Setting Goals: How Many Miles Should I Run a Day?

Running is one of the most popular forms of aerobic exercise — and for a good reason. It releases endorphins, helps you stay in shape, supports your heart and lung health, and makes you feel great. If that’s not enough to convince you, maybe this will: some research showed that runners live approximately three years longer than non-runners.

If you’re new to running or looking to increase your activity, you may be wondering how many miles to run each day. Whilst the length and intensity of this exercise highly depend on individual factors, this article will discuss the appropriate mileage for beginner, intermediate, and advanced runners. We’ll also compare running for distance versus time, explore what happens if you run too much, and learn how to build a regular running habit.

How many miles should I run a day?

Running frequency and distance are both key as you build up your fitness. As a beginner, here are some tips to avoid injury or burnout:

  • Start small.
  • Factor in plenty of rest days.
  • Listen to your body.
  • Include low-impact cross-training in your training plan, such as yoga, swimming, or cycling.
  • Learn to get your breathing right while running.

Here, we’ll go through the ideal mileage and training frequency for beginner, intermediate, and advanced runners. These distances are recommendations only and will vary for each runner depending on your current fitness level, goals, and medical history. If you’re unsure whether running is safe for you due to a medical condition, speak to your doctor.

Beginners

As a beginner, aim for 2–3 miles each time you run. Gradually build up as your fitness improves, and aim to run 2–3 times per week. Your non-running days should be a mix of rest days and cross-training days to build well-rounded fitness and allow your body time to recover.

Intermediate runners

As you progress to an intermediate level, you can increase your mileage to 3–5 miles per run. Frequency can also increase to 3–4 runs per week, although it’s best to increase one thing at a time. Build up slowly and make time for rest days to avoid injury.

Advanced runners

Continue to increase your mileage as your fitness increases. Your running frequency and distance will vary widely depending on your goals. You can start to incorporate more advanced techniques and training styles to run faster and longer.

Can you run too much?

Yes, you can. Overtraining can be just as damaging to our health as not exercising at all. Most runners will see improvements in their running and health up to a point before the effects of overtraining start to kick in.

The point where training becomes overtraining is different for everyone — our bodies are all unique. Running has pros and cons, but many cons can be avoided if you take rest when you need it.

What happens if you run too much?

Overtraining may lead to several side effects, including:

  • You’re more irritable than normal
  • Your performance is going downhill despite training hard
  • You’re getting sick more often
  • You’re losing your appetite
  • You’re getting injured more often — shin splints and stress fractures are common injuries from too much running
  • You feel unmotivated, burned out, or you’re struggling to focus

Is it better to run for distance or time?

It depends on your goals. If your goal is weight loss, running for distance may be your best bet. In one study, people who did a 10-week running-for-distance program lost weight and experienced a decrease in blood sugar. People who ran for time over 10 weeks actually gained weight, and their blood sugar increased.

Distance running builds motivation and often makes you run faster to hit your goal. This results in a more intense workout, which can be helpful for building fitness and important for hitting distance targets if you’re training for a race.

However, running or jogging for time has its place too. As it’s often a less intense workout, it can make a great recovery-day run. It may increase your enjoyment of running because you can run at a pace that feels comfortable, and it may be safer on very hot days or when you’re not feeling your best.

How to build a habit of running regularly

Take a look at your daily routine and work out where running can fit, then schedule it regularly. On the days you plan to run, lay out your running gear so it’s ready when you wake up or get home from work.

If you prefer to run alone, no problem. But if you struggle with motivation, finding an accountability buddy to run with you can be a game changer.

Another way to motivate yourself is to set a goal, such as signing up for the local 5k park run in a few months. Running can take a while to become enjoyable due to discomfort as you build up your fitness, so try listening to music or a podcast to stay motivated. Over time, the run itself will become the reward as you start to experience those runners' highs.

Final words

Running offers so many incredible health benefits. You can maximize them by slowly building up your mileage, supplementing your running with low-impact cross-training, and taking rest days when you need them.

If you’re stuck in a rut with your running, it’s time to start working towards those goals again. And if you’re thinking about getting started, these tips will help you start a sustainable running journey that may grow into a passion over time.

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