Finding your Running Mileage ‘Sweet Spot’

When starting a training plan it is important to determine the correct workload and intensity. Every athlete is different and develops at a different rate. It is important to take into account two things: age vs. training age.

Age is your biological age and developmental status. Everyone develops differently, but it can be assumes that someone who is 12 should not be doing the same workload as someone that is 25. Just like the workload you can handle at 25 will be different from what your body can handle at 65.

The second factor is training age. “Training age” refers to the amount of time you have been running. If you have been running 10 years, then your plan will be different than someone that is just starting or even someone that has been running for 1-2 years.

When creating a training plan, it is important to assess a runner’s training age. Some of the key questions to ask: How long have they been running?  How many days per week? How many miles a week?  Have they taken any prolonged breaks in training?

It is important to your mileage volume at no more than 10% than what you have done in the prior 2-4 weeks. In training, the rule of thumb for increasing weekly mileage is no more than a 10% increase per week. We can’t always increase- cutback weeks are very important in any training block. Cutback or “deloading” should be assigned every 3-6 weeks with a 25-30% reduction in mileage. These weeks help the legs recover from the mileage build.

Mileage Sweet Spot

Everyone has a mileage sweet spot. It is important to find your individual sweet spot. This is your optimal training area. Where you excel without breaking. I like to think of it as walking a tight rope. If you a lean one way you will not be training hard enough and the other way you are overtraining. Either way you are not getting your optimal training for success. It sometimes takes runners 5-7 years to find that sweet spot. If you can run well and see improvements at 30-40 miles a week that is great. Some athletes will need more mileage as they progress in their running career. Elite distance runners run up to 140 miles a week!

Law of diminishing returns: This is the level that work invested is greater than the gains. If you are pushing your body too hard and your muscles never recover fully, your runs will suffer. This can turn into a downward spiral. Signs to watch for: similar pace runs every day, unable to hit workout paces for weeks at a time, nagging fatigue, insomnia, etc.  When athletes get trapped in this cycle of, they are not reaching their full potential.

Many times people have the misconception that more is better. More miles is not always better. Mileage is so individual to each athlete. I have had college runners that could run a 15:00 5k on 30 miles a week with speed session. While others needed to run 90 miles a week to run the same time. The human body is full of variability.

It is important to remember not to measure yourself against anyone else. Just because someone on Instagram can run 80 miles a week does not mean that if YOU do, you will run just like they do. They have a different body, different genetics, different training age. They have put in tons of work.

No one starts out running 50 miles a week and just immediately starts running fast races. It has been said that it takes 10,000 hours to achieve mastery in something. Running is a life long sport. Be patient and slowly build that mileage and find a sweet spot.

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