Are You Running Too Much?

Before you increase your run volume, ask yourself if you fall into any of these categories.




Many triathletes, whether getting ready to face their first IRONMAN race or seventh, still don't know how much running to do to prepare for the grueling marathon following the 2.4-mile swim and 112-mile bike. I see a lot of athletes running way too many miles a week for their level of ability, which results in injury or, in the best case scenario, feeling slow and tired on race day.

You can't rush fitness. You can't start running two hours when the longest run you've done prior was just 45 minutes. Increasing volume slowly, and letting your body adapt to the volume while maintaining day-in-day-out consistency, will give you way more of a gain than a few long runs here and there.

An athlete's biggest concern should always be to get to the start line of every race healthy and injury free. The majority of the injuries I see are caused by running, usually from inappropriate volume, intensity, poor mechanics, wrong shoe choice and/or excessive pounding from running on concrete or pavement.

Here, I'll address inappropriate volume, which I see as the biggest problem (and the one with the easiest solution) among triathletes. So, before you head out the door on your next long run, please read on for the keys to smart run volume management.

Body type. If you're a heavy, tall or very muscular athlete, the impact your body will have when contacting the ground is much greater than the impact a 90-pound Kenyan runner deals with. The eccentric load on your quads and calves caused by the landing, added to the load on your joints, is much greater for heavier athletes. This causes more damage to the body and impairs recovery time. This can lead to lost training consistency (or frequency of workouts) as you become too sore to train the next day. In short, the heavier, taller, or more muscular you are, the less volume you can run.

I have my athletes do a test run progression, beginning with 90 minutes and increasing 10 minutes every week. The goal is to track the joint pain level and muscle recovery. If an athlete runs two hours and has sore joints for three days, then the volume is too much for their body's current ability.