But first off, you’ll need to be prepared. Do you have good equipment? Your shoes should have good cushion, and shouldn’t be more than a year old, as old shoes lose their ability to soften the impact on your legs, leading to shin splints and worse.
You’ll want to take along a more water than usual, since you’re running farther. Running site Fitsugar recommends taking in eight ounces of fluid every 20 minutes (that’s roughly 240 ml for those of us who don’t think of our sizes in terms of espresso cups).
When out there running, don’t be afraid to slow down. Runners World’s Jeff Galloway says to add about two minutes to your normal time. Yes, you’ll have to go slower; I know I just wrote an article about running faster, but trust me on this one. Running slower will give you more energy and allow you to go for longer. Once you get used to the new distances, you can start increasing your speed.
You’ll want to take a lot of walking breaks too. A friend of mine, who works at Runners World, once told me that one minute of walking for every ten minutes of running will make those ten minutes of running much better.
Got all that? Okay, let’s start getting you running farther.
INCREASING YOUR DISTANCE
So now you’re ready to slap on your shoes, grab a water bottle, and get out there. Let’s talk about the Ten Percent Rule.
You’ve probably heard of it; it’s a fairly ubiquitous piece of advice in the running world. The Ten Percent Rule dictates that you increase your weekly running distance by ten percent each week, so as not to overexert or injure yourself.
So, if on Week 1, you’re running 5 km, you’ll want to boost yourself up to 5.5km the next week, and then 6.05 km the next week, etc, etc.
This isn’t a hard and fast rule, of course; it exists just to give a guideline so you don’t hurt yourself, like I did. When I was first getting into running, I bumped my weekly distance from 15 km (5 km every three days) to 40 km (8 km every five days), and within three weeks, my shins were complaining about how my muscles had become inflamed and were ripping off the bone. Not a good time.
But the Ten Percent Rule does have some limitations. At lower distances, and for beginner runners, it stops making sense. In my example above, you’d go from a piddly 5 km to 5.5 km, and then to 6.05 km and–oh come on, you can run more than that!
Active.com’s Jason Fitzgerald writes in his article, “If you’re a beginner, forget the 10 Percent Rule. As someone learning how to start running, your main priority is to run consistently and allow your body to get used to running… Don’t increase your mileage every week; instead, keep it consistent for two to three weeks to allow your body to adjust. When you’re comfortable, then you can run more. If you run three days per week for 2 miles, 3 miles, and 3 miles and you’re ready for more mileage, you can add another day of running.”
So if you’re someone who only runs 5 km one day a week (ie, a beginner), once you get comfortable, you can add a whole day to your schedule, for 10 km a week. That’s a whopping 100% increase in your distance, but I don’t think 10 km of weekly distance, split between two days, is going to hurt you too badly.
So only start using the Ten Percent Rule when you are consistently running, and want to increase your distance to something substantial. One thing to keep in mind about it, however is…
APPLY THE RULE CONSISTENTLY ACROSS THE WEEK
Let’s say you run a weekly distance of 24 km, and you want to increase it to 26.4 km the next week. Your weekly distance of 24 km is split into three days of 8 km each. The easiest and healthiest way to apply that ten percent increase is to apply it across the board — running 8.8 km each day, rather than say, piling up the surplus 2.4 km on the last day.
These ten percent increments sure seem tiny, don’t they? But, trust me, they add up in the long run. At the end of the month, you’ll be up to 35 km a week, which is a huge jump. And you’ll have done it in a way that doesn’t shock your system too much.
Soon you’ll be out there among the hardcore, running unfathomable distances, and doing it all with a smile.