Experts Answer: How Many Miles Should I Run A Day?

If you’re a new runner, there’s a good chance you’ve searched for the answer to “how many miles do I run per day?” only to get an array of different answers every time. A good training plan takes the guesswork out of daily training distances. To make a long story short: there’s no magic formula for determining how many miles you should run every day. However, there are a few important factors that you should consider when coming up with your daily and weekly mileage within a training program.

In this post, we’ll take a look at some factors to consider when determining your mileage – while reducing the risk of running into an injury.

Which Factors Affect How Many Miles You Should Run Each Day?

How many miles should I run a day comes down to ten different factors like age, fitness, and experience.

When it comes to running, it’s essential to strike a balance between going too hard and not running far enough. Specifying an exact mileage to achieve a specific goal is an impossible goal. Is it better to run a 5 mile run on Wednesdays? How about your long run on Saturday or Sunday?

What’s more important is to understand and incorporate the factors that affect how many miles you should run daily to increase the probability of achieving your running goals while avoiding injury.

Here’s the factors you’ll be incorporating in to determine your daily miles run:

  • Your previous running experience
  • Your current fitness level
  • Tracking and fitness goals
  • Your schedule
  • Injury history and risk
  • The intensity and structure of your workouts
  • Your age
  • Your personal preferences

Let’s dive into each one.

Running Experience

Your running experience is the first factor to consider when deciding how many miles to run each day.

Beginners should start slow. Slow both in the training pace per mile and in increasing daily mileage. For beginners, it’s most important to focus on building a running base. Base training is focused in gradually increasing your aerobic capacity and increasing muscular stamina.

If you consider yourself more of an experienced runner, you’ll be able to handle a higher volume of mileage more quickly.

If, for example, you ran on the high school track team and haven’t run since. Consider yourself a “beginner,” for training purposes.

Whether a beginner or experienced runner, you should always follow the 10% Rule. The 10% Rule says that you should not increase you week’s mileage more than 10% of last weeks. If you ran 20 miles last week, you should not exceed 22 this week.

Current Fitness Level

Your current fitness level is essential in determining your daily mileage. Those who are in good shape physically will be able to run more miles than those who are not.

That sounds pretty obvious, but what if you don’t know your current fitness level?

One metric you can use is to calculate your maximum heart rate. To find your maximum heart rate (MHR), subtract your age from 220. This number represents the highest number of heartbeats per minute that your heart should achieve during exercise. You should be trying to keep 80% of your weekly miles in an easy zone (also known as Zone 2, or around 60 to 70% of your HR max). The other 20% should be in Zones 3-5.

In general, if you can sustain Zone 2 cardio for 40-60 minutes, that’s a good indicator of high overall fitness and you can run your miles on the higher side of the spectrum.

Training and Fitness Goals

Your training and running goal plays one of the most significant roles in how many miles you should run each day.

If your goal is to train for a marathon, for example, you’d ideally need around 20 weeks to increase your mileage gradually enough to hit 20 to 22 miles four weeks before your marathon date (The last four weeks of your training will be a taper).

However, if you’re running to stay healthy. A daily run of two or three miles may be all you need to see weight loss, mood changes, and overall health improvements.

Your Schedule

Schedule is another factor that can impact your ideal daily running mileage.

Your running training doesn’t exist in a bubble. To give you an example, if you need to run 8 miles as part of your training plan and you’ve been running at 10 minutes per mile – you’ll be committing to over 2 hours of training when you factor in warm up, cool down, and breaks.

With some marathon and half marathon training plans, many 8 mile runs come on weekdays.

Finding time for longer runs may be challenging. You may need to consider a training program built around time training, as opposed to distance run. Consider a training app like Runna that specializes in customizable training plans.

Injury History and Risk

Injury history and risk are crucial factors to consider when deciding how many miles to run each day.

If you have a history of lower body injuries, you’ll need to consult a physician before increasing your mileage according to a training plan.

