So you’ve decided on running a 5k, 10k, half marathon or marathon. The most common question when starting this is “how many miles should I run a day” or “how many miles should I run a week” – it’s an important question and one that we hope we can answer. We have some of the best tips to help you train. Stay healthy and stay injury-free.

When you first start training for a race, determining your mileage is a balance that needs to be defined. You want to exert yourself to the point that your body is physically ready to cross the line, but you don’t want to end up pushing yourself so much you end up injured! When it comes to training for a race, there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

Rather than looking for a specific answer or running program, think of it like accruing time on your feet. This will allow to hit your goals safely and in a much more achievable way.

With that being said, there are still basic guidelines that can be followed to help you come up with the best plan to achieve those milestones.

Marathon runners – you can also check out our marathon series for some helpful tips

Tip 1: Longer distance, more miles

This may seem obvious, but it’s often overlooked early on (when there is no pressure). If you are training for a 5k, your weekly miles aren’t going to be as much as those training for a marathon.

Regardless of your race distance you should try and follow three specific days to help complete your plan. A speed day, a long-distance day and a recovery day (very important!)

Long Distance Day – slow pace, long distance. Its goal is for you to last as long as you possibly can. This will help build both your fitness and your mentality for longer durations.

Speed Day – This is your pacesetter day. The idea is to run a shorter distance but to be running faster than your projected race pace.

Recovery Day – Slow Pace and low mileage. This will help keep your fitness (and motivation) up while giving your muscles time to recover without overexertion.

Plus…rest days!

So regardless of what you are training for, you are going to have both long and short runs.

Tip 2: Varying Miles

Try not to get into a set routine for every run, varying disciplines offer varying benefits (as well as staving off boredom). All decent running plans should include different distances, speeds and tempos.

The idea of adding variety into your running schedule is to allow yourself to become a more well-rounded runner. If you always run at the same pace, that will become the only pace you know.

The concept behind varying your race pace means that when it comes to race day, and you have trained at a faster tempo than your estimated race pace, when race day comes around, it won’t be as difficult.

We’re not saying you should always train faster than your race pace, far from it. But when you do, it will help condition both your body and your mind to help make actual race day a little less difficult.

Tip 3: Your body is the boss

When following any training plan, it’s normal to want to hit your goals, mileage and speed every single time, it’s in our nature. But it’s far from what is necessary. The routine you set yourself should be not be held in the strictest manner. Remember, if you don’t stick to your plan, no one will care, so if you don’t hit your goals every time, it’s ok.

Running for the sake of running can lead to overexertion, overtraining and can lead to a massive decline in motivