How Long Should I Run Each Day? Tips on Distance and Duration

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Consistency is key to success in anything – the same is true for running. You’ve built a great habit if you’re running every day or at least multiple days per week. But it’s not always about how often you run. Sometimes it’s about how long you run.

So you’re probably wondering, “How long should I run each day to be a successful runner?” It’s a question without a specific answer because every runner is different.

Whether you want to lose weight, maintain your fitness, or train for a marathon, with a bit of knowledge, you can accurately estimate a running volume that works for you!

How Long Should You Run A Day?

The first question to ask is whether you track your runs by distance or time. “How long should I run each day?” refers to time. If you prefer to run by distance, you should find out how far you should run each day.

Time vs Distance

Both running for time and for distance are good ways to measure your runs. But depending on your schedule and what you are training for, one might be better than the other.

If you’re training for a race, like a marathon, it would make more sense to train by distance. This will ensure you’ve got the right fitness on race day.

On the other hand, if you’re running for general fitness, it might make more sense to run by time. Running by time makes it easier to fit your daily run into your schedule.

Whatever one you choose, multiple factors determine how far or how long you should run each day.

Factors Shaping Your Daily Run

How long or far you run every day will depend on several different factors.

What Are You Training For?

We all have different reasons for running. Often these change as our goals change, too. Some common reasons for running include:

  • Training for a marathon/half-marathon/10k/5k, etc
  • Desire to run faster
  • Getting healthy, strengthening your cardio fitness
  • Losing or maintaining weight

Each of these will have different amounts you should run on a daily basis.

Fitness Level

Your current fitness level affects how long you can run each day. If you’re a beginner or returning to activity after a long time off, you should stick to shorter runs as your body gains strength and stamina.

However, if you’re new to running but have a good base fitness level from other forms of cardio, like cycling, rowing, etc, you may be able to run for a little longer than the average beginner.

Risk of Injury and Injury History

Beginners are more prone to injury than experienced runners, so if you’re new to running, you’ll need to start with shorter times or distances to allow your body to get used to the movement and impact.

If you’re returning to running from an injury, you should be cautious and start with shorter runs to ease your body into it. As you gain strength, you can slowly increase your time or distance.

Training Plan

If you’re following a training plan, you’ll probably have a set distance or time to run each day, depending on the training plan.

If you’re following a general training plan without a specific event goal, you might not have set distances or times to run daily/week. But running might not be the only type of exercise you do.

Those who cross-train or do strength training might not want to run as long as those for whom running is the only form of exercise they do. Running for too long can lead to overuse injuries.

The right time/distance for you depends on your overall workout routine, which includes running and other exercises.

Daily Schedule

The less time you have in your daily schedule, the less you’ll be able to run. If your schedule is open-ended and flexible, you can run as far/long as you want to, within reason.

But if your lifestyle is busy and you don’t have much free time, you might be limited to short runs at specific times of the day so your training doesn’t interfere with your daily responsibilities.

Health Can Influence How Long You Run

If you have any pre-existing health condition, this will impact how long you can run. For example, a runner with asthma may need to start with shorter runs until his or her lungs gain some strength.

Consult your doctor before starting a running program if you have a chronic condition.

Tailoring Your Runs to Specific Goals

Once you’ve settled on a specific goal for your running, you can begin to structure your runs to help you get closer to that goal. It can be hard to choose just one goal to focus on, but trying to focus on two or more will reduce the effectiveness of your runs.

Running for Health and Fitness

Better health and fitness are among the biggest reasons people start running! The good news is that it is easy to understand how long you should run each day. The CDC and the American Heart Association provide clear guidelines.

  • 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week, or
  • 75 minutes of vigorous or high-intensity exercise per week

You can break that down depending on how many days per week you run. For example, if you run five days a week, you can do 30 minutes each day of moderate running. Or, 15 minutes of high-intensity speedwork 5 days a week or 25 minutes 3 days a week.

Training for a Half or Full Marathon

If you’re aiming to run a half or full marathon, you should follow a training plan. Ideally, it’s developed by a coach specifically for you, but a generic training plan that you can find online would also work.

Every training plan involves running 3 to 5 days a week, with one full rest day per week and one to two days of cross-training or strength training.

You won’t be running every day, and your mileage will depend on where you are in your training program. Your time/distance for each “running day” will also depend on your training plan.