The most important part of staying injury free is strength training. Strength training allows muscles to stabilize with non-complex low-impact movements. Running is a complex high-impact movement.

The more exercises you perform to strengthen your glutes (think, squats, lunges, and clamshells), the more your glutes will support your running form even when fatigued.

Pay a visit to a physical therapist for specific exercises to treat your own injury risk areas.

The Intensity and Structure of Your Workouts

Running at a higher intensity is difficult to exactly define. For example, in every training plan, there are long runs. Log runs are meant to be conducted at Zone 2 heart rate. Zone 2 is another way of saying “run it at a conversational pace.” If you spend too much time in Zone 3 and 4 during your long run, it’s not necessarily the end of your running career.

Instead, be mindful of how frequently you do intervals, speed, or tempo running. If you’re incorporating speed work, reduce your mileage to avoid overtraining.

Longer, slower runs contribute more to aerobic and physical fitness for beginner endurance runners.

Your Age

As we age, our muscles gradually lose their strength and flexibility. We may take longer to warm up, and our muscles may tire more easily. Running can put additional stress on joints, while muscles and ligaments may become more susceptible to injury. After the age of 40, you may experience a slower recovery phase after physical activity, which increases the risk of overuse injuries.

One of the most significant changes that occur in our body as we age is a decrease in muscle mass and strength. This decline is known as sarcopenia and affects slow-twitch muscle fibers responsible for endurance. Slow-twitch fibers support our body during long-distance running, and a loss of these fibers makes running more challenging.

Studies show that individuals lose around 3-5% of their muscle mass each decade after their thirties. To counter the impact of sarcopenia, which leads to reduced muscle function, regular running, and other forms of exercise are recommended.

In addition to muscle mass, our bones also lose density and strength with age. Osteopenia and osteoporosis are conditions that affect the density of bones, resulting in increased fragility and fracture risks. Running can benefit bone health and slow down the rate of bone loss, but care must be taken, and proper shoes with cushioning and stable support should be used.

Personal Preferences

The final factor worth incorporating are your general personal preferences. Do you enjoy running alone or with a running group? Are you an early morning runner or do you prefer to run after work? Trails or roads? These preferences impact the time of the day that might be ideal for your running – how much time available to run, and how many miles you can cover during the time.

The only way to keep running, is if you enjoy it. Create a routine that suits your style.

If you’re asking yourself, “how many miles a day should I run?” be sure to keep all these factors in mind.

General Recommendations for Running Mileage

When determining how many miles should I run, determine your end goal at the beginning!

Here are some general recommendations for running mileage that will help you start strong, stay healthy, and improve your performance.

New Runners

If you are a new runner, start with walking and gradually build up to running.

Consider the approach popularized by running coach Jeff Galloway – the Run-Walk-Run Method which combines running and walking into the same training session.

Begin with training oriented around timing. 20 to 30 minutes of running at a slow and steady pace is a good starting point.

Slow and steady pace is different for every runner. Aim for something that has your heart rate in Zone 1 (50-60% of your maximum heart rate).

After a few weeks of training, increase your running time to 45 to 60 minutes.

Listen to your body. Only increase if you feel no pain associated with your running form.

Running for Cardiovascular Health and Disease Risk Reduction

If you’re running for health reasons, there are studies that point to evidence that running consistently may improve heart health and reduce your risk of all-cause mortality.

The recommended running times to see these benefits are at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week, or 150 minutes a week.

This amount can break this down into runs as short as 15 to 20 minutes.

Mile Run

Racing a mile (running a mile at a fast pace) is a great goal for beginners and intermediate runners. To race a mile, you need to build up your endurance by running at a moderate pace for 20 to 30 minutes. This is just running – not racing – to prepare yourself for the demands of going all-out for the full mile.

Once you can run for 30 minutes, you can build in some speed work and additional mileage. To start, try to run a mile at your fastest pace. You can use a fitness tracker or even just a basic treadmill display to monitor your progress and set realistic goals.

How many miles should I run a day for a 5K?

