Whether you are a novice runner or looking to take your training routine to the next level, a common question is, “How many miles should you run a week?” In other words, you want to know how much training volume (mileage and frequency) is right for you.
Having an understanding of how much you should run, how often, and how far are all important components for determining the best weekly running program for your needs. This article will dive into the factors you need to consider and how to structure your weekly training.
10 Considerations for Training Mileage
The following ten factors will influence choosing the right number of miles per week.
1. How Long Have You Been Running?
If you’re new to running, don’t jump in with lots of mileage right away. You need to build up slowly. Start by following a beginner program for at least a few months to allow your body to adapt. In general, you’ll be running two to four times per week.
On the other hand, if you’ve been running for a while, you may be able to increase your mileage more quickly with the proper guidance. You’ll likely be able to run on most days of the week and for longer.
2. What’s Your Goal?
Runners can have a wide range of goals in mind, including:
- Training for a race
- Stress relief
- Pure enjoyment
- Building endurance
- Reducing the risk of health conditions
- Weight loss
Different running goals will involve different types and amounts of weekly mileage. For example, training for a 5K race will involve more speed work than training to build endurance. And training for fun or stress relief can be much more flexible than a structured training regime that gets you to race day. It’s important to note that running itself is not a sustainable way to lose weight; it needs to be combined with strength training and high-intensity training variables.
3. What’s Your Fitness Level?
Your current fitness level is important when deciding how much you should run each week. It’s important to assess your current running ability and base your goals on that starting point.
If you’ve recently taken a long break from exercise or were sick, you may need to start at a lower mileage. Whereas, if you were already active doing other activities (dance, biking, swimming, etc.), you’d likely be able to adjust to more running mileage quicker.
4. What Injuries Have You Sustained (Or Are At Risk for Developing)?
Like anything related to the human body, choosing mileage is important for striking a balance. You want to challenge yourself without putting yourself at unnecessary risk for an injury due to overuse.
You’ll want to consider any injuries you’ve had in the past and how they may influence your mileage. For example, if you suffer from occasional knee pain, you may need to take it easier with long runs or up your strength training and cross-training activities.
Additionally, you might be at risk for certain running injuries based on your body type, biomechanics, overall health, or stride and gait. For example, if you’re a heel striker with tight calves, you’ll need to pay extra attention to stretching and strength work. Or if you have hyperflexible joints you may need to focus on strength, proper form, and stride to reduce the risk of injury.
6. How Much Time Do You Have?
Logistically, you’ll want to consider how much time, energy, and commitment you have to run. This includes other activities like work, hobbies, social vents, and family that might interfere with your training.
If you don’t have a lot of free time or are already committed to other activities, you may need to scale back on your mileage. Running at least three days a week is generally recommended for beginners, but two days a week of running plus strength training may be more feasible for those with limited time.
7. How Does Your Schedule Vary from Week to Week?
If your work or family commitments vary from week to week, you’ll need to adjust your mileage accordingly. You don’t want to get burned out by running the same mileage every week. And if you’re unable to stick to your regular running schedule due to a time crunch, it’s important to be flexible and adjust accordingly.
8. What Type of Running Are You Doing?
There are several different styles of running you may be participating in (that we’ll cover in more depth later). These include long runs, training runs, tempo runs (speed work), and races.
The level of intensity you bring to your running mileage will vary with each type of run, and not all running miles are created equal. Generally, higher-intensity running will require less mileage to build some of the same health benefits. Whereas, if you want to run more mileage, you’ll want to lower your intensity to ensure you can keep it up sustainably.
External factors such as temperature, terrain, elevation, fatigue, and hydration can also influence each run and mileage tolerance. For example, running on a hot day may require reducing your mileage or taking more walk breaks.
9. What Kind of Races Do You Want To Run?
Different types of races require different levels of training, so it’s important to consider what kind of races you want to do and plan your mileage accordingly. (See specific recommendations below in the next section).
10. How Old Are You?
Finally, age can also influence how much mileage you should be running. Generally, runners over the age of 40 may need to scale back on total miles and focus more on cross-training and recovery due to age-related changes in the body. With each decade of life, a balanced running routine becomes important for maximizing energy and reducing injury risk.
On the other hand, if you are younger, you may have greater potential for higher mileage because of your youth and energy. However, age is just a number, and 40 is quite young! Remember your age as you set goals and build your running mileage.
How Many Miles Should You Run A Week?
