If you are in the midst of training for a marathon or half marathon, or thinking about running one in the future, you will inevitably be faced with the task of increasing your weekly running mileage in preparation for race day. Currently, there are many commercial training programs readily available online, with varying degrees of progression, at various costs to the consumer. But how do you evaluate a training program and select the right one for you? An important consideration is how much should you be increasing your running mileage each week. Research suggests increasing your running mileage no more than 10% per week in order to minimize your risk of injury, while still improving performance. Anything more and you are significantly increasing your injury risk. Contrary to popular belief, the leading cause of running-related injury is overuse or improper training progression, not running form, shoe selection, or running on pavement. Too much, too soon, and/or too fast can lead to situations where tissue breakdown exceeds the ability of the tissue to regenerate. This is the primary mechanism of an overuse injury. Common overuse injuries seen in runner's include patellofemoral pain syndrome (runner's knee), median tibial stress syndrome (shin splints), Achilles tendinopathy, and plantar fasciitis. So if you are experiencing any nagging aches and pains while running, assess your training program and see how much your running mileage is increasing each week.
Here in the Pacific Northwest, we have many road and trail running races scheduled in the summer and fall months, as the rainy season subsides for blue skies. No matter if you are planning on running a 5K, 10K, half marathon, marathon, or even ultra marathon, you may want to consider evaluating your running cadence before starting your training program. Running cadence is a measure of the number of steps you take per minute while running, with an ideal rate falling between 160 and 180 steps per minute. Not only has this range been linked with improved running efficiency/economy, but it has also been linked with a reduced rate of injury. To measure, simply count the number of steps you take while running at your training pace for one minute, or count the number of steps you take while running at your training pace for 30 seconds and multiply by two. If you are on the low end of the range or fall below 160 steps per minute, you may be over-striding, putting yourself at an increased risk of developing a nagging overuse injury, such as Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome, which will negatively impact your training. Try measuring it for yourself during your next training run and see where you stack up!