One of the most common questions amongst runners is, “How many miles should I run a week?” Knowing how much to run, how often to run, or how far to run all address a foundational component of training, termed volume.
Volume refers to your training load, so it quantifies the number of miles or minutes you’re out pounding the pavement, trail, track, or treadmill during the week. Your running volume is the product of the number of days you run per week and how many miles you run on those days.
Having a target for the number of miles to run per week isn’t just an exercise in collecting yet another fun running stat like the distance of your longest run or your PR for the 5k. Rather, knowing how many miles a week to run is a key consideration for those who want to maximize the benefits of their training and minimize the risk of injury, and who doesn’t want that?
Unfortunately, because the sport of running is so diverse—encapsulating a wide range of participants, distances, terrains, paces, and goals—there isn’t a simple or universal answer to “How many miles should I run a week?“
Therefore, we will dive deeper into the factors that affect how many miles a week you should run to help you settle on a running volume that makes sense for you.
In this guide, we’re going to look at:
- Factors That Affect How Many Miles Per Week You Should Run
- So, How Many Miles A Week Should I Run?
- Weekly Mileage for Runners’ Best Practices
Let’s jump in!
8 Factors That Affect How Many Miles Per Week You Should Run
While there are likely countless factors that can potentially come into play when determining how many miles per week you should run, the following are typically the most important considerations:
#1: Your Experience Level
One of the primary factors that should help determine your weekly goal mileage is your experience level as a runner.
Runners who have been consistently training for months and years can typically handle a higher running volume than beginners.
When you are new to the sport, your bones, muscles, joints, connective tissues, and cardiovascular system need time to adapt to the impact, forces, and metabolic demands of running.
Beginners should take a conservative approach to ramping up the number of miles a week they run to prevent injury.
#2: Your Current Fitness Level
Although they may seem similar, your current fitness level and your running experience are actually two distinct things, and both can impact your ideal weekly running mileage.
For example, if you’re an experienced runner who’s been participating in the sport for years, but have recently been sidelined due to an injury, illness, pregnancy, or busy lifestyle, you’ll want to reduce your weekly mileage and follow recommendations for a more novice runner until you are able to return to your previous fitness level.
On the other hand, if you’re just getting started as a runner but have been swimming, cycling, rowing, or otherwise very active with other forms of exercise up until this point, you can probably handle more weekly mileage than someone who hasn’ t been working out at all.
#3: Your Running and Fitness Goals
Your target weekly mileage is largely dependent on your running and fitness goals. Why are you running? Are you training for a race? If so, what is the distance of the race?
In general, longer races necessitate longer training runs and often involve running the majority of days in the week with a higher overall training volume.
Are you running as part of a weight-loss plan? If so, are you also adjusting your diet? Or are you primarily running for stress relief? Or to spend time with friends?
How many miles a week you should run is clearly guided by your goals.
#4: Your Injury History and Risk
Ultimately, when people ask, “How many miles should I run a week?”, they are looking for two things. They want the weekly goal mileage to be sufficient to help them achieve their fitness goals while simultaneously not being too much to handle or too much that they’ll get hurt.
Because the risk of injury is one of the primary dangers that loom if you overreach with mileage, your injury history, and general injury risk level have a significant impact on how many miles a week you should run.
If you have a history of numerous or repetitive bouts of overuse injuries, and certainly if you are currently rehabbing an injury or trying to shake various niggles, you should err on the lower end with your weekly mileage.
You can supplement your running mileage with low-impact cross-training exercises (cycling, aqua jogging, swimming, elliptical trainer) as tolerated or desired.
#5: Your Schedule and Availability
In a perfect world, we’d all have endless time and flexibility to run as much as we want, whenever we want. But let’s face it, logistics often dictate how much we can run.
You may only have a quick lunch break to squeeze in a run or may need to slip out the door in the early morning briefly before the kids get up.
Running should add to the quality of your life, but try not to let a high-mileage training schedule take over your life and add even more stress to a busy schedule.
#6: Workout Intensity and Structure
It should also be noted that not all miles are valued equally. In other words, Running a hard threshold run, intervals, hills, or race pace miles will advance your performance and tax your body more than an easy recovery run.
Intensity can trump mileage in terms of benefits, and also factors into the overall picture of your training volume.
#7: Your Workout Preferences
Some runners are wedded to running and running only, while other runners prefer a more varied workout routine with a few days a week of running, with other types of sprinkle exercised in on alternative days.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to how often you have to run to be a runner, and depending on your goals, running just a few days per week and keeping a lower weekly mileage may be perfectly effective.
#8: Your Age
Although many runners are so fit and spry for their age that they can easily be mistaken for an age of several decades their junior, in general, the older you get, the more time you’ll need to recover from your workouts and the lower your weekly running mileage should be.
So, How Many Miles A Week Should I Run?
As can be seen from our non-exhaustive list of factors that can impact how many miles a week you should run, determining your ideal weekly running mileage is often best answered on a case-by-case basis. However, here are some general guidelines for runners to follow:
Beginners usually have the lowest weekly mileage, often running three days a week for the first few weeks, and slowly progressing up to four or five.
The initial few weeks typically involve run/walk workouts, with weekly mileage in the 10-12 mile range and then working up to 15-20 or 25 miles a week Depending on your goals and previous level of fitness.
For Those Running for Overall Health and Disease Risk Reduction
If you are primarily running for general health and to reduce your risk of lifestyle diseases rather than to race, it makes sense to abide by physical activity recommendations for overall health.
For example, the US Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults should be active on most days of the week, or accrue a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise.
These guidelines can be thought of as easy jogging for 30 minutes five days per week or running more intensely for 25 minutes three days per week. Your weekly mileage could be based on how far you can run in those scenarios.
For the 5k
The typical weekly mileage for average runners training for the 5k is 15-25 miles. More competitive runners will run more. Elite runners will have a volume closer to 70-80 miles per week.
For the 10k
The typical weekly mileage for average runners training for the 10k is 20-30 miles per week. Elite runners will have a volume closer to 80-100 miles per week.
For the Half Marathon
The typical weekly mileage for average runners training for a half marathon is 30-40 miles a week. Elite runners will have a volume closer to 100-110 miles per week.
For the Marathon
The range of weekly mileage for marathon runners is varied but tends to hover in the 35-60 miles a week range. Elite marathoners have a training volume in the 100-140 miles per week range.
Weekly Mileage for Runners’ Best Practices
There’s no clear-cut way to answer the question: how many miles should I run a week? Rather, it’s a personal decision based on your experience level, fitness, goals, availability, body, and preferences.
Remember that unless you’re injured, some running is almost always better than no running, so try to get out there and get in whatever miles you can, while respecting the needs and limits of your body.
Finally, how many miles you should run is fluid, and will likely change depending on your current circumstances.
If you are looking for a structured training plan to help determine your weekly mileage, check out our very own training plans here:
5k Training Plan
10k Training Plan
Half Marathon Training Plan
Marathon Training Plan