July 18, 2018
We get people asking us all the time about how much running should a recreational runner do? Troy Lum, coach and director of Coach2Run answers this nicely in his article below.
Since becoming a recreational running coach I have come to a realization, coaching recreational runners can be hard, probably harder than most realize. You could definitely argue there is a distinct difference in training elite vs recreational runners. Most highly skilled or elite runners with the assistance of a good coach are wind up and go as they are pretty self motivated individuals. Amateur recreational runners are your everyday person that are not elite and likes to run for health and fitness. They have jobs, kids and life challenges that take priority before getting out for that run. For some it will be about just enjoying their running and for others they may want to take out that age category at parkrun or at one of the many races on the yearly running calendar. Ultimately I have not trained a single runner that doesn’t want to do it better and get a little faster, this for the most part seems to be the driving force behind most recreational runners.
I was lucky enough to run into one of my running hero’s Benita Willis the other day at parkrun and we had a short chat. (Hi if you’re reading). Of course we were chatting recreational running as she assisted in delivering one of my coaching courses. The subject of volume came up and I’ve now been thinking about it all week as there is always someone in this age of social media with a differing point of view about how much volume we should be doing. There’s the low mileage camp, high mileage camp, the strength & conditioning crowd, the gym crowd and so on with each pitting their point of view against each other and espousing the merits of their view. Quite simply put volume matters and if you want to run then it needs to be primary to other forms of cross-training. Volume is fluid and it will absolutely depend your skill level and running ability, it will also change whether you are in off season or running season. Volume basically equates to time on feet with a high percentage being aerobic runs and a small percentage of speed. A well formulated plan will help you to gradually increase your volume with increases of 10% as the generally accepted rule of thumb. Running related injuries often creep in when we are either too inconsistent or we increase our volume too quickly and physiological adaptation has not taken place before placing the body under undue stress. Volume in my view is required to improve and needs to be increased gradually over time and as the body adapts.
So how as recreational runner with life commitments do we increase our volume and meet the demands of everyday life? Here’s a few simple tips to up your weekly volume: Firstly record your weekly mileage, if you’re not assessing then you are just guessing. There’s plenty of running platforms such as strava to help you keep track. Once you have a baseline 10% is an adequate increase for most. If you don’t warm up and cool down, then you should be. A 1 – 2km warm up and cool down on each end of your run can really up your weekly volume. Split runs, not ideal for every one but a hard run in the morning and an easy leg turnover in the afternoon can massively boost volume whilst assisting in that all import physiological adaptation. Beginners might want to start with a run in the morning and a walk/jog in the afternoon Recovery runs are gold, they’re easy on the body and count towards overall volume. Don’t forget that Sunday long run, by now those weekly km are really stacking up. This all equates to building a running base that is maintained through consistent training and building on that for specific events. Running injuries unfortunately are a risk all runners face in the sport. One of the biggest mistakes we see in recrational runners is trying to get straight back to top speed after an injury without building up their base (volume) again. Building an aerobic base is essential before hitting hard with the speed work again. So in order to build volume, we must be consistent, be patient and have structure. The body doesn’t adapt overnight but it will adapt if you do the right stuff.