Running high volume or adhering to an aerobic-based training system is indeed one of the most direct paths to experiencing the elusive runner’s high. In fact, great running philosophers like Arthur Lydiard and Jack Daniels argue that there is no shortcut or way around the need for miles.
Why is it then, that all runners don’t increase their volume and enjoy the benefits of an increased VO2 max, leaner frame, and more efficient stride?
Because it is not that simple!
Time and durability are most often the limiting factors for non-elite individuals wanting to run more. Runners in America lead very busy lives and sometimes have difficulty squeezing in a post-run shower, let alone a 20-minute foam rolling session. However, the ugly truth remains: aside from the few genetically blessed individuals, most people who run in excess of 50 miles per week, must spend as much or more time focusing on injury prevention than they do running or they will end up sidelined!
Runners who have successfully navigated through a high volume training regimen almost always agree that putting one foot in front of the other is the easy part, and that staying healthy is where things get tricky.
Ryan Hall, the American Record holder in the half marathon, and recent runner up at the 2012 Olympic Trials Marathon compares a professional runner’s lifestyle to that of a retiree’s, and says his days often mimic those in the movie Groundhog Day, living a new day but with the same routine. This except from Hall’s book “Running with Joy” accurately depicts the ideal training environment for an individual attempting greatness in the sport of distance running…..
“I get up, have breakfast and read my Bible, and go for a run at 8:30 [performs dynamic flexibility routine before run]. When I get back I perform self-therapy on my legs. After lunch, I nap for an hour (two hours when I’m in a marathon build-up), go for another run, and either do more self-therapy on my legs or go to the gym….After dinner I usually have a couple hours of free time, and then usually go to bed between nine and ten. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat”.
In his book, Ryan also tells runners that a hamstring injury prior to the NYC Marathon had him getting 90-minutes of massage a day for 10 weeks!
While not all runners share Ryan’s ambition of being the greatest runner on earth, most runners share his desire to run healthy and effortlessly and experience the aforementioned physiological benefits of subscribing to a high volume program. So is there a happy medium? Yes. Will you run 2:04 in the marathon? Likely not!
Begin by addressing the time issue. Review your current schedule and make adjustments where possible that will allow you to dedicate an extra 30-40 minutes a day either spent running or ‘prehabbing’. Perhaps leading up to your next marathon you can justify hiring a sitter for a couple extra hours a week or you can limit yourself to thirty minutes of facebook per day instead of one hour. Creating time will be a unique challenge for everyone.
Now address durability. Review you injury history with your coach and determine which aspects of training seem to fatigue or ‘beat up on’ your body the most. Develop a concise pre-run and post-run routine that best fits your schedule and be sure that your plan is carried out on those key training days. Also, begin developing relationships with key people in your running community that will help you stay healthy.
Keep in mind the golden rule when it comes to increasing your running volume. Increase your volume by no more than 10% from week to week and incorporate in a recovery week (lower volume) every 3-4 weeks or as needed.
If you’ve been convinced to up the ante and increase your volume, do so carefully and read over some key articles below:
About the Author: Chantelle Wilder is the Senior Editor and Co-Founder of Runners Feed. She also competes for the New Balance Silicon Valley Club in the Bay Area of California. When she isn’t running, or editing she can be found enjoying the fruitful wines of nearby Napa Valley while challenging her husband to a game of Bananagrams®.