New to running? Overwhelmed with all the info out there? Or are you getting back into it after a bit of a hiatus?
Either way, you’re probably wondering… How many miles should I run in a day?
Is there a limit? What’s too few? What happens if I push myself? The questions can pile up if you’re new to training regularly.
In this article, we’ll offer some sound advice on how much is enough, how to avoid overtraining, and how to structure your training according to your fitness levels and goals.
Whether you’re a complete beginner, a newish runner who wants to build endurance, or a relatively new runner planning on running a marathon, here’s the information you need to train safely and effectively.
How Far Should I Run a Day?
There’s no right or wrong answer for how far you should run per day. It depends on several different factors, such as:
If you’re completely new to running, you won’t be able to run as far as someone who already has running experience and has built up their running fitness.
You may need to walk or jog lightly in the beginning or alternate between the two. If your cardiovascular fitness is already good, you can run but keep the distance shorter so your muscles can get used to it.
On the other hand, if you’re not new to running but getting back into it after some time, start with lower mileage and increase it slowly until you’re at the same level you were before.
What are your running goals? Are you working towards a race or just running for weight loss and cardiovascular fitness?
If you’re training for a specific race, your mileage will vary depending on the race distance. But if you’re just running for enjoyment, exercise, and to shed some pounds, then mileage is not as important.
How much time do you have to run each day? If you can only fit in a 30-minute run every day in between work, family, and other responsibilities, then it makes sense for you to stick to a mileage that falls within that time frame.
Remember, the further you run, the longer it will take. As your cardio fitness increases, you will be able to run more miles in a shorter period of time.
Energy and Stress
If your energy levels are good, you’ll be able to run longer and further. But if you’re low on energy and high on stress, you’ll most likely find that you struggle to perform quite as well.
You may need to take this day by day. Some people may find that running is a great way to relieve stress, in which case you may find that running while stressed actually helps you to perform quite well.
But if, for example, you didn’t have great sleep the night before and you find yourself physically lacking energy, then it may be best to reduce your mileage and take it easy.
Do you have a history of injuries that may be aggravated by running? Some examples of injuries include ankle and foot injuries, knee injuries, hip and back injuries.
If you’re injury-prone, you should consider starting slowly and with a shorter distance and implementing an excellent recovery routine before you start to increase your mileage.
Your age can impact your cardiovascular fitness, your physical fitness, and your endurance. The older you are, the more slowly you should start and increase your miles.
Tips for Determining Daily and Weekly Running Mileage
Build A Strong Foundation
The best way to build a strong running base and increase your cardiovascular fitness is to include different types of runs in your routine. These include:
- Base run or steady run
- Recovery run
- Progression run
- Tempo run
- Interval run
- Hill repeats
- Long runs
Varying your types of runs will help you build endurance, improve your speed, and find your perfect sweet spot. This will help when it comes to increasing your mileage.
Take care to increase your mileage or your intensity slowly and carefully. A good rule of thumb is 5 to 10 percent every week.
For example, if you’re running 5 miles this week, increase by a quarter of a mile to half a mile the following week. If you increase by that amount every week, you will see steady improvement without risking injury due to overtraining.
Run At A Steady Pace
Your regular pace should be comfortable and easy, where you can still hold a conversation while you’re running.
As you get into different types of runs, you will find that you may have to put more intensity into some runs, while your recovery run will need to be even slower than your regular pace.
Weekly Running Plan
For complete beginners, it’s advisable to start with a run/walk plan to give your body the time and space to adapt to your new activity.
Start with 1 to 1.5 miles of alternating between jogging and walking. You should run for as long as you can before you feel you need to rest, then walk until you have caught your breath. Try not to stop and rest.
Build this up until you can run for 2 to 3 miles without stopping to walk. This should be around 1 to 2 months after you begin, if you run/walk 3 to 4 times a week.
You should also include some form of cross-training in your routine from the start. This will help build muscle and keep your fitness level up.
Here’s an example of a weekly running/walking plan for total beginners. You can adapt it to fit your schedule and your needs.
- Monday: 1 mile run/walk
- Tuesday: Rest
- Wednesday: 1.5 miles run/walk
- Thursday: Cross-training activity
- Friday: 1.5-mile run/walk
- Saturday: 3-mile long walk
- Sunday: Rest
New-ish Runners Focusing On Building Endurance
If endurance is your goal, then you should work on slightly longer distances. But make sure you have built a great running base and your cardiovascular fitness is good before aiming for this type of program.
We recommend running 3 to 5 days per week, with a total of 15 to 30 miles throughout the week. You should be focusing on distances of 3 to 8 miles.
For endurance, while you may be tempted to only do long runs, you should actually include a variety of different types of runs for the best results. You should also still include cross-training, but make sure to include at least one full rest day per week.
- Monday: 3 to 5-mile easy run
- Tuesday: 2 miles easy, 2 miles tempo, 2 miles easy
- Wednesday: Cross-training activity
- Thursday: 2 to 4 miles of hills or interval training
- Friday: 2 to 4 miles easy run
- Saturday: 5 to 8 miles long run
- Sunday: Rest
Newbies Aiming For a Half Marathon
If a half marathon is your goal, then you will need a more dynamic training plan than the ones above. You should be increasing your weekly mileage by 5 to 10 percent every week, and the ideal mileage for a half-marathon training is 10 to 15 miles a week.
It’s a good idea to include various runs, as in the endurance program above. But every week, you should be progressively increasing your long run until you can comfortably hit a half marathon distance.
You can find our comprehensive 20-week half marathon training plan at the bottom of this page!
Newbies Aiming For a Marathon
If a marathon is your primary goal, your fitness and endurance must be excellent. We recommend only aiming for this goal once you’ve got experience running 5k races, 10k races, and ideally, a few half-marathons.
You should be aiming for between 20 and 40 miles a week, and running 4 to 5 times a week. At this point, you will also need to be careful about fueling, as you will need some sustenance as you progress through the distance.
Can I Run Every Day?
We don’t advise running every day, especially for new runners or those getting back into it after a break. Your body needs time to rest in between activity, and depriving it of that time can put you at risk of injury and fatigue.
We suggest you alternate between one high mileage day, one low mileage day, and a rest day. Keep in mind that what counts as high mileage for you won’t necessarily be the same as someone else’s high mileage.
The only time we recommend running every day is if you’re running very short distances, which would give you ample time to rest in between.
Why Is Rest Important?
The body needs time to rest in between activities. If you don’t allow them enough rest, they won’t get back to their full potential.
Not only will you perform at a lower level thanks to your muscles not being recovered, but you’ll also open yourself up to injury.
When your body isn’t well-rested, you may find that your gait changes slightly. This can lead to excess strain on the feet, knees, hips, and back, which may leave you with tight muscles that cause pain.
In addition to taking rest days, you should make sure to get 7 to 8 hours of good sleep each night, as this is when the body rebuilds and repairs.
You should be resting for at least 2 or 3 days a week. At least one of those should be a full day of rest.
You can include one or two active rest days, which means you can do a different form of exercise like cycling, rowing, weight training, or anything else that isn’t running.
Warm Up & Cool Down
Warming up with dynamic stretching can help prime your muscles and joints for the exercise you’re about to do.
Cooling down with a walk or gentle stretching gives your body time to come down and stretches your muscles out.
Quality Over Quantity
Remember, it’s more beneficial to run three solid, steady miles and feel good about it than run six sloppy miles and fight your way through it.
You should be running pain-free, without struggling, and enjoying every mile. There should be an element of challenge, but focus on running quality miles over running more miles.