How much should you run? A beginner’s guide to appropriate mileage
Knowing exactly how much to run is something that all runners, beginners and veterans alike ponder. Depending on your past experiences, your present circumstances and your future goals, the amount of mileage one runs will vary substantially from one runner to another, and at different times of the year. Your mileage should also be flexible. Think if it as a target range rather than a concrete number.
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Whether your goal is to increase your fitness, stay injury-free or train to complete a specific race distance, the amount you should run will vary. Knowing how much to run, how often, for how long, and how hard requires a mostly individual approach but here we share some insight to help you determine how much mileage is right for you.
25-50K over 3-4 days
For most people, running three or four days a week is the sweet spot that can provide all the health and fitness benefits one desires including increased cardiovascular fitness, weight loss and muscular strength. Running this much is also relatively low risk and allows a full rest day in between running days which reduces the risk of injury and is time that can be spent on other activities, hobbies and responsibilities.
Running this amount is also suitable for those training for their first or possibly their fastest 5 or 10K race. To do so, be sure to include one or two speed sessions whereby you run intervals, hills, tempo or a fartlek-style workout as well as a weekly long run.
Sample week: Monday OFF; Tuesday 6-12K SPEED; Wednesday OFF; Thursday 6-12K TEMPO; Friday OFF; Saturday 6-10K EASY or OFF; Sunday 10-16K LONG
50-75K over 4-5 days
Those looking to increase their fitness even further and those training specifically for distances up to the half-marathon will likely fall into this range. Running up to five times a week means you’ll want to carefully consider where and when you schedule your rest days in order to maximize recovery and be ready for harder efforts. We recommend taking your few days off before and after your hardest workouts. You’ll also want to increase your mileage gradually over time and generally aim to obey the 10 per cent rule, whereby you don’t increase your total running mileage by more than 10 per cent from one week to another.
If you’re training for a particular race, you’ll definitely want to include at least one weekly speed session (intervals, tempo, hills, etc.) and a long run. All other runs should be relatively short and done at an easy/comfortable pace.
Sample week: Monday OFF; Tuesday 10-12K SPEED; Wednesday 8-12K EASY; Thursday 10-16K TEMPO; Friday OFF; Saturday 6-10K EASY or OFF; Sunday 16-25K LONG
75-100K over 5-6 days
Veteran runners looking to optimize their fitness, achieve specific race and performance goals as well as those training for the marathon will probably find themselves in this category. It will likely take several months, maybe years, before one is able to sustain this type of mileage. With few days to fully rest and an increased risk of injury, recovery comes in the form of very easy runs spaced out between harder sessions. As overall mileage increases, the intensity of one’s runs may need to decrease to balance the risk of injury. In some cases, an increase in mileage in absence of any harder runs or workouts can still produce significant improvements to performance.
Sample week: Monday 8-12K EASY or OFF; Tuesday 10-15K SPEED; Wednesday 8-12K EASY; Thursday 12-16K TEMPO; Friday 8-12K EASY or OFF; Saturday 8-12K EASY; Sunday 20-30K LONG
100+K over 6-7 days
Usually reserved for the most serious runners who aim to maximize their performances and compete for top overall and age-group places at races, running up to every day of the week carries serious and obvious risks and should not be undertaken lightly. When running this much, most runs should be very easy in order to help the body rest and recover for the week’s hardest speed sessions and long runs. A word of caution that all runners have a personal “tipping point” whereby further increases in mileage no longer afford training benefits. Discovering your own upper end of running mileage will take some trial and error. Always back off at the first sign of injury or issue and be sure to listen to your body if it’s tired, sore or needs extra rest. In some cases, running twice in one day, called “doubling,” is an effective way to incease mileage while also allowing more time to rest. Also consider scaling back your total training volume about once every three or four weeks to give your body a break.
Sample week: Monday 10-15K EASY; Tuesday 10-20K SPEED; Wednesday 10-15K EASY; Thursday 12-20K TEMPO; Friday 10-15K EASY; Saturday 10-15K EASY or OFF; Sunday 25-35K LONG