Runners love numbers. From cadence to pace to heart rate, we eat up the data like we eat up the miles. But one number runners really tend to focus on is mileage. We get the disease of more until that disease gets us sick or injured.
So, how can we tell how much running is too much?
While there is no magic number for what runners should run (because every body is different), there are signs that tell you what is too much.
In this article we get with running experts to uncover:
- Is it better to run more?
- How much running is too much?
- How many miles should you run a day?
- How much do I need to run to run faster?
- Are there mileage recommendations for different levels or runners?
- Is quality of running more important than quantity of running?
- What is overtraining syndrome?
- How much running is too much? The 14 signs.
Ready to find out how much running is too much?
Let’s get into it!
Is it better to run more?
The more you run, the better you will get. Running is a sport rooted in consistency. That’s because the greater the demand, the greater the adaptation in your body.
The more you run, the denser your capillaries and mitochondria will become—making you more energy efficient—and the more efficient your body will move, etc.
“All these adaptations can be thought of as the body’s attempt to cope with the demands placed on it by running every day,” says certified running coach and author of the bestseller Running a Marathon for Dummies Jason Karp.
How much running is too much?
But you can run too much. Like with anything, more is not always better. Most runners will see improvements in their running by running more, up to a point. And there is no research to indicate exactly how much running is too much— it varies from runner to runner.
“The answer depends on a number of factors, including athletes’ genetically determined propensity to continually adapt to greater amounts of running and the amount of running they can physically and psychologically handle,” says Karp.
Generally speaking, a runner running 30 miles per week will see improvements gradually increasing their mileage up to 60 miles per week (increasing by 10 percent per week with a reduction in miles every fourth week). If a runner is still seeing running performance gains at 60 miles per week, there is no need to increase mileage to 70 miles per week.
“Runners may get faster by running more as long as their bodies and minds can handle it,” says Karp. “While running more than 70 miles per week may improve economy, it also
comes with an increased injury risk.”
Running experts believe that the maximum training volume humans can undertake before breaking down lies between 75 and 120 miles per week.
How many miles should you run a day?
Runners can know what mileage they should run by paying attention to their bodies, minds, and schedule.
Everybody and every BODY is different. Thus, mileage goals for different distances or even goal times will vary based on background, schedule, training response, and ability.
The key is increasing mileage in a systematic, methodical approach to increasing his or her mileage.
For example, a beginner runner who has never run before can start with 2-3 days per week, 30 seconds at a time while other beginner runners can run a few miles at a time. A beginner needs to find their comfortable starting point and gradually increase from there.
Related: Is the 10% Rule a Valid Way to Safely Increase Mileage
How much do I need to run a week to get faster?
Karp and Norris agree, you will get faster if you increase mileage in a safe way:
If you build from 15 miles per week to 25, from 30 miles per week to 40, and even from 40 miles per week to 50, you will find yourself becoming a faster, stronger runner. But that does not mean every runner will thrive under 50 miles per week.
Norris advises runners to think about time spent running instead of mileage since the body doesn’t know what mileage you are running but it does know the time spent running.
“Depending on how well trained you are, 75-90 minutes should be the cap of a daily run – whether you run 6 or 12 miles in that time. A midweek workout can be slightly long and then a long run with 25-30 percent of weekly mileage.”
How much running is too much? “If a mileage requires more than 90+ min run most days, it’s too high of mileage,” she explains.
Are there mileage recommendations for different levels of runners?
There are no standard mileage recommendations for runners to run to achieve specific goals.
Therefore, you cannot say assume that if you run 50 miles per week, you will be able to break 4 hours in the marathon, for example. Some runners may be able to run a BQ with 40 miles per week while others can need to run 70 miles per week to run a Boston Qualifying time. Some will never run a BQ regardless of how many miles per week they run.
“Each runner will have a ‘sweet spot’ of mileage at which he or she runs at his or her best and doesn’t get injured,” explains Karp. “Some runners get injured at 30 miles per week, while others get injured at 100 miles per week.”
Also, just because you may be training for a shorter distance like a 5k, doesn’t mean you should run significantly less than someone training for a marathon as the physiological adaptations that occur with more mileage help runners at any distance.
Is quality of running more important than quantity?
Running more will make you faster up to a point. But you cannot forget about quality over quantity, notes Karp, who is currently training elites in Kenya.
“While most runners and coaches agree that training volume is important, training intensity is even more important in improving fitness and performance, especially in highly trained runners,” he says.
Research has shown that a high training intensity is vital for maximizing cardiovascular improvement and that VO2 max and other physiological variables can continue to improve with the inclusion of high-intensity training.
“Given that training volume will impact training intensity, the better question may not be how much mileage is necessary or enough, but how much running is too much to sacrifice intensity,” notes Karp.
Thus, if you aren’t feeling energized or recovered enough to do hard workouts, your mileage may be too high (even if you aren’t injured).
Related: Is Overtraining Actually Just Undereating? Here’s The Compelling New Evidence
What factors help me determine how much running is too much per week?
Runners can determine how much running is too much by paying attention to how their bodies feel. Ask yourself questions like:
- Am I feeling fresh and recovered by my next run?
- Do I have aches and pains?
- Am I feeling sluggish on my runs?
- Am I battling injuries or illness?
Runner should also pay attention to their mindset:
- Am I looking forward to running or dreading it?
- Am I enjoying the process?
- Am I feeling motivated to run?
Finally, runners should look at how much time they have to run:
- Can I realistically maintain my current weekly mileage?
- Do I have time to do my supplemental training?
- Do I have time and energy to run speedwork and quality training?
If you find yourself feeling tired or unmotivated, you could have what is called Overtraining Syndrome.
What is overtraining syndrome?
Overtraining syndrome, or OTS, is characterized by a prolonged and unexplained decrease in sports performance and fatigue and is usually associated with severe psychological manifestations.
Research findings indicate OTS “appears to be a maladapted response to excessive exercise without adequate rest, resulting in perturbations of multiple body systems (neurologic, endocrinologic, immunologic) coupled with mood changes.”
This means that if you are running too much and your recovery isn’t keeping up, you will experience physical and mental issues.
Related: Common Signs of Overtraining Syndrome
how much running is too much? Here are 14 signs
Here are 14 warning signs you are running too much:
- You aren’t hungry.
- You have a low sex drive.
- Your performance is declining or plateauing, despite training hard.
- You’re unusually fatigued.
- You feel sluggish in workouts.
- You’re having a tough time sleeping.
- You aren’t feeling recovered before your next run.
- You’re irritable.
- Your resting heart rate is elevated by 3-5 beats more than usual.
- You’re getting sick frequently.
- You’re getting injured frequently.
- You have aches and pains.
- You feel unmotivated or burnt-out on training.
- You’re having a hard time focusing.
If you are experiencing any of these signs, it is time to reduce your mileage or take a running break.
Let us help you improve your running performance and take the guesswork out of mileage goals! Check out our half-marathon and marathon resources.