How Often And How Much Should We Run Each Week?
Are we running too much? Are we not running enough? How often and how much should new runners be running each week? These are all valid questions that all runners think about no matter if they are new to running or not. And the answer varies based on their goals.
Some people enjoy running every day. This might consist of one to three miles combined with weight lifting or a gym class or just by itself. Others aim for a short to mid-distance run at least three times a week. Yet others opt for short distances during the week and one day of the weekend dedicated to long distance.
All of these options are great—depending on what the runner’s goals are.
There are some who are training for a big race. This can be anything from a 5k to a marathon. And these mileage needs differ. However, there still needs to be a consistent running schedule in place in order to reach that specific goal. There are people who just enjoy the activity and run for a run because they love it, it helps them reduce their stress and is a way to be happy and active. They might not have any goals besides staying generally active. Then there are also who are looking to lose weight and improve their overall health and fitness. While they aren’t training for a race per se, they still should get at least 30 to 45 minutes of physical activity per day to meet this goal.
We are breaking down the mileage and frequency of weekly runs based on specific goals.
Getting Fit And Healthy
Many people get their toes wet in the world of running because they want to lose weight, get fit and healthy.
To lose weight, the person needs to burn more calories than they consume. The amount of calories thus miles needed to run depends on the person’s age, sex, weight, height, fitness level, and their speed. In general, the runner can burn about 100 calories when running a 12-minute mile.
Keep in mind the runner has to burn 3,500 calories to lose a single pound. This is the equivalent to very long distance. Most half marathoners burn 1,000 and more during their 13.1-mile run. So don’t expect to run a mile and lose weight. However, this translates to running five miles per day to lose a pound per week. And newbies might overtrain and experience issues like shin splints from doing too much too fast.
Instead, focus on reaching the American Heart Association’s recommendation of 150 minutes of moderate activity per week combines with at least two days per week of muscle strengthening activity like weight lifting. Combine this with healthy and mindful eating to help lose unwanted weight, improve overall fitness and feel more healthy.
Training For A Race
The amount of miles needed to train for a race depends on that specific race distance. Running training programs are most often 12 weeks in length. While some are shorter or longer (depending on fitness level), 12 weeks gives the body enough time to adjust to the mileage and build endurance.
5K Weekly Mileage
When training for a 5k, the runner starts with 1.5 miles three times a week, with 30 minutes of walking or running for their “long run.” This increases over the weeks, with weekly mileage adding up to 5.5 to 6 miles plus the long run that is up to an hour by the time the program ends.
No matter the distance training for, the runner also needs at least one rest day and the other days should be dedicated to cross or strength training. This includes taking a spin class, swimming, walking, yoga or weight lifting. Rest is needed to let the muscles recovery, to avoid overuse and potential injuries. This is true no matter the runner’s goal.
10K Weekly Mileage
A 10k race is 6.2 miles. Generally, the first week consists of two rest days, a 2.5-mile run, a 2-mile run, 30 minutes of cross training, 40 minutes of cross-training and a 3 mile run on that “long run” day. The weekly mileage stays the same until about the 4th week, although the long run increases by half a mile to a mile. The week before the race, the runner has 5.5 miles to run for their long run. Weekly mileage is about 10.5 miles at its peak before race week.
Half Marathon Weekly Mileage
The first week of half marathon training includes a 3-mile run, 2-mile run or cross training, 3-mile run, 30 minutes cross training and a 4 mile run for the “long run.” The weekly mileage increases by a half a mile to a mile, with the long runs increase a mile about every week. The difference with half marathon and marathon training is there are times to taper. This means cutting the mileage back to let the body recover. About six weeks in the runner is asked to do a 5k for their long run weekend. This is a great way to work in speed, not distance. Later on, a 10k is suggested as well. Plans differ but tapering is usually done two weeks before race day. Some plans have the runner completing up to 12 and 13 miles during their long runs. Other plans only go as high as 10. Weekly mileage can be anywhere from 19 to 25 miles depending on the training plan at the peak of training.
Marathon Weekly Mileage
Some marathon plans are as long as 18 weeks to properly get the body used to the mileage. The first week the runner can be completed as much as 15 miles. By about the 8-week mark, it’s recommended to complete a half marathon. The follow week, the mileage is cut down a bit to recover but still is about 24 miles in total. The mileage increases as the plan progresses, with the big runs being the 18 and 20 miles. These are often the most difficult ones to get through. But once these are completed, running a marathon is absolutely possible. Once that 20 miler is finished, it’s time to taper with the long runs being about 12 miles then 8 miles the following week before the marathon. The week of the marathon still calls for running, but about 9 miles over the course of three different days.
Goal Is Just To Run
If a person has a goal just to run, their weekly mileage can be set by them. Those looking to get started for the first time, back from an injury, post-baby or run again after taking a break should consider a couch to 5k training program. The runner doesn’t need to sign up for a 5k, although it serves as a great goal to work towards. Couch to 5k programs has the person able to run 3.1 miles gradually by using the run/walk method. It’s recommended to run/walk three times a week.
Those who have been running for a while, and just want to keep up with their fitness should run weekly mileage that feels good to them. This could be short runs during the week and a mid-distance to long run every so often on a weekend. Those more experienced runners won’t lose their fitness if they take off a day or a few. Just keep running when feeling up to it.
It’s important to know when our bodies need a break. This prevents injury and keeps our passion in the sport alive. This is especially so when the runner is always racing and training for the next big race. Sometimes it feels good to put the brakes on aggressive goals like distance and speed and just run to run. A good suggestion is to make the day after a long run a rest day. During the week sneak in a rest day or opt for yoga so that the person isn’t running back to back mid-distance days.
- How Many Miles Should I Run a Day to Lose Weight?, Health Website ,
- American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults and Kids, Health Organization ,
- 5K Training, Running Website ,