How many miles should you run each week?
Whether you’re a seasoned runner or a complete beginner, knowing how much to run is key.
Overdo it, and you risk injury.
Go too easy, and you hamper your progress.
Finding that perfect balance in between can be tough. Fortunately, we’re here to help.
In this article, we’re going to look at:
- How Much Should I Run When I Start Running?
- How Do I Increase My Distance?
- How Many Miles Should I Run Each Day?
- How Many Miles Should I Run Each Week?
- Advice and best practices for building a sustainable running process!
Let’s jump in!
How Much Should I Run When I Start Running?
So you’ve decided to pick up your running shoes and build a habit. Great!
Running is an excellent way to tone up, get in shape, boost your immune system, and keep your lungs and heart strong. Many runners will tell you that deciding to run regularly was the best thing they ever did for themselves.
It’s okay if you don’t know where to start. You don’t have to face this journey alone. You have the experience and knowledge of millions of runners before you to show you the way.
For those with no prior physical activity:
While it may be exciting, it’s best to start gradually. Hitting the road at a dead sprint for your first run can lead to injury and kill all that newfound motivation of yours.
For your very first time, we recommend just walking. Your body will tell you how well it can handle using these muscle groups. Pay attention to how your muscles feel going up steep hills. Watch for the stress on your joints as you descend.
If you’re not too sore the next day, add a bit of running for a run walk method. Keep it light! 10-30 seconds of jogging followed by 1-2 minutes of walking for 30 minutes will be a good start.
If that still feels good the day after, gradually increase the time you spend jogging while lowering the time walking. Keep making adjustments until you can jog continuously for 30 minutes.
For your first few runs, don’t focus too much on distance. Think of them as a gauge. You can start setting distance goals for yourself once you get comfortable raising your mileage safely.
If you do best with a hard distance goal, aim for somewhere between 1-3 miles. Pace yourself well, and stop if you become too fatigued. Ask a doctor if you have any concerns.
For those with an athletic background:
“How Many Miles Should I Run Each Week ?” – if you already have some athletic background, starting from scratch may be too easy for you, so try jogging for a mile.
Bump it up to 2-3 miles if that feels good and you can keep your breathing comfortable. Then wait, and see how your body does the next day.
Even if that still feels too simple, don’t push too hard right away. There may be muscles you are unused to using in your other activities that need to be strengthened. Keep in mind that sports or training programs have different demands on the body. Not all workouts are created equal.
Related: How To Develop a 5 Miles a Day Habit
How Do I Increase My Distance?
The most often used rule of thumb for building up your endurance and pushing your limits is the 10% Rule.
The 10% Rule states that you should increase your weekly mileage by no more than 10% each week. Jumping into a more intense workout in any field before your muscles are ready can easily lead to injury.
Plus, you want to be able to sustain this new habit of yours without burning out. Making new demands on your body when it’s ready should feel good – not leave you exhausted and out of energy. Though there are many great rules distance runners can follow, the 10% Rule is key.
If you’re just starting out, keep your mileage consistent for the first 2-3 weeks. Allow your body to adjust to running first. Then, you can build from there.
If you find the 10% Rule too hard on your body, aim instead for increasing your distance every second week. Customize your workout.
How Many Miles Should I Run Each Day?
The number of miles depends on your overall goals.
- Are you just looking for a good occasional cardio workout to go with your routine?
For people who want to run only as an addition, the rules are slightly different. You may have muscle tone, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the ones you’ve built are the ones best suited for running.
Say you do sports one day a week and swimming on other days, adding running into the mix where you have time. If you are only running one day a week, keep that in mind when you are pushing for further distance. Your muscles may not adapt to distance as quickly as someone running multiple times a week.
Go easy on yourself. Start at the beginner section of this article, and go from there.
Method also comes into play here. For cardio workouts, distance may not factor as much as intensity. Timed interval training with combinations of running and walking may be a better fit.
- Do you plan to make running your main form of exercise?
This means endurance should be your main goal. For basic fitness goals, the real question isn’t “how far should I run,” but “how long should I run?” Increase your cardio endurance using the 10% Rule mentioned earlier.
Using this, you will naturally find the pace and distance that feels most comfortable for you. Maybe at your current level, three miles a day is best. If you’re doing super well, ten miles might feel better. It all depends on you.
- Are you hoping to run a marathon?
This is where things start to get specific, and where the general 10% Rule starts to bend a bit.
If you’re shooting for a 5k, your distance goal each day will be very different than someone aiming for a full marathon. For these, you’ll want to have a plan to help you get to the finish line.
For many, running a marathon or even a 5K can seem impossible. Not true! With the right help, of course.
Take a 5k training plan, for example. Some days may focus on time, while others are length-based. The distance sections might go something like this:
Week One Distance Day: 1.5 miles
Week Two: 2 miles
Week Three: 3 miles
Week Four: 5K!
It seems simple, but it gets a whole lot more complicated once you start adding half-marathons and such into the mix. Be sure to have a specialized training plan to make sure you meet your milestones and finish strong.
How Many Miles Should I Run Each Week?
For now, it’s best to keep a buffer of space between running days. Give your muscles and joints time to heal. Rest is crucial.
2-3 days a week for 20-30 minutes is a great starting point. It gives you the recovery time you need while keeping your momentum going. Distance-wise, this would be around 2-4 miles. Avoid overextending yourself until you’ve built a solid foundation.
If you don’t want to be completely stagnant during your off days, we recommend adding some cross-training to your weekly workouts. Almost any type of cross-training will up your running game, though some are definitely better than others. Go ahead and explore what’s best for you.
Experienced runners can push their runs to five days a week if they find their bodies are up to the task. As always, listen to the signals your joints and muscles send you to know if you need to slow down or call it a day.
A 2019 collection of data from Strava put the average distance per run at 4.4 miles for men and 3.7 miles for women. This data was pulled from over 14 million logged runs.
Keep in mind these numbers are based on a pool of people who are active fitness app users, not the average person. If your own distances don’t match these numbers, it does not mean you’re behind.
Body type, height/weight, and underlying conditions are all important factors in determining the right pace and distance for you.
Overall Advice For All Running Levels
If there is one thing that you should take from this, it’s that even if you’re running a marathon, distance doesn’t matter as much as time.
Asking, “How many miles should I run each week” means you’re already on your way to success. Setting a distance goal for yourself can be a great way to feel accomplished. But the true measure of physical fitness will depend more on how long your body can sustain all that hard work you’re putting it through.
A person with a lean build may fly through three miles, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he or she is in better shape than the sturdier individual who just powered through two.
If you’re finding it difficult to increase your run time, don’t get discouraged. A study of over 55,000 people found that just 5-10 minutes of running per day:
- Adds to your lifespan
- Reduces risk of cardiovascular problems
- Reduces risk of health issues overall
You’re already helping yourself just by doing it, no matter how short the amount of time. Hang in there!
For those that want to get serious on their running journey, check out our library of FREE marathon training plans. They range from complete beginner fitness levels to the dedicated athletes. No matter where you are, there’s a plan for you.