track intervals, tempo running, and dynamic form drills.
You will quickly discover that the combination of differing types of running training will easily outmatch the gains from piling on junk miles that are only adding to your weekly mile totals. By mixing up the type of training, you may find running to be more enjoyable and possibly cut your amount of running down by 25% or more while gaining speed, strength, endurance.
Avoiding Injury, Overtraining, and Burnout
Running more miles means more impact and the potential for a running injury or not giving a previous injury the time it needs to heal. Overtraining your body is more than just inviting a common running injury but adds to a host of other issues such as hormonal changes, weakened immune systems, and other long term dangers. Beyond the physical, excessive time on the roads can also lead to burnout which may take you away from the sport of running you love. For these reasons alone, now is the time to re-evaluate your current running program to determine if you are actually making gains or just increasing the risk of damaging yourself.
Make Time for Cross Training and Strength/Resistance Training
You only have so much time in the day, and while running faster may help you finish a run in less time, you still need to make room for supporting workouts outside of your training runs. This “room” is created by supplementing a few of your runs a week with cross training and strength/resistance training. Successful running is all about balance, and to be effective you have to strengthen the supporting muscles of your running body, especially upper body strength, while allowing the primary muscles used while running to rest.
Complimentary cross training such as Elliptical, rowing, swimming, or even soccer to introduce lateral movement, will not only balance out your body to strengthen your running capability, it is also a great way to prevent injuries and burnout.
Strength and resistance training is another pillar of running success. You need a strong core for running, and running alone will not provide that. Upper body strength is also critical for pumping up hills, sprinting, and maintaining good running form.
Make Time for Recovery between Your Runs
Getting the proper rest in between runs is just as critical as a solid running workout. Overtraining occurs when runners don’t recover. This applies to the Ultra-Marathoner running well over 100 miles a week, or an intensity focused 5K specialist. Reducing your miles, and taking time to recover between your runs, may actually increase your speed and strength while lowering injury risk. It’s also a great way to get past plateaus.
This is not to say that you should always run low miles, as you still need to run for a good duration to build baseline endurance, but rather focus the running on quality and if you aren’t recovering take a step back to rest before tackling longer or more intense mileage.
Make Time for Life Outside of Running
Everyone has heard about maintaining a work-life balance, but maintaining a workout-life balance is often missed. Running can easily turn into an obsession that distracts from life and makes you singularly focused. Many elite runners have a life outside of running, which in a lot of cases, includes their family.
A singular focused runner who is competitive is also setting themselves up for greater losses and empty victories, as losses take greater weight from all the extra time put in, and victories without someone to share them with feels lessened. The greatest victory is a balanced life, where you are always a runner, but equally a person in touch with the world around you.