As I’ve finally gathered enough courage to push my body a little harder and to play with my total weekly mileage and how it affects my performance, I’ve been doing a lot of research about the benefits of running farther and how best to increase mileage without injury. I came across an awesome article titled “Distance Running: How Many Miles Should You Run? ” and knew I had to share some key points with you guys. In sum: it’s not as simple as you might think.
Whether you’re training for the marathon or the 1500 meter, lots of aerobic running should form the base of training because it stimulates physiological, biochemical, and molecular adaptations. Generally, the greater demand, the greater the adaptations but there is an upper limit to the volume of training that will cause adaptations.
The primary factor that determines how many miles is enough is genetics.
The more untrained you are, the more you can expect to improve by increasing your mileage.
There appears to be a plateau in VO2 max improvement somewhere between 60 and 70 miles per week.
In a study of U.S. Olympic marathon trials qualifiers males averaged 90 miles/week and maxed out at 120 miles/week while females averaged 72 miles/week with a peak week of 95 miles. The difference between elites and non-elites could not conclusively be explained by mileage differences.
While running more than 70 miles may not significantly improve speed (the article says most of speed at this point is genetics) it may make you more economical and improve your muscle memory so that running is smoother. Also, the brain may adapt to the higher mileage making it seem easier to run a certain distance.
This article indicates that like all things, how many miles you should run to see improvement is quite individualized. Running long has many proven benefits but it can also come at the cost of increased injury or sickness if you’re not careful about gradually increasing your weekly mileage. In addition, once you factor in work/school, other hobbies, family, friends, sleep, and cross-training/strength training (if you choose to do so) running 80 or 90 mile weeks becomes much more difficult. It’s definitely feasible for some but also may cause burnout in other runners.
What are your thoughts on the article? I thought it was interesting and I appreciated the emphasis on genetics. How many miles do you feel comfortable running per week? I feel best in the high 50′s but have always been too afraid of injury to push much higher. I’m hoping to try the middle level of Advanced Marathoning for my next marathon though (not Boston) and that peaks at 70 miles/week.