Get faster by increasing your training volume

When friend and ProRun colleague Koen ran a marathon in Rotterdam in 2 hours and 34 minutes last year, it attracted a lot of people to his Strava. Online, the necessary runners expressed their surprise that he had run this certainly not childish time with a training volume of around 70, 80 kilometers and maybe even 90 in the largest weeks. What about volume?

More performance through more kilometers

Of all the things a runner can do to improve performance, increasing training volume has the greatest impact. This has now been extensively researched and we know, for example, that the top among long-distance runners train about 30 to 35 kilometers more per week than their fellow athletes of about 70 years ago.

Of course there are many other factors that contribute to performance improvement. This can be found, for example, in how the athlete divides his training kilometers over different intensities, but also in what he eats or how well she sleeps. Material, periodization of the training load, intrinsic motivation, you name it. All topics that you sometimes see here at ProRun, but which we do not discuss here. Now about volume.

Patience is a virtue

Suppose you are used to running three times a week and you reach a total of 50 kilometers in such a week. You then get it into your head to want to run a marathon and you read an article somewhere about the training weeks of marathon toppers. They soon train 180, 190 kilometers a week. ‘Well, then I should definitely be heading towards the 80’, you might think. If you put that thought into practice, there is a good chance that you will be injured after about three weeks. The jump in volume has been too great.

Between those training weeks of around 50 and those of 80 there should be at least one and perhaps two steps. Patience is also a virtue here and that much patience is not even necessary, because even with such an intermediate step, a lot can be gained. After all, your body is used to a certain load and if you increase that load a bit, then there is already considerable profit to be made.

The fact that Koen could run so fast in Rotterdam had to do with a week size that was considerably higher than what he was used to in the years before. And also because he had added regular interval training to his training menu. As a result, he increased his aerobic capacity, his running economy and his ability to resist fatigue.

Increase the sense of your volume

It therefore makes sense to increase the volume – responsibly. But how do you do that? You could say there are two ways to do this. The first is making your workouts longer, the second is adding more workouts. That is roughly the way to add more volume. More relevant for most of us, however, is the steps in which you increase the weekly volume. You can add workouts per training cycle (for example, a marathon or half-marathon preparation) until you run six times a week. If your agenda and your body are not satisfied and your hunger for performance improvement has not yet been satisfied, then you can consider ‘double’. So one or two days a week to train twice. It is advisable to start this only after years of consistent running.

How do I increase my training volume?

If you want to increase your training volume, do so per training cycle. Count on at least 10 weeks for such a cycle. Then add no more than one kilometer or 15 kilometers per cycle to the ‘thickest’ week. So your biggest week in your last half-marathon preparation was 60 kilometers, then the biggest week in the next cycle may be 75 kilometers. Only do this if your body wasn’t already sputtering at those 60 kilometers a week. This way you can build responsibly.

The proportions within the training weeks remain the same with the different volumes. Roughly 80 percent of your workouts should be at an easy pace, 20 percent may be intensive.

The most important thing to remember is that everything is relative. If you just started running, you will win as much with a 40-kilometer week as a seasoned runner can win with a 120-kilometer week.

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