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With running, as with any exercise routine, it's important to progress and advance safely. Doing too much too fast can lead to injury and stop you in your tracks. Figuring out how much running is enough to push yourself, and at what point it can become too much and dangerous, can be a difficult task. Just getting out there and running can be challenging, and having to also keep thinking and worrying about your limits can become overwhelming; but it doesn’t have to be. Creating a steady running plan from the beginning will make sure you’re exercising safely, and leaves you free to enjoy the journey.
Running too much, too quickly, is a recipe for disaster. Running has the potential of putting a lot of physical stress on the body, and overloading through cardio is just as dangerous as not following proper progression in strength training). Planning ahead and following safe running programs can help prevent common cardio injuries, like joint damage and shin splints.
If you’re just considering starting a new running habit, it’s important to start slow and find your pace. Starting too fast and too far can burn you out quickly and instill a negative connection with running. It’s a good idea to first start with walking to make sure your body can handle your new level of activity. Make sure to check with your doctor before starting a new exercise routine, especially if you have a history of health issues.
After building up a consistent walking routine, and your confidence in your ability to move forward, you can begin taking the first steps to running. Start with a goal of 2 minutes, and see how you do. Take your time, and go for a slow jogging pace, until you get comfortable. From there, you’re ready to build up and advance to the next level.
If you’ve already established a running habit, a safe progression program can be fairly easy to find and follow. Whether you’re just jogging 5 minutes at a time, or training for longer distances, the progression systems you follow will be similar. How you progress depends a lot on your goals, and how you currently run.
When your goals consist of going further or longer, you can work to increase the distance and duration of your runs in a number of ways. Your focus throughout this process is not on speed, but merely managing to run more. Some people measure their runs in terms of distance, while others by time. Neither one is a better method, and they each have their benefits and drawbacks. Some people have more success working towards a distance goal, while others like to think about the time they are running. No matter which method you choose, your progressions will follow through with your preferred measurement system. For example, if you currently measure your run in terms of distance, like going for 3 miles, you will also base your increased on distance; and if you measure your runs based on a set period of time, going for a 30 minute run, you should increase your running in time increments.
The generally recommended progression for increasing your duration is an additional 5-20% each week, with a safe choice of around 10%. If you want to use the standard 10%, this means that you would add up how much you run in a given week, and multiply that by 1.1 and get your new maximum running duration for the next week. You can do less than 10% increases if you choose to, as long as you’re not surpassing that amount. Use this new number to plan out your runs for the next week, splitting it up however you’d like throughout the week. You could change the distribution of your running from one week to another week, as long as you’re doing it feasibly and safely. You can break up your runs into more or fewer days, or having some heavier days and some lighter days, as long as your weekly totals do not increase more than 10 percent. Do whatever works for your schedule and your lifestyle, as long as you’re being careful and not pushing yourself too far.
For example, if you currently run one day a week for 4 miles, you would increase the next week to no more than 4.4 miles. If you run three days a week, each for 30 minutes, your total weekly running time is 1 hour and 30 minutes, or 90 minutes. To increase this safely, the next week you would run for a total of 99 minutes. You can break this up evenly for three days of running for 33 minutes each, or further to four days of 10 minutes, 40 minutes, 20 minutes, and 29 minutes.
This formula is a safe and easy way to increase your running distance and duration over time. While some people may get frustrated that the pace isn't enough to reach their goals as quickly as they would like, it works to lessen the chances of heartbreak due to potential injuries. It may take time, but it’s an easy way to create and stick to a running plan, while hopefully avoiding unneeded harm from doing too much too quickly.