Running is a fabulous all-round exercise that almost anyone can do. All you need is a pair of decent running shoes, comfortable shorts and top and you're ready to go. No fancy equipment and no expensive gym membership required. Just step outside your front door and go!
Choosing to take up running is an excellent way for most people to increase overall health, but there are factors to watch out for that could cause injury if not considered. One of these factors is the distances that you run. Those not familar with running can have have difficulty understanding their limits and how to pace themselves while running. Inexperienced runners can over-exerting themselves, putting unnecessary strain on their body and joints.
We know how difficult it can be to determine how many miles you should run each week, so we've put together a guide to help you get started:
Determine Your Current Level of Fitness
How fit you are has a significant impact on your ability to run. If you're starting from scratch the couch or at a very low level of fitness, you should not focus on distance initially. Instead, your focus should be on short intervals - say a minute or so with a walking break in-between. Start doing this two to three times a week. Gradually build up the time you run and decrease the amount of time you walk until you are able to run consistently without walking for 30 minutes. At this point, you can start increasing the number of times you run to 3-5 times per week.
For those with a middle to high level of fitness, start by running 1-5 miles per session 3-5 times per week until you feel comfortable with the activity. If you are super fit, it's tempting to run excessive distances, but if your body is used to other activity, this might cause problems for you. Ease your body into running. Look after your health by making sure that you stop after you've completed your distance for the day.
Increasing the Distance
Once you become accustomed to running, you will likely feel ready or want to increase the distance you run per session. Once again, it's important not to go overboard here.
The general rule of thumb is to increase your distance by no more than 10%. For example, if you run 3 miles per session and feel ready to do more, increase it to 3.3 miles. If you run 10 miles per session, you can safely increase it to 11 miles if you want to do more.
Don't increase your distance more than once per week. If the increase feels too tough, drop it back to the previous level and wait a few weeks before increasing it again.
Decide On Your Goals
Running isn't just about going long distances. There are many different running goals you can accomplish. It's important to determine which goal best suits your health and personal circumstances.
Here are some common running goals:
- Running for weight loss
- Running for strength
- Cross country/alternative terrain or uphill running
- Completing a 5km (around three miles) in under 30 minutes
- Completing a half marathon or marathon
All of these goals have very different training requirements. Ensure you research the correct and safest way to train for the goal you have in mind.
Consider Your Terrain
Not all miles are equal. If your route is largely uphill, this is far more strenuous than a flat route. Running on sand or other loose terrain is far tougher than running on a sidewalk or road. Downhill running is easy, but it places additional strain on your legs.
Tougher terrains should be shorter in distance. You can extend your run for less challenging terrain.
It’s a good idea to mix terrain up to create different style runs. This gets your body used to running in different environments and avoids repetitive strain on a single area of the body.
Don’t Ignore Your Body
Your body knows best. It will give you warning signs if something isn't right. Even if you're following a rigid training plan, pain or extreme fatigue are warnings. Take your body's advice and get some rest or medical attention. Don’t try to “push through the pain.” For most people without the coaching or professional trainer, this is misguided advice that can worsen a small injury and lead to longer-term lay-off.
When asking, "how many miles should I run each week?" there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Your physical health and safety is paramount and if you overdo your it, you could be laid up for weeks. Consider your limitations, fitness level and goals to ensure that you’re running a safe distance for your current ability.