Whether you are a seasoned runner with years of experience, or a complete newcomer to running, it’s tough to find the right balance when it comes to mileage.
We are constantly trying to run enough miles to reach our goals, but not so many that we risk burnout, fatigue or the dreaded tipping point where injury becomes inevitable.
How many miles you should run per week depends on many factors, including most importantly: your current fitness levels, your training plan (are you working towards a specific race?), and your body’s current physical limitations. While a novice runner should be delighted with 5 to 6 miles per week, a marathon runner needs to be targeting anywhere from 35-60 miles per week.
And don’t even get us started on the requirements of an ultramarathon runner!
Knowing how many miles you should be running can be rather tricky.
You definitely want to improve as quickly and sustainably as possible, but you also don’t want to injure yourself. Let’s dig a little deeper and see if we can find the right mileage for your current needs.
- Factors Affecting How Many Miles You Should Run
- How Much Should I Run Per Week?
- Tips To Start Running and Remain Consistent
- Setting A Weekly Mileage Target
Factors Affecting How Many Miles You Should Run
A few things affect how long you can (and should) run. Here are the main considerations:
Although we often see countless older individuals putting in the work and getting their mileage done, those runs are more taxing on their older bodies. As you age, your body becomes less capable of enduring the physical stress of strenuous long runs.
Therefore, the distance you cover may decrease. As an older individual, your starting mileage may be less than that of a younger person, which is completely normal.
See more: our guide to start running after 40
Current Fitness Level
It goes without saying the fitter you are, the longer and faster you’ll be able to run. If you’ve been running for a few months, you’ll run further than a new runner.
If you pair your running with other forms of cardio fitness, such as cycling and sprinting, this can help your fitness too. The less fit you are, the less you can (and should) run.
As we said, if you are an experienced runner, you can run a greater distance than a newbie. This goes beyond simply having stamina and endurance.
As you become a more experienced runner, you’ll notice that running is more complex than just moving your body. Your warm-up, running gear, breathing, strength training, and running technique affect your mileage.
Your schedule dictates how long your run can be. If you’d like to run 4 miles but only have 20 minutes available, you will have to adjust your distance.
One of the best ways to remain consistent is to ensure you have enough time to complete your workout without sacrificing other important aspects of your life.
Previous Injuries and Physical Vulnerabilities
Your target mileage should limit your exposure to potential injuries, not increase it. A history of injuries or physical vulnerabilities, such as tendon strains or weak ankles, will also impact your mileage.
Many runners want to get back to running as soon as possible after an injury and make the mistake of doing too much too soon. Start small so your body can gradually adjust and build a strong foundation for you to thrive.
As the saying goes, “to each their own.” Most of us have different running preferences. You may enjoy long runs and the scenery that comes with them, while others prefer shorter, more explosive runs without a worry for the environment. Both are effective, depending on your fitness goals.
As you may have guessed, the intensity of your workout also dictates how much you will run. If you jog for 2 miles, you will not be as worn out as if you stride hard for 2 miles. High-intensity runs, such as interval and tempo runs, will wear you out significantly more than a comfortable jog.
On an easy run day, you may be able to cover 6 miles before you feel tired, whereas an interval run of 4 miles may get you to the same exhaustion level.
Your Weekly Training Schedule
Remember that your run forms part of your weekly workout schedule and should not be considered on its own. Of course, if you’re training for a race or to improve your fitness level for a sport, you should give 100% every day.
But you shouldn’t do this at the expense of your physical well-being or other strengthening exercises. The length and intensity of your run should be in harmony with the rest of your weekly workouts.
Your Fitness Goals
Knowing why you are running and what you want to achieve will be one of the leading factors affecting how much you should run.
- Are you running to enjoy the blood pumping through your body and the scenery?
- Are you running to improve your overall mobility and stamina?
- Are you running to run a specific race, and what distance is that race?
Generally speaking, those running for recreation and general fitness won’t run as long and hard as those training for specific races.
How Much Should I Run Per Week?
So, as we’ve seen, many factors determine how often and far you should run. But based on your experience level and purpose, we have a few general guidelines below.
To Improve Your General Health
To improve your health, you should aim to complete an easy to moderate 30-minute jog four to five times per week. These are normally around 3 miles per day.
Alternatively, you can run more intensely (interval or tempo runs) for 25 minutes three times a week. These workouts boil down to approximately 2 to 4 miles per day.
When paired with a healthy diet, running is an amazing exercise to lose weight, burn off the belly fat, and improve self-confidence. However, you’ll have to start slowly and steadily to see results. Start by walk-running 1 mile and slowly build it up to 3 miles.
Start small. Your initial goal should be to consider how your body reacts to your first runs. Start with 1 to 3 miles. After a few runs, you can start including activities to improve your running, such as training your core and legs to improve your balance and make your running more efficient.
The range you should maintain to run a faster 5k should be between 2 to 3 miles a day, five days per week. You should increase the intensity of two of the runs, incorporating intervals or fartlek sessions. One of your runs should be a “long” run of about 3 to 6 miles.
If you are a new runner looking to master the 5K, consider the famous Couch to 5K training plan. It’s a great way to gradually increase your mileage in a safe way.
When training for a 10k race, your daily mileage will vary quite a bit. For example, you can run a daily mileage of 2 to 4 miles but include a significantly longer run per week. Your long run should be between 4 to 6 miles.
You should aim to achieve a weekly mileage of between 20 to 30 miles. This can be broken down into daily runs of 3 to 5 miles and a long weekly run of 7 to 10 miles. If you are only available to run on certain days, you can adjust your daily mileage but still achieve your weekly mileage.
