I get a lot of emails daily. One of the more common questions is about how to get faster, but another one of those is about how do I do as much as I do. It's so easy to look at someone who is doing so much more than you and wonder how in the world their body even handles it. I think about the way that my body handles a 50 mile week and I know that if I was going to try and a 100 mile week, my entire nervous system would be SHOT. When I began training for my half ironman, I was so frustrated because my times on my runs slowed down DRASTICALLY with all of my biking which is only to be expected, however I got that back.
There is no way that you can get faster on runs without first building a base of running. You have to get your entire nervous system used to running further before you can do distance faster. It's so important to build your base for injury prevention as well. Clearly, I can't really speak on avoiding those, but I do know what should be done.LOL!
I like to think about running and endurance training in the long long run and not just right now. If I think back to when I first started training for my first marathon in the summer of 2014, my body has come leaps and bounds since that time. It's so crazy because I remember every single day that I had a run, it was scary. I was loving every moment of it but I wasn't sure if I could complete it. I will never ever forget the first time that I did a 16 mile run which was by far the furthest that I had ever run (my furthest to that point I believe was 13). I got to 11, and I thought to myself that there was literally no way that I was going to make it to 16. I did but not without a lot of pain and misery and hating it. My body just was not prepared and I probably jumped up to that too quickly. I thought "how in the world am I going to run 26.2. It's impossible." It's not impossible. And neither is my goal to do 32 miles at the end of May). But, it took years of building it up.
Can you run an ultra without having ever run a 5k? Actually yes. Yes you can and even if you haven't trained for it. It's just going to be really painful. If you stay under your threshold pace, then you'll eventually get to the end if you don't end up with injury or your stomach revolting against you. However, if you are wanting to train appropriately for a race and do it to the best of your ability then it's going to take building up that base. My personal opinion is that you should just keep in shape for running at least a little, and then cycle through preparations for different races. For example, I probably will never go below 25 miles per week at this point (unless of course injury). I keep this base for sure, and then I build slowly when going into a race.
You might not be to the point and 25 miles per week sounds really far from what you can do. That's fine. That's me, and it's TOTALLY different for each person. Your goals may include running a 5K faster or even running a 5K at all. You have to start somewhere, and you have to start a plan and running at LEAST 3-4 times per week. Each week you can slowly inch up those miles and before you know it, you'll be running further than you ever imagined in your life. This weekend I did 13 miles and it honestly felt so easy. My body wasn't aching after. I wasn't sore. It was just a distance that isn't hard for me anymore. The first time that I did a half marathon, I didn't want to run for a month and my hips hurt so bad after that race. My body wasn't ready. I wasn't mentally ready.
You can't expect to go from nothing to ironman athlete overnight. I know that sounds like a "duh" moment, but that is the expectation for many so give yourself grace in that. It may take years for you or it may only take a few months but just give yourself time. It's also of note that even those that go from nothing to ironman athletes are not the same ironman athletes that they will be in a few years with a base of endurance under them. You get better every single year. You learn your body in new ways.
So, how can you put this into action? Obviously this depends on what level you are at, but just as a general rule, run 2-3 times during the week and these can be any distance that you are comfortable with from 1 mile to 5 miles or maybe even 6-8 if you are in season (obviously if you are training for a marathon you probably have a plan in place). On the weekends, you will have a long run and each week increase that long run by 1 mile. If you start at 3 miles then the next week do 4 then 5 then 6. And even if 6 sounds impossible now, if you allow yourself to go at a steady pace and sink into it, it's much more enjoyable than you could imagine...truly.
I think if you feel that you hate running and it feels awful, then that means that you need to slow down some. Don't worry about speed in the beginning. Just get the miles in, and then later work on speed work when the time is appropriate for that. And don't expect endurance overnight. Even with doing this for 2 years now, I still look forward to years from now when my body is even more sturdy and stable then it is now! :)