One of the benefits of a training schedule is that it takes the daily guesswork and decision-making out of the equation. Questions like, “How many miles should I run a day?”, “At what pace should I run?”, and “Should I do a structured workout or a distance run?” are eliminated because exactly what workout you should do every day is already decided.
However, not every runner enjoys following a structured training program. You might prefer the flexibility to run according to your schedule and how your body feels.
You might have zero interest in running a race and just want to know how many miles you should run a day for general health or weight loss.
Or you might find the rigid nature and perceived expectations of a training schedule detract from your enjoyment of running and make you feel stressed.
In such cases where you’re not following the instructions of a training schedule or running coach, it’s common to wonder, “How many miles should I run a day?” In this guide, we’re going to do our best to answer that very question.
We’re going to look at:
- Factors That Affect How Many Miles Per Day You Should Run
- So, How Many Miles Should I Run A Day?
- How to Adjust Your Mileage
Let’s jump in!
Factors That Affect How Many Miles Per Day You Should Run
Ultimately, when people ask, “How many miles should I run a day?”, they are looking for their target daily mileage to tick two boxes. It should be enough to help them achieve their fitness goals while simultaneously not too much so as to increase the risk of overtraining or injury.
While there are are likely countless factors that can potentially come into play when determining how many miles per day you should run, the following ones are typically the most important considerations:
Your Running Experience
It should go without saying that your running experience level will play a role in how many miles you should run a day.
In addition to the cardiovascular adaptations that must occur when you take up running, your bones, muscles, joints, and connective tissues need time to adapt to the impact, forces, and metabolic demands of running.
Your Current Fitness Level
Although they may seem similar, your current fitness level and your experience level with running are actually two distinct factors that can independently impact your ideal daily running mileage.
For example, you might be brand new to running, but coming from a robust workout program with other regular exercise like cycling, rowing, swimming, or soccer, you can probably handle longer runs per day than someone who hasn’t been working out at all.
On the other hand, even if you’re an experienced runner who’s been participating in the sport for years, you will want to run fewer miles per day than your years in the sport might otherwise suggest if you have recently been sidelined with an injury, illness, pregnancy, or busy lifestyle because of a likely drop in fitness level.
Your Running and Fitness Goals
How many miles you should run per day is largely based on your fitness goals. Why are you running? Are you training for a race? If so, what is the distance of the race? In general, longer races necessitate longer training runs, and higher daily mileage.
How many miles a day you should run clearly is guided by your goals.
Your Schedule and Availability
Of course, your schedule and availability to run can fully dictate how many miles you can run a day. You may only have a certain block of time, and your workout will be limited to this window of opportunity.
Running should add to the quality of your life, but try not to let a high-mileage training schedule take over your life and add even more stress to a busy schedule.
Your Overall Training Program
When deciding how many miles a day you should run, you’ll want to think of each day in the greater context of the entire week. For example, are you running five or six days a week, or more like two or three?
You’ll be spreading your target weekly mileage over the number of days per week you plan to run, so you can calculate the average daily mileage.
For example, if you want to run 30 miles per week and will be running five days a week, your average daily mileage should be six miles, but if you only have four days to run, this volume bumps up to 7.5 miles a day.
Your Injury History and Risk
Your injury history and general injury risk level have a significant impact on how many miles a day you should run because the limits of target mileage are primarily aimed at minimizing the risk of injury.
Runners with current injuries or niggles, as well as those with a history of numerous or repetitive bouts of overuse injuries, will want to err on the conservative side with daily mileage and consider supplementing with cross-training.
This can be achieved by either running fewer days per week (cross-training on off days) or running fewer miles per day and adding cross-training before or after the short run.
Workout Intensity and Structure
The intensity of your workout also feeds into the wear and tear on your body as well as the benefits to be gained. High-quality mileage, like a threshold run, intervals, hills, or race pace miles will advance your performance and tax your body more than an easy recovery run.
As such, the actual mileage on a hard workout day may be lower than an easy or moderate aerobic run.
Although the adage, “Age is just in number” is true in many ways, in general, the older you get, the less physical stress your body can handle and the lower your daily running mileage should be.
Your Workout Preferences
Some runners prefer to run longer runs and others enjoy shorter runs. Either is perfectly valid, and one approach may be more appropriate for your fitness and running goals.
So, How Many Miles Should I Run a Day?
Given the breadth of running research and advice out there, it may be surprising that there are no definitive answers to how many miles a day you should run.
However, as can be seen from our non-exhaustive list of factors that can impact how many miles a day you should run, determining your ideal running volume is often best answered on a case-by-case basis.
Most of the running mileage guidelines that exist are presented for weekly mileage goals, yet it’s possible to adjust those recommendations for daily targets. Here are some general guidelines for runners to follow:
Run/walks should be kept to 20-30 minutes or 2-3 miles of combined running and walking as you gain fitness.
For Those Running for Overall Health and Disease Risk Reduction
If you are primarily running for general health and to reduce your risk of lifestyle diseases rather than to race, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults should accrue a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise.
These guidelines can be thought of as easy jogging for 30 minutes five days per week or running more intensely for 25 minutes three days per week, which might work out to running 2-4 miles a day.
For the 5k
If you are an average runner training for the 5k, you might run an average of 3-7 miles a day depending on how many days a week you run. Elite runners will likely run more.
For the 10k
The typical weekly mileage for average runners training for the 10k is 20-30 miles per week, so a daily mileage of 4-8 is reasonable with a weekly long run closer to 10-12 miles.
For the Half Marathon
The average weekly mileage for an average runner training for the half marathon usually falls in the ballpark of 30-40 miles, so running 5-9 miles a day, with a long run of up to 15 miles or so is expected, depending on the number of days you run.
For the Marathon
The range of weekly mileage for marathon runners is varied, but tends to hover in the 35-60 miles a week range, and most runners average about 6-10 miles per day.
How to Adjust Your Mileage
The dynamic interplay of all the factors that can affect how many miles a day you should run is evidence enough that your daily mileage targets will be ever-changing as your circumstances change.
See what feels best for your body, works best with your lifestyle, and leads to the performance improvements you’re looking for without causing undue fatigue, injury, or physical or emotional stress.
Remember, running should be an enjoyable and rewarding part of your life and just getting out there and getting miles in is a wonderful investment in yourself and your health. Even if you fall short of your mileage goals, you’re still gaining so much from the sport.
If you are still asking yourself, how many miles should I run a day, check out our very own training plans for some guidance: