How I Run 6 Days Per Week and Increase Running Miles

I have trained for quite a few races from the 5K through the marathon, and there is one mistake I have made almost every time I start a training plan.

Well…there are a number of mistakes, but this is probably the biggest mistake I keep repeating.

That mistake is not running enough miles before starting the training plan.

Whenever I found a race that I wanted to actually train for I would sign up and count out 12 to 16 weeks from race day to see when I needed to start my training plan. I would then just run whenever or whatever until the start of that training plan was scheduled. Often times, leaving gaps in the weeks and months leading up to the training plan.

Sometimes the training would go good. Often times the training would go less than good.

I know you might find this hard to believe, but if you build your running volume in the months, and even years, before you start a training plan, your training will actually go much better than if you didn’t build that mileage up.

That is not to say that you will be running more and more miles every week of your life. Mileage will go up and down. But I have been known to be running an average of 20 miles a week and then jump into a plan that starts off with 35 mile weeks.

Don’t do that.

If you have a plan that starts at 35 miles per week and has you running 5–6 days per week, then you need to get comfortable doing that volume months before you start that plan. Then, when that plan increases volume and intensity you are ready to adapt to the workouts.

I am in the midst of a training plan for the Philadelphia Marathon this November. I knew when the year started that I wanted to train well for it, and as registration drew closer I knew I needed to prepare for the training plan that would start near the end of July.

So what did I do to increase my miles and get to running six days per week?

I made a plan to get me to the plan.

First I took an honest look at my running.

For the first couple months of the year I was not running many miles. I was averaging about 12–15 miles per week and only running 3 or 4 days per week. Not much at all.

I knew I wanted to be running 6 days per week. It is something I have done in the past so I knew I could do it again. But it is not a good idea to start running six days per week and bumping the mileage to a huge number at the same time.

Even though I was averaging 15 miles per week I estimated that 20 per week was doable even when running six days.

One major key to running so often is an easy pace. And by easy pace I mean super easy pace. If you think you are going too slow then you should probably slow down even more. Starting off a base period like this should be all easy runs with no speed work. It is okay to have some fast finishes or throw in a few 30 second fartleks, but the more easy runs the better. Speed work will come when training starts.

Another key to the start of this base period is the low mileage to start the weeks off. Twenty miles is a lot when running only 3 days per week, but when divided out over 6 days your talking only an average of 3 miles per day…but I have a secret to make half of those runs even shorter.

It is not a big secret, and not even one I invented. I found it on a running forum online somewhere. Probably Reddit. Simply take the target weekly miles and divide by 10. Now run that many miles 3 days per week. Run twice that many miles 2 days per week. And run thrice that many miles once for a long run.

So to start off my 20 mile weeks I would run: 2–2–2–4–4–6

But not in that order. Mix it up and run it like this: 2–4–2–4–2–6.

Wanna do 5 runs per week instead of 6? Take one of those 2 miles and spread it to the other 2 mile days. Now you have 3–4–4–3–6.

So I planned out the 20 miles for the week, knowing that I can shift miles around and have an extra rest day if I needed it or if my schedule demanded it.

And I ran that 20 miles for a whole month. The same 20 mile schedule 4 weeks in a row, and all 80 miles were run at a super easy pace.

Remember that.

SUPER. EASY. PACE.

The point of these base miles is not to go fast, but just to go. Get the body used to moving a lot and adapt it to the demands of running.

At the end of that first 4 weeks I took stock of my body. Everything felt good. No weird twinges or tweaks. And I decided to increase the mileage for another 4 weeks.

This is where you can keep running those miles. I could have continued with 20 for a few more weeks if I felt I needed it, but I felt good.

So I went to 25 miles.

I scheduled six runs that looked like: 2.5 — 5 — 2.5 — 5 — 2.5 — 7

Again that left room for swapping runs or shifting miles around if needed.

And I repeated that 25 mile schedule for 4 weeks. I felt good after 4 weeks and decided to up it a little more.

This time to 30 miles.

A 30 mile week looked like this: 3–6–3–6–3–9

Same deal with trading runs or swapping miles.

I was still feeling good after running this schedule for a few weeks, but I did not need an increase. I was planning on making a schedule that started at around 30–35 miles per week so I stuck with that 30 mile week for seven weeks instead of four. I then had a down week of running less than 20 miles (would have been a little more but I was on vacation, and living large) and then I went right into marathon training.

That is how I did it for this training cycle, but since this is base building there is some flexibility. I had no problem moving miles around. If one day I could only get in 2 miles instead of 3 I would simply add the mile to another day. Or split up my runs. Instead of running 6 miles in the morning I might have ran 3 in the morning and 3 at night. Or 4 in the morning and 2 at night.

I could also have done these runs by time instead of distance. 20 minute to 50 minute runs would be perfect for the week and 90 minutes would be perfect for the long run. Base running is all easy runs anyway, so time could actually be a better measuring factor than miles.

Your body doesn’t know that it is moving for 3 miles, but it knows that it is moving for 30 minutes. And a 30 minute easy run will have the same benefit for a runner with a 12 minute easy pace as it will for a runner with an 8 minute easy pace. But ask those two runners to run 6 miles and now their paces are putting their bodies under different stresses.

So to recap:

When building a base for marathon training I run all easy miles.

Running 5–6 days per week is best. The more often your body does something the better it gets at doing that thing.

Start with an easy weekly distance and repeat it for at least 4 weeks.

You CAN repeat the same distance for longer if you want.

After at least 4 weeks bump up the mileage and repeat that new total for at least 4 weeks.

Continue to build mileage until your reach or surpass the bare minimum needed to prepare for the marathon. This might take you 3 months or 6 months or 12 months…but being better prepared for the training plan will get you better prepared for the marathon.

Final Thought:

After the marathon, and recovery from the marathon, I plan to get back into that 20 miles per week schedule and run that for a few months to prevent any gaps in my training.

In the past I would finish my race, take a few weeks or even months off, and then sporadically run whenever I felt like it. This creates gaps in training which causes loss in fitness which takes you back a few steps each time you start again.

And if I want to get faster for future races then I need to eliminate those gaps.

But that is a discussion for another time…


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