If you are at the point where you can comfortably run 1-2 miles at one time at least 3 times per week, then you are probably thinking of building running endurance. To build endurance, you need to have a strong heart, lungs and muscles – all of which are gradually built up to have more endurance. For cardiovascular health, your heart should beat in your target heart range for 20-30 minutes per day. A simple formula to find your target heart rate is “0.8 x (220-your age)”.
Example: If you are 40 years old, then “0.8 x (220-40)” = 144 beats per minute.
When you start running, your heart takes about 10 minutes to get comfortable with you actually running, so the first 10 minutes of your run is just a warm up and does not count towards your 20-30 minutes of target heart rate activity. I am a huge proponent of starting runs slowly and after the first mile getting into your standard pace. If you regularly run a 10 minute mile, then you will run your first mile at an 11-12 minute pace. If you jump out of the gate at a 9-10 minute pace, then the rest of your run will be extremely uncomfortable. As a reminder, you should be able to EASILY carry on a conversation when you are out for a run.
Now this is the important part for people who want to up their mileage – the secret is pacing. I’m going to use the example of a standard 10 minute mile runner who can run 2 miles comfortably at this pace. This person should slow down their pace to 10:30-11:00 minutes per mile and gradually increase mileage by ½ a mile per run per week – please see the chart below for mileage increase.
In this example, if you are running 6.0 miles per week in Week 1, you can run 11-12 miles per week by the end of Week 4. I am also a big fan of GPS based watches which make it extremely easy to track your pace while you are running. Others download APPS for their smartphones which also show pacing data. A GPS watch or smart phone is definitely a luxury and not a necessity, but they can make tracking your pace much more fun! Good luck and keep on running.