Now that you know what to consider, let’s cover some general guidelines based on your running goals. Remember, these are just starting points and should be adjusted for your individual needs.
Starting slowly and gradually increasing your mileage is best if you’re a beginner. A good rule of thumb is to add no more than 10% of your total mileage each week (for any level of runner). For most runners, starting with three runs per week at two-to-four miles per run is a reasonable place to begin.
Overall, the goal is to hit a total weekly mileage of ten to twelve miles. Then, the mileage can slowly go up from there. At first, you may need to walk some of your mileage, and that’s okay. Gradually increase how much time you spend running as you can tolerate it.
Running for Good Health
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), individuals must participate in 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise weekly. This makes it easy for numbers for a runner wanting to boost their health: 30 minutes of jogging five times per week or 25 minutes of faster-paced running three times per week.
When the goal is good health, there’s no need to set up a specific mileage goal- unless you want to in order to stay motivated!
Running a 5k
To train for a 5k, the goal should be to reach three-to-five miles per run with three runs per week. As you get closer to the race, then increase the mileage and intensity of your training runs. You’ll likely want to add one more running day to your training program as you get closer to race day, too, with a goal of fifteen to twenty-five total miles per week.
Running a 10k or Half Marathon
If you want to run a 10K or half marathon, your goal should be twenty to forty miles weekly. Your longer runs should reach eight miles two weeks before the race and close to 10 miles the week before race day.
How you break up the other miles into your week will depend on whether you want to focus primarily on pace or mileage (or a combo of both).
Running a Marathon
If you’re training for a marathon, then thirty to fifty miles (or more) per week is the goal. Your long runs should reach sixteen to eighteen miles two weeks before race day and twenty to twenty-two miles in the final week of your taper.
Again, break up other runs based on what type of running you want to focus on, which helps you feel prepared for race day.
What’s the Best Way to Reach Your Weekly Mileage?
To hit your weekly mileage numbers, you’ll likely want to incorporate a mix of different styles of running that help you reach your end goal. These include:
- Training runs: These runs focus on a comfortable pace to build weekly mileage sustainably.
- Tempo runs: These runs focus on getting the body comfortable at a calculated pace. If you have a specific time goal in mind for a race, calculate the pace and start training at the tempo for shorter runs to get your body used to that pace.
- Long runs: Most runners save long runs for the weekend when they have more time. The focus is to build endurance and tolerance, and typically involved 20 to 30% of total weekly mileage. At first, long runs may require a mix of walking. The goal is to build the body’s tolerance for total race mileage and time.
Tips for Reaching Your Weekly Mileage
No matter what running stage you are in or your goals, you should know where to start now. Here are a few more tips to maximize your weekly mileage and training schedule.
- Be consistent. It’s much more important to stay consistent with your running schedule than try to up the mileage each week. You’ll likely find that increasing too quickly results in injury or burnout.
- Mix it up. Running the same route every day can become monotonous and make you less likely to reach your weekly goal. Try different routes, terrains, and surfaces for a variety.
- Slow your pace and focus on the mileage. If you’re struggling with hitting your mileage goals, you may be running at too fast of a pace. Try setting a slower pace that you can sustain for a longer time and mileage.
- Consider how much time you truly have. Do you actually have the capacity to run more miles? If not, take advantage of your time and focus on building your pace, intensity, and endurance within your window of time.
- Don’t forget about recovery. Make sure you’re giving your body enough time to recover between runs. Quality sleep, good nutrition, proper hydration, and stretching are all important for reaching your running goals.
- Supplement with complimentary training and cross-training. Swimming, biking, and other forms of cardio can help you stay in shape while giving your running legs a break. Plus, strength training is vital to building your muscles and reaching your running goals.
- Don’t for to enjoy it. Yes, running is hard work and takes dedication, but don’t forget to have fun with it! Choose routes that bring you joy, and find a running buddy to keep you motivated. If you hate your training program, it won’t be sustainable.
- Track your progress. Use a running app or log to chart your progress, which can help you stay on track with your goals and motivate you to keep going. Plus, you’ll have the satisfaction of seeing your progress as you reach each milestone.
What Mileage is Right for You?
After reading this article, the answer should be clear: it depends. Consider each factor and set up a mileage goal that works for your goals, experience level, and body. Don’t forget that you can always adjust as needed, and remember to listen to your body. With careful planning, dedication, and consistency, you’ll be able to reach your weekly mileage in no time. Good luck!