The 5K is one of the shortest and most popular race distance in the United States.

With 5K training, the mileage expectation for an athlete is low as the race is only 3.1 miles.

The longest run you’ll often need to do in any 5K training is 5 miles. Popular training plans generally recommend training for about 4-8 weeks and starting your mileage at around 10 miles per week, broken up however you’d like, finishing with 30 or so miles per week for beginners. This can vary, though, with some plans calling for far more or far less mileage – just take a look at this training plan to get an idea.

Don’t forget to incorporate speed workouts, hill training, and rest days into whatever training plan you select.

If looking for a comprehensive 5K Improvement Plan, Runna is an award-winning app we recommend to all our athetes.

How many miles should I run a day for a 10K?

If you’re just starting your 10k training, the recommended training volume is three days per week. Beginner runners should mix walking with running to build up your endurance.

As is the case with the 5k, most 10k runners will start their training at a base level – usually 15 to 20 miles per week – and build up to 30 or 40 miles over the course of their training.

These training runs will also include speed workouts, hill training, and rest days, along with race-specific runs like tempo and threshold runs to get your body used to the demands of running a bit longer. Here are some sample training plans to give you an idea of what this might look like.

How many miles should I run a day for a half marathon?

For those planning to take on a half marathon, most training plans have running mileage begin with between 10 to 15 miles per week and hit peak mileage of 30 to 40 miles per week.

Most training plans will have beginning runners train 4 days a week and more experienced runners between 5 and 6 days per week.

For half marathon training plans, our most popular training plans are for 10-Week Training, 12-Week Training, and 16-Week Training.

Longer training periods are suggested for beginner runners without base fitness.

For a more comprehensive and dynamic training plan, we recommend Runna’s half marathon plan. Readers receive 2 weeks free with code HALFMARATHON.

How many miles should I run a day for a marathon?

Marathon training requires commitment. Be prepared to put in a considerable amount of work.

At the peak of marathon training, plans will advise you run 40 to 60 miles per week, depending on the specific training plan and the goal completion time of your marathon.

This means running a minimum of around seven hours every week not inclusive of recovery like foam rolling, warm ups and cool downs.

What’s unique about marathon (and ultramarathon) training is that you won’t run the full distance in training (for some people, this is true for half marathon and 10k distances as well, but it applies to just about everyone who runs over 26.2 miles in a race).

Once you run longer than a couple of hours, as the marathon and ultramarathon distances demand, your body’s physiological processes are impacted and it takes longer to recover and replenish glycogen stores.

How many miles should I run a day for an ultramarathon?

An ultramarathon is any race over the distance of a marathon (26.2 miles).

These races require comprehensive training plans and an enormous amount of endurance to complete as well as a regular commitment to nutrition and fueling.

Depending on the length of your race, some ultramarathons can be 50 miles and others 100, you’ll need a training plan that’s tailored directly for your distance and fitness level.

One common ultramarathon training necessity that you won’t find in other training plans – long runs on back-to-back days.

How to Enjoy the Benefits of Running Without Overtraining

Runner with a hat against a desert landscape on a long distance run.

Running is good for your health. It activates endorphins, strengthens your heart and muscles, and is linked to longevity.

The foundation of every training plan is – how many miles should I run a day? If you don’t master this, runners risk injury and a lifetime on the running sidelines.

Regardless of which distance you’re training for or how many miles you choose to run, here are some tips to keep in mind.

How to Increase Your Weekly Mileage Slowly

The 10% Rule is the best rule of thumb when it comes to increasing your mileage. But, it’s not the same for every type of distance runner. Some experienced runners increase their weekly mileage by a higher percentage, such as 15% or even 20%.

Slow increase in mileage is designed to prevent overtraining and injury.

Follow the 10% rule for the first few months of training. During this time, invest into your recovery, nutrition, and sleep. If you find that your body can handle the daily mileage increase without injury, you may consider increasing at a higher rate.

