06 Sep How do I increase my mileage without injury?
This is such an important topic because about 80% of running injuries are not due to biomechanics, weakness, shoes or technique. It’s about doing too much, too early. Every muscle, tendon and ligament in your body has a certain ‘load capacity’. Exceeding this capacity will result in excessive strain and put body tissues in threat of injury. Strength training will assist in raising your load capacity however injury can also be avoided with gradual increases in mileage and allowing your body to adapt.
This is why we see so many running injuries when preparing for events such as the Melbourne Marathon. The increase in weekly mileage is usually too rapid due to inexperience, lack of preparation time or the pure drive of competition pushing runners too hard.
So what can we do about it? There are universal rules such as ‘no more than 10% increase in weekly mileage’ which I have recommended to runners in my physiotherapy clinic in the past. Those who are particularly weak, show a ‘sloppy’ running form and already have a baseline fitness of around 15-25 kilometres per week would benefit from this rule. However, the downside of this rule would be a beginner runner starting at 5-10 kilometres per week and encountering a painfully slow increase.
For experienced runners, I have had several running gurus advocate quantifying work load by using the formula [minutes of running x rate of perceived exertion (RPE)]. Your RPE is scored out of 10 with 10 scoring your highest intensity. So a 30 minute run at 6/10 RPE will calculate to 180 points. This is particularly useful because it incorporates ‘intensity’ which is a huge factor in overuse injuries. You can then document your own weekly score and make the decision on increasing by 10% or more per week.
If this has left you more confused then when you began and you have an event coming up, I recommend finding a running program that includes distance and intensity and sticking to it. Like always I recommend The Running Clinic as a website to visit and follow their training programs. I hand out these programs to my physiotherapy clients and highly rate their advice.