How to Increase Running Mileage and Distance Without Injury

How to Increase Running Mileage and Distance Without Injury

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There’s a lot of reasons to run.  Some people run 3 miles two times a week their whole lives, because they simply love that head clearing, de-stressing routine.  Others run because they reap the health benefits.  For others it’s a social event.  And then there are those that run in pursuit of a goal.  If you fall into that last category specifically, there’s a good chance your running goal involves you increasing your running mileage and distance over time.  I’m talking about runners chasing a half marathon, marathon, or other long distance goal.  If you are a new runner wondering how to increase your running mileage in pursuit of a goal, or as part of a training plan, this guide will lay out all the steps for you, including some handy visuals of actual training calendars that demonstrate how to increase running mileage week by week.  When it comes to increasing your running distance, specifically increasing your running distance without injury, it’s not as hard as you might think.  


Disclosure: Below are some affiliate links-these are all products I highly recommend. I won’t make any recommendations on this page that I haven’t tested or personally used!  Enjoy this guide to how to increase running mileage without injury!



How to Increase Running Mileage and Distance in 4 Simple Steps


While it takes time, persistence, and dedication to execute an increase in running mileage, it really does boil down to just 4 simple steps.

  • Gradually
  • Intentionally
  • With Cross Training
  • With Rest

Why is it so important to increase running mileage and distance with these 4 steps in mind?  Because you want to not only progress in your performance and distances, but you want to increase your running mileage without injury.  As amped up as you might be to increase your running mileages and distances, always keep in mind that an overuse injury can derail any good training plan, and some you won’t be able to fully come back from.  50% of runners report getting injuries each year, so don’t make the assumption that it can’t happen to you.  



#1: How to Increase Running Mileage GRADUALLY


You MUST give yourself adequate time to reach your final goal.  A very common mistake that many beginner runners make is to increase their mileage too quickly.  What makes them vulnerable is that their muscles, tendons, bones, and ligaments are NOT CONDITIONED to handle an increase yet.  And it’s not just newbies that fall prone to this.  Even experienced runners need to make jumps gradually.


If your goal is to run a marathon, you cannot expect to start training from 0 one week 1 and finish the race 3 weeks later.  While my own customized training calendars and plans vary depending on age, background, experience, and health, I generally always recommend at least 4 months to chase any long distance running goal as a beginner.  This allows you to increase your running mileage and distances gradually, which greatly reduces the chance of overuse injury.


Before you begin increasing your running mileages, make sure you have a sufficient baseline developed as a foundation.  You should be able to consistently do 30 minutes of sustained cardio output at least 3 times a week.  And this doesn’t necessarily need to be running – it can involve all types of cross training as well.  Here’s a few examples:

  • 30 minutes of brisk walking
  • 30 minutes of moderate hiking
  • 30 minutes of cycling
  • 30 minutes of cardio at the gym
  • 30 minutes of swimming


Once you can maintain a moderate and sustained cardio output for 30 minutes at least 3 times a week, you are ready to start tackling a targeted training plan for running, one that involves increasing your running mileage gradually.  


Enter the 10 – 15% rule. Consider what your goals are for your weekly mileage, and increase your weekly running mileage by no more than 10 – 15% at a time.  For example, if you are currently running 10 miles in a week, your next increment would be around 11 to 11.5 miles the following week.  And it NEVER hurts to stay on an increment for a couple weeks to really build that foundation. 


So what does this actually look like?  Take a look at an example below for a 16 Week Marathon Training Calendar:

16 Week Marathon Training Calendar
Example 16 Week Marathon Training Calendar


*Check out this 16 Week Half Marathon Training Calendar as well!


Notice anything?  There’s plenty of time for increasing your running mileage gradually, over time, and step by step.  Allowing your body the time to process and absorb that foundation.  Remember, increasing your running mileages is NOT about speed – it’s about efficiency, endurance, and strength.  



#2: How to Increase Running Mileage INTENTIONALLY


HAVE A PLAN.  Don’t just wing it and wake up one day and decide you’re ready to test yourself on a 10 mile run out of the blue.  Incorporate a well planned out and intentional plan for increasing your running mileage and distance.  Being INTENTIONAL about HOW and WHEN you increase your running mileages, being sure to incorporate a full body system.

How to increase running mileage intentionally:

  • Use an actual, detailed training calendar that holds you accountable to what you are doing each week (check out how you can get a customized training calendar developed just for YOU)
  • Assess how long you need to give yourself to train to reach your goal, and don’t shortcut yourself
  • Allow for those gradual, slow increments in mileage and distance
  • Stick to your plan – no jumping around in distances, no huge gaps in time without training, no pushing past your limits, etc.
  • Don’t forget about cross training and rest (coming up next!)


Be intentional in how you train and in how you increase your running mileages.  If you tell yourself you’ll get around to doing those runs “when you have time” or “when you feel like it”, you’re likely to find a way out, or be tempted to postpone.  This is why I always stress to develop and stick to an actual training calendar, to help hold yourself accountable (let me show you how to create your own customized running training calendar!)



