If you are a new runner you likely started off by just running, or by run/walking. Eventually, you may be looking to progress your running. The same goes for runners who may have built a base after an injury, childbirth, or other time off. At a certain point you may decide to take the next step to start improving your running further. Here are 3 ways to progress your running after building a base.
3 Ways to Progress Your Running After Building a Base
The first thing to keep in mind is if you have spent enough time building a base. This will be different for each runner depending on your individual circumstances. New runners may need long to build a base after getting comfortable with consistent running. More experienced runners who took a short time off may only need a few weeks. When I focus on base building between race seasons I usually take about 4-6 weeks before progressing my running. However, when I returned to running postpartum I needed much longer (about 5 months). Again, this will differ for each runner.
Tips for Progressing Your Running
The 3 ways to progress your running that I am going to share should not be done all at once. You want to focus on one area at a time, allow your body to adjust to those adaptations, and then you can focus on another area. Take your time and listen to your body. If you are feeling stuck with progressing your running it’s ok to take a step back!
Focus on Increasing Your Endurance
The first way you can progress you running is by increasing your endurance, or running for longer periods of time. You should do this gradually, and cut back every 3-4 weeks. If you are running for 30 minutes 3 times a week, try increasing those runs to 35-40 minutes. After you are comfortable there you can choose one run to be your longer run and work on increasing that to 45-50 minutes. Eventually you may be able to have a 60 minute run (or longer) once a week while the other runs may vary depending on how much time you have and your goals.
Progress Your Running by Focusing on Speed
Once you have comfortably increased your endurance and have maintained your mileage for a few weeks, you can work on improving your speed. My favorite way to start out is by using fartlek runs. These are unstructured “speed play” workouts where you are not focusing on a specific pace, you just run faster for a couple of minutes and then take enough recovery before running faster again. You can try something like 5 x 1 minute hard, 2 minutes easy (but take more than 2 minutes to recover if you need it) and always start with a warm up and end with a cool down. You can also do these on hills for an added challenge! Each week you can add another interval or make the intervals longer, while taking a cut back week every 3-4 weeks where you either skip your fartlek run or cut back the number of reps you are doing. Eventually, you can move into more structured speed work.
Increase the Frequency of Your Runs
If you are looking to continue progressing your running after working on mileage and speed, you may consider running more often. If you are running 2-3 days a week, by adding another day of running you will be able to increase your mileage and you will have more time to do speed work while also having plenty of easy runs. However, if you are happy with 3 days a week of running you don’t necessarily need to run more often.
In order to increase the frequency of your runs you may find that you need to run on back to back days. Be sure to follow up any hard workouts with an easy run or a rest day. Spread out your runs as much as possible. When you are adding on an extra day of running start by keeping it very short and easy. Also, be sure you are doing this after your body has already adapted to any increases in mileage or speed that you may have worked on.
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Summary of How to Progress Your Running
Basically, you are going to pick one area to work on at a time. I recommend starting with endurance, then adding speed, then increasing frequency if needed. Always include cut back weeks in your training as you are progressing your running. And don’t forget to listen to your body and take a step back if needed. Try to spread out your runs so you have rest days or easy runs in between hard workouts. And for more individual guidance on progressing your running you can look into working with a running coach.