How running fewer miles per week can boost your training

“Running is analogue. It is hunter-gatherer. It is Palaeo. It is linear. It is long-form thought. It is an uninterrupted conversation with yourself. It is a journey back through modernity to your body. It is a way out of technology. It is a way to be free.” — Vybarr Cregan-Reid, author of Footnotes

By Hollie Sick

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In my own running journey, I’ve run all sorts of mileage. I've run five-mile weeks and I once ran a 100-mile week. I'll never say never, but I know that a 100-mile week left me more exhausted and hungrier than any other training I've done.

Not everyone runs the best with higher mileage. Sometimes choosing a lower mileage plan is more beneficial. It leaves you more time to cross train, lift weights, or just less exercise and fatigue in general. 

Less mileage can also help combat injury, fatigue, and burnout. 

First, let’s acknowledge that the difference between high mileage versus low mileage is not black and white. Professionals who run 100+ mile weeks might consider 60-mile weeks “low,” while someone who runs 40-mile weeks would consider 60 miles per week very high. 

When thinking of your own mileage, running lower is just lower than what you usually run. Maybe you add an extra rest day or decrease your mileage by half. Right now, for example, I’m running less mileage by adding an extra rest day. 

So how can lower mileage help me?

  • Less chance for injury: As someone who is very injury prone, the less mileage you run, the less likely you are to get injured. Because they swim and bike, many triathletes run lower mileage. Triathletes often avoid injury because they are doing less of all three sports. The change in muscles allows the body to recover and for other muscles to become stronger.  

  • Less chance of burnout: Sometimes running alone can be lonely.  Running alone day in and day out can cause burnout. You might start to dread running or you don't want to run anymore. If you are running less, you are less likely to burn out. The extra rest gives your mind a break and running is 90 percent mental.  If you aren't enjoying yourself, why do it? 

  • More time for cross-training and lifting weights: If you decide to add another rest day, you could use the day to lift weights or cross train. Cross training will only make you stronger. As runners, we often get into a habit of only running.  By running less mileage, you can add strength and hopefully avoid injury. 

  • More quality miles: Sometimes when you run too many miles, they will feel like "junk miles." That means you'll slog through slower paces, and you'll look back and think, “Did I even run?” By decreasing mileage, you are taking out many of those "junk" miles that often might not serve much purpose other than to log a run.

  • Less fatigue: This is simple; if you run less you'll be less tired. If you ran for three hours, you are more tired than if you ran for 90 minutes. With less fatigue, you can enjoy other aspects of life, and the miles you do log will be more quality miles. 

  • More time: Running can take up a lot of time. When you are running less mileage, you have more time for family, friends, and life. Maybe you want to see relatives or maybe watch the newest movie, that's okay. By running less mileage, you have more time (and energy!) to do things outside of the sport. 

  • Lower shoe costs: Okay so this isn't a direct benefit but running shoes are expensive. When you run less mileage, you don't need to buy them more frequently and could save yourself a few hundred dollars per training cycle. Who doesn't like to save money? 

Many runners feel as though “more is better,” but that is definitely not always the case. If you run more mileage appropriately, then you are more likely to PR. Strength, cross training, and rest can all benefit any runner. 

A song to run to today

Roar” from the album Prism by Katy Perry.

Photo at top by Chander R on Unsplash