Don’t Skip Rest Days

All too often, training is focused on days run. But, muscles actually recover during the rest period where fibers grow back stronger to handle the stress.

Sleep and recovery are key components of fitness, and without rest, your body won’t have the chance to repair itself after a run.

If you find after training session you’re still not recovering fully, invest into recovery products like foam rollers and recovery slides. Focusing on recover dramatically reduces your risk of injury.

Cut Back Weeks

Another tool runners can add to their arsenal when building up mileage is adding in a cut-back week.

Cut-back weeks typically occur every three to four weeks of training. They involve deliberately dialing back the high intensity and duration of runs for recovery.

Switch a tempo run to an easy run and decrease your weekly mileage from the previous week’s by 15% to 30%.

Remember Your Mental Health

When running long-distance turns from enjoyable to consuming, it’s time to reassess. Pay attention to mental fatigue like depressed mood, irritability, and decreased appetite. These can be signs of burnout. If this occurs, take a step back, and refocus on the positive aspects of running or take a few days off.

Add a Warm Up and Cool Down

Warming up is crucial to prevent injury to your muscles. Running warm ups traditionally are either dynamic stretching or running at a pace 2 to 3 minutes slower than your training pace.

Get the Right Running Shoes

Not all sneakers were created equal.

Before you hit the pavement, make sure to get proper running shoes that suit our foot type and provide the necessary support and cushioning. When in doubt, visit a specialty running store and have them fit you the proper shoe for your shoe shape and running form.

Incorporate Cross-Training to Lower Injury Risk

It is easy for runners to ignore cross-training. They think that running is enough, but it’s not. Running puts stress on the same muscles repetitively and causes all kinds of issues like muscle strain, shin splints, fractures, and more. Cross training can help mitigate injury and overuse injuries.

Cross-training can include activities such as yoga, biking, swimming, strength training, or another form of exercise, which strengthens different muscles. When done safely, cross-training can improve your running form, increase overall strength, and allow you to take a break from running.

Focus on Good Nutrition

Nourish your body well. The basics of nutrition are simple: eat carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats. Avoid processed foods. Drink water

Mastering the nutrition is harder. 12 to 24 hours before runs, consume carbohydrates to create glycogen reserves your body will use during the exercise. After the run, consume protein for muscle recovery.

Drink water before, during, and after your run.

Consider Working With a Running Coach or A Running App

If you’re new to running or just not sure how to push yourself without overtraining, consider working with a running coach or personal trainer. They will guide you and teach you how to run with proper form, how to increase your speed, endurance, and strength without overtraining.

If you don’t have the resources for a trainer, look into our recommended training app Runna. Runna is like having a coach in your pocket with customized training plans and live feedback from coaches. Get 2-weeks free with code HALFMARATHON.

How many miles should I run a day? What’s the average?

There’s truly no magic number when it comes to figuring out how many miles to run. There’s no average because it depends on all the factors in this article.

Everyone’s running needs are different, and the ideal number of miles to run will vary depending on your schedule, personal fitness, injury history, and much more.

Take some time to evaluate these factors and find the fitness routine that works best for you.

Remember, taking it slow and listening to your body is always better than pushing too hard too fast. Get laced up, hit the pavement, and run at your own personal best.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many miles should I run a day to stay healthy?

The answer depends on several factors, including your current fitness level, age, sex, and weight. In general, the American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week, which translates to about 30 minutes a day, five days a week.

How many miles should I run a week to lose weight?

It’s not about the number of miles you run but rather the quality of your workouts. If you’re interested in weight loss, you need to focus on burning calories and creating a caloric deficit.

Should I stop running if I want to gain muscle?

Running is an excellent way to build endurance and cardiovascular health, but it’s not the enemy of muscle gain. In fact, running can complement your strength workouts by helping to increase blood flow to your muscles and aid in recovery.

How many miles should I run a day to build endurance?

Start with a distance that feels comfortable, and gradually build up by no more than 10% per week. You can also incorporate interval training, hill repeats, and tempo runs to challenge your body in different ways.

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