How to increase distance

Quick search of Dr Google – ‘How to increase running distance’ – I know I am picking on running!

  • 10% rule
  • Don’t follow the 10%
  • Less days more volume
  • Speed work
  • Hill work
  • Interval training

The first two say it all really, and I wish I made it up, both of those were on the first page of the results and results 1 and 3 respectively.

Let’s do some dissecting, Firstly, I have used the 10% rule with clients to great effect, others, I have completely ignored it – why?

The rule itself creates a boundary, and a very good one – it stops dramatic increases in training distance and volume when applied in a consistent manner i.e. against a single variable such as time or distance.

The rule helps guide people to stay within safer limits and helps prevent injury, particularly overuse injuries whilst working towards their goal, such as a 5 km race or when building up someone’s base fitness levels.

Before I lay into the rule, these critics aren’t the rule’s fault. More that, as with everything, things are more grey scale and with the Amazon Prime era we live in, the headline gets grabbed, and the supporting information is largely forgotten about.

Increase distance by 10% per week quick maths:

Week 1 at 2km

Week 12 at 5.7km

Week 24 at 17.9km

Week 36 at 56.2km

Week 48 at 176.3km

Rounding off the year with a healthy 258.2 km, easy work – yeah right!

Time works out similarly, so when looking at increasing distance we need to use our own grey matter:

What do we want to work up to?

What are our time constraints?

Think of it like this:

I want to be able to run 5 km – use the 10% rule to work backwards, add in a few weeks of wiggle room and build up slowly creating the base level of fitness (Cardio basics) so when you get to the 5 km it’s enjoyable!

Once we get to the aim, we can then think about where we want to go – I’m thinking running the same distance faster or perhaps running further. Just continuously adding 10%, be it distance or time, ignores what is attainable for our body.

One more quick point here, if you were to run 2 x week, each run being 2 km, you could add a third run of 2 km which would be a 50% increase in both time and mileage, yet within the scope of what your body is used to – food for thought….

Hot takes from the 10% rule, use it as a guide to stopping overtraining, keeping distance or time in check and as a calculator for creating a plan for a distance goal.

Changing session volume.

When we think about increasing an activity, we also need to consider rest (and repair). Greater stresses will require, at the start, more recovery time.

So another solid approach is to increase the time we run for but allowing more rest between the activities, this also mixes very well with having some shorter and longer activities:

 Week 1Week 4Week 8Week 12
Day 12km2km2km3.5km
Day 2    
Day 3 2km2km2km
Day 42km   
Day 5 2km4km5km

Pacing for each would be different, as we would need to allow our bodies to get used to the longer distances.

Speed work/Hill work/Intervals.

Going to pop these two together as this is long already!

Speedwork, this can be either faster shorter runs, bursts of speed – arguably interval work, but that’s a discussion for another day!

Hill work, as it says on the tin – run up a hill and mosey back on down, the key to this one is using the down to recover before going back up again, and again…. Oh and also start with a smaller hill and 2-3 sets before using something like the 10% rule to increase!

Interval work, this could easily be a whole write-up by itself, super simple time:

Note – these follow a warm up.

On/off – fast pace for a distance/time followed by a slower one to recover repeating

e.g. 4 minutes at a comfortable pace followed by 2 minutes of harder effort (around 80-85% effort or in normal terms being able to say one or two words).

Sprints – basically following the same philosophy as above, however, the sprints are kept to a much short time span of around 10-30 seconds, with adequate recovery time, when starting out think about 10 seconds and recovery being when you are ready to go again rather than a given time window.

There are many others and even more variations available.

So hopefully that’s given a good overview of how to increase distance, and some ways we can adapt the workouts to help with performance, which we’ll drop by next week.

If you would like some assistance with increasing distance in your workouts speak to Team SF, email or call 07597215652