Marathon runners generally tend to have a specialized training plan that works best for them. On average, marathon runners aim for a total weekly mileage of 35 to 60 miles while doing 6 to 10 miles per day.
Tips To Start Running and Remain Consistent
So, you now know how much mileage you should be aiming to build up to. Next, you need to get started. Here are tips to keep in mind when you start running and how to stay consistent.
Increase your Mileage Gradually
Slow and steady finishes the race – this especially applies to remaining consistent. If you remain consistent, you’ll reach a point when you start looking forward to your runs. Running will become like second nature, but to get to this point, you shouldn’t overwhelm yourself when building your aerobic base.
Don’t look at the other runners leaping around like antelope in the bushveld at an insane pace and compare yourself to them. You should gradually increase your mileage, focus on your running form, and build long, lean muscles in your strength workouts to support your running.
Wear The Correct Gear
Gear can make or break your run… or you. If you don’t wear the correct running shoes, you risk injuring yourself or having a very uncomfortable experience. Not all trainers are made the same.
Some shoes are meant to improve mobility on a certain surface. Running shoes are specifically designed to improve balance and speed, absorb impact, and reduce the strain on your knees, shins, and feet.
Wearing appropriate running clothes can also impact your run. The last thing you want is to overheat or freeze in the clothes you wear while running. Ensure the only thing bringing you any discomfort is the run, which you’ll be killing!
Always Warm Up and Cool Down
We want to avoid injuries as much as we possibly can. One of the first steps to avoid getting injured is warming up and cooling down.
Before starting your run, get your blood pumping and wake up your muscles with some dynamic stretches. Do a gentle 15-minute warm-up as a brisk walk or gentle jog. Afterward, cool down with a 10-minute jog or walk.
It’ll take a bit of trial and error to figure out the warm-up and cool-down method and length that works best for your body. Some runners warm up for 20 to 25 minutes, and others find 10 minutes suits them well.
Don’t Get In Your Head
The first thing to figure out on your running journey is a method that allows you to enjoy the process and not see running as a chore. If you prefer being social while exercising, invite some friends. Do you prefer exercising in solitude, using the time to center yourself? Grab your AirPods and some music or a podcast. Remember that you are working to improve yourself, and that’s all that matters.
Find An Accountability Buddy
Running alone can sometimes be lonely, and having no one to hold you accountable means the draw of the couch and Netflix can sometimes be too strong. Knowing that nobody is watching makes it easier to skip a few days.
When you initially start running, you won’t have a love for it yet, and remaining consistent may be difficult. An accountability buddy will help you remain consistent and keep you motivated and challenged.
Thousands of apps help you track your progress and keep records of your progress and achievements. Sometimes, looking back on your 5k time from a few months ago compared to now gives you a boost and reminds you of how far you’ve come.
Many apps also help set a training plan based on your metrics. This can be a good way to determine how many miles you should run per week.
Celebrate Your Achievements
You should celebrate your achievements as much as you can. Running is so much more than just moving your body. For many of us, running helps us deal with our anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. While running can also be a great way to maintain a healthy weight or control other health issues like diabetes or cholesterol.
No matter why you are running, celebrate that you are running. It is a massive privilege to have a body that can walk, run, and move. Celebrate every step. Showing up is worth celebrating, so pat yourself on the back every now and then.
Get Enough Sleep
You can only use the energy you have available. Ensuring that you sleep sufficiently will set the tone for your runs. When your body is deprived of sleep, it can’t recover from the previous day’s activities and recover for the new day.
Studies found that sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of injury and several chronic health conditions, including diabetes, obesity, stroke, high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney disease, and depression.
Ensure that you get at least 7 hours of high-quality sleep per night.
Adjust Your Diet to Your Running
Eating well is a fundamental element of running. A well-balanced diet will power your muscles during your runs and contribute to your muscle growth.
Limiting the amount of ‘bad’ fats you consume will improve your heart’s health. A healthy heart can pump more blood and oxygen to your muscles.
Most runners opt for a diet high in protein, “good fats,” and carbs while limiting foods with sugar or sugar substitutes.
Rest Days Are Crucial
The drive to achieve your goals as quickly as possible can be overwhelming. Because of this, you may want to run every day of the week, month, and year. That is not healthy or sustainable.
It’s also one of the reasons we advocate setting weekly mileage targets instead of daily targets.
Your muscles need rest. There is a very fine line between forcing your worn-out muscles to endure more exercise to ‘push yourself’ at the end of a session and completely destroying yourself. Once you cross that line, you will likely injure yourself.
It is okay to rest. It is healthy to rest.
Rest and recovery are vital to your performance and success as a runner. When we run, we push our muscles, which creates small tears that need to heal. When you give your body time to repair and recover, these tears make the muscles stronger. If you don’t, these tears can accumulate and lead to injuries, strains, and sprains.
Setting A Weekly Mileage Target
The number of miles you should run in a week is based on your experience level, goals, fitness level, and many other factors.
Find the right balance between what you want (goals) and what you need (recovery). You should ensure you’re never pushing too hard. Professionals know when to take breaks and that these breaks make them stronger, not weaker.
As we said earlier – slow and steady finishes the race. And that’s the goal. Keep track of your progress to keep you motivated and to monitor that you aren’t overdoing it. With dedication, consistency, and a positive mindset, you’ll be able to achieve your goals while enjoying the numerous physical and mental benefits you gain from running.