People take up running for different reasons: to lose weight, to lower stress, to stay in shape, to improve athletic performance, you name it.
Regardless of running goals, determining your weekly mileage is key to your success. Even if you’re running for recreation, putting a little thought into how many miles per week you’re running can mean the difference between reaching your goals or winding up with an injury or burnout.
However, figuring out weekly volume is easier said than done. There’s no one-size-fits-all formula for how many miles week to run.
It depends on your injury history, training goals, training background, current health, training environment—to name a few.
So, how can I offer you sound advice about your training mileage without knowing the intricacies of your specific situation?
Easy. Let’s stick to the basics. Let’s make fitness level and training goals the main reference point. The guidelines shared below will help you determine how many miles you should run every week.
If you’re a beginner or preparing for your first 5K
As a beginner, start slow and build it up gradually and slowly.
If you are prepping for your first 5K, you might start with a minimum of five to eight miles per week, broken into three sessions. As you get stronger and fitter, increase it to 10.
If that seems like too much from the get-go, don’t worry. I would recommend that you establish a proper walking routine first, then transition to a run/walk routine, where you alternate intervals of jogging and running.
For instance, you can do two minutes of jogging, followed by a minute of walking, then repeat the cycle for 30 minutes.
Check my in-depth post about the walk-run method here.
Returning to Running after a Layoff
If you already have a running background –returning to running after a long layoff, for instance—or are in pretty good shape, then feel free to be more aggressive with your first few sessions.
Shoot for three to four miles at an easy pace. Just like a newbie, you’ll want to make sure not to push your body beyond its comfort level.
Keep your pace easy and comfortable, and stop before you’re really tired. Otherwise, if you push your body too much, you’ll likely be sore. No need to make things hard on yourself.
If you’re training for a 10K
The 10K—or 6.2 miles—is a very popular distance among beginner runners, especially those who have finished the 5K race.
To get started with a 10K training program, you should at least have a total weekly mileage base of roughly 10 to 12 miles—with your longest run at about 5 miles—for at least a month. Mos 10K training plans for beginners preach running 15 miles per week—over at least three runs.
However, if you’re a complete beginner with no previous running experience, use this couch to 10K training schedule to help cross that finish line. The plan assumes that you can already walk comfortably for one hour at a brisk pace.
If you’re preparing for a Half Marathon
When gearing up for a half marathon, it’s best to gradually increase your training load over three months following the 10 percent rule each week.
Make it a goal to cover 20 to 25 miles each week. And don’t forget to add a long run per week, which you’ll likely do on the weekend.
As a rule, the long run should make up roughly 20 to 30 percent of your weekly mileage. Perform it at a slow pace and eventually last almost as long as your goal race time. Think in terms of time on feet instead of miles covered.
If you’re gearing up for a marathon
If you’re preparing for a marathon, then clearly, you are going to need to run more miles than training for shorter distances.
The rule is, the longer the race, the more miles you’re going to need to log in per week.
Longer races call for more mileage, and more mileage requires more time on feet per week, focusing too much mileage in too few runs boost your injury risk.
For a marathon, shoot for 25 to 30 miles per week as a minimum.
Just remember to taper your training in the weeks before the big day, reducing your mileage and focusing more on recovery. That way, you make sure to reach peak performance during the race.
Of course, today’s post is by no means the ultimate guide to determining weekly mileage. As previously stated, many factors impact your training volume choice.
However, the guidelines shared here should get you started on the right foot. The rest is just details, as the saying goes.