#3: How to Increase Running Mileage with CROSS TRAINING


Why is cross training important for increasing your running distances?  Because as you push yourself further, your body is naturally at an increased risk of injury.  Gradual increments are the #1 thing you can do to avoid this, and the #2 thing is consistent cross training!


Cross training helps to maintain the WHOLE body, keeping all the muscle systems and functions in harmony with each other, to help produce the final result – a safe increase in your running performance over time.  


Cross training is an ESSENTIAL part of long term running and long distance running, so be sure not to skip it.  Cross training doesn’t have to be overly complicated either.  Start with what you know.  If you enjoy walking, then do some moderate effort, brisk walks.  Over time, mix in more hills.  If you enjoy yoga, then do yoga, and over time add in heavier weights.  It definitely helps if your cross training is something you enjoy, but also consider mixing in some new forms to help keep things interesting and avoid burnout. 

What does my cross training look like?

  • Cycling
  • Brisk walks
  • Hikes
  • HIIT workouts
  • Pilates / yoga


But it can also include swimming, kayaking, kickboxing, weight lifting, and a wide array of gym machine workouts, just to name a few.  


What does a running training plan look like with cross training included?  Take a peek at a few weekly snippets I developed for individual clients as part of their whole running training calendar.


Half marathon training calendar snippet
Week 1 of a 16 week Half Marathon Training Calendar snippet


Marathon training calendar snippet
Week 10 of a Marathon Training Calendar snippet


Marathon training calendar snippet
Week 11 of a Marathon Training Calendar snippet


The cross training is different, because these plans were individualized to fit the needs of those individual runners – their goals, backgrounds, experience, strengths, weaknesses, schedules, and preferences.

Want a training calendar like this?



#4: How to Increase Running Mileage with REST


Rest is the final component.  And it should not be underestimated.  In fact, this in depth study demonstrates how running is one of the most common activities that gives rise to overuse injuries.  And while there are multiple reasons an overuse injury could occur, one of the most common culprits is increasing running mileage too quickly.


Rest allows your body time to solidify the work and foundation it’s building.  Kinda like allowing concrete time to set.  Make sure to stick to your schedule, and that includes rest days.  Even if you feel like you could go out and tackle an additional 8 mile run that day, if your plan calls for rest, then rest.  Overuse injuries are speed bumps that can derail months of hard work if you aren’t careful.  


If you are following a detailed training plan, it should include 1 – 2 rest days each week.  It should also include an additional rest day or even a majority rest week once a month.  So for example, 3 weeks of solid work, followed by 1 week of extra rest.  This could look like an extra rest day, as well as shorter mileages and easier effort. 



Putting It All Together


There you have it, how to increase running mileage in 4 steps.  Now, you just have to put it all together.  Build yourself a schedule that gives you plenty of time to achieve your desired goal, builds in those gradual, weekly mileage increments slowly and intentionally over time, and incorporates cross training and rest.  


So what does this look like as a complete training calendar?  Here’s your chance to snag a FREE example of a 16 Week Half Marathon training calendar.  But what no one online can do is create a customized training plan for you, unless they actually TALK with you.  Consider your background, your preferences, your timeframe, your strengths and weaknesses, your goals – and take all that and churn out a training plan that fits YOU.  One that you’ll stick with over time.  

So you can:

1).  Grab your calendar, and then create and schedule out your training plan, or

2). Get some help with this first crucial step and develop a customized training calendar with 1:1 coaching and support.  Check out my coaching plans HERE, or fill out this INTEREST FORM to get started!


What’s great about increasing your running mileage and distance NOW, is you will have a great foundation built for the future.  Whether you are chasing an immediate goal, or just want to have a solid baseline from which to pursue additional goals down the road.  



Don’t Forget – Fueling, Hydration, and Recovery


Don’t forget about proper fueling and nutrition, consistent hydrating, and recovery.  These are all components that will help increase your performance, as well as keep you healthy and injury free along your journey.  

This can include:


  • Getting enough sleep
  • Proper cooling down and stretching post workout
  • Foam rolling
  • Addressing concerns (don’t push through suspected injuries)
  • De-stressing
  • Knowing what “fuels” work best for you
  • Proper nutrition, including whole grains, healthy carbs, fruits and vegetables, healthy fats and proteins (check out this post on the best foods for runners)




  • Essential Running Gear for Beginners
  • What to Eat on Race Day
  • 11 Marathon Morning Tips and Checklist
  • What Causes Sore Calves After Running, and How to Prevent It
  • Top 13 Best Running Goals for Beginners
  • What to Eat the Night Before a Long Run
  • The Truth About Peanut Butter for Runners
  • 17 Half Marathon Training Tips
  • A Last Week Before Half Marathon Checklist
  • 16 Week Marathon Training Plan for Beginners
  • 16 Week Half Marathon Training Plan for Beginners




How to increase running mileage without injury


How to increase running distance without injury

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Hi, I’m Steven, a Florida native, who left my career in corporate wealth management six years ago to embark on a summer of soul searching that would change the course of my life forever.