The closer you get to the race, the higher your weekly mileage will be, except your final training week, during which you will be tapering; that is, reducing your mileage to give your body space to recover better.

Improving Speed: Interval Training and Tempo Runs

If getting faster is your primary goal, adding interval training and tempo runs into your training program is essential.

These runs are more high-intensity than longer, steady-state runs, so you’ll need to shorten the time you run to avoid overdoing it.

Remember that you won’t do tempo runs or intervals every run—once a week for each is sufficient. Speed is a patience game, so don’t be tempted to push yourself more than that, or you could face injury or burnout.

Running for Weight Loss

If you’re trying to lose weight, there’s no specific time frame or distance you should aim for. In this case, it’s more about making sure you burn more calories each day than you consume—that way, your body is forced to dig into its fat reserves for energy.

The longer you run, the more calories you’ll burn. But calorie burn also depends on intensity, so a shorter, more intense run can sometimes burn more calories than a longer, slower one.

However, if you run too much and don’t get enough rest, your body can turn on you! Your cortisol (stress hormone) levels can rise, increasing your appetite and making it harder to lose weight.

As a general rule of thumb, a 30 to 60-minute run 4 to 5 times a week, with one to two days of cross-training and one to two rest days is a good training program to follow.

If you maintain a calorie deficit—eating less than you burn every day—you should see steady weight loss over time.

If you feel like you’re stagnating, you’ll need to assess where the problem is—are you overeating? Running too little? Retaining water? Not sleeping enough? Don’t simply cut more calories—figure out the problem first.

Tips for Determining the Right Distance and Duration

Sound complicated? Don’t worry—here are some tips to help you find the sweet spot of time or distance for your runs.

Start Slowly

If you’re new to running or coming back after time off, start with a distance/time shorter than you think is necessary. For example, aim for just one or two miles or 15 to 20 minutes.

Once you’ve finished your run, assess it. Did it feel far too easy? Increase your time/distance next time. Did it feel tough? Reduce your time/distance or maintain it until it feels easy enough to increase.

Increase gradually over time—5 to 10 percent a week is a good rule of thumb, but don’t feel pressured to increase if you need more time at your current time or distance.

Set Realistic Goals

You already know that setting goals is the basis for understanding how long to run daily. The key is setting realistic goals that you can work your way up to and adjusting your goals over time so you keep improving.

Assess Progress

Every few weeks, consider how much closer you are to your goals. Are you making progress? Are you standing still? Or are you struggling to move forward?

Adjust Your Goals

Once you’ve assessed yourself honestly, adjust your goals. You might not need to change anything if you’re making significant progress. You might need a more challenging goal if your training feels too easy. But if you’re struggling, you might need to ease up and set a more realistic goal.

Incorporate a Variety of Runs

Mix longer, slower runs with shorter, faster runs to avoid boredom and monotony. This not only keeps things exciting and reduces your risk of injury, but it also gives you an excellent mix of speed-boosting workouts and endurance-building sessions.

Progressive Overload

Don’t allow yourself to dwell at a “comfortable” pace, time, or distance. Every run should challenge you, although you shouldn’t feel completely overwhelmed. Gradually increase your mileage or time every week to subtly progressively overload your body—it’s the best way to improve.

Quality Over Quantity

Rather do fewer excellent runs in the week than do more mediocre runs. Quality matters more than quantity, so get your head in the game and make sure you’re running with good form, pushing yourself a little out of your comfort zone, and making the most of every run.

Pace Awareness

You can up the pace in shorter runs, but try to keep it slower in long runs so you don’t fatigue early. You’ll develop a sense of good pacing the more you run, but pay attention to how fast you’re running so you can pace yourself properly.

Cross-Training

Consider doing cross-training once a week to give your “running muscles” a break. Cycling, swimming, rowing, and elliptical are all low-impact cardio options that you can incorporate to reduce the risk of overtraining.

Recovery and Rest Days

You should have at least one full rest day per week. You should also take steps to improve your recovery, like foam rolling, using compression gear, stretching, eating healthy, and getting enough sleep.

Listen to Your Body

Pay attention. You might be pushing yourself too hard if you’re struggling with aches, fatigue, or a lack of motivation. Listen to what your body’s trying to tell you and adjust your activity level accordingly.

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AUTHOR

Ben is an avid road and trail runner, and has completed multiple marathons and ultras. A former running store owner, he now shares his knowledge and experience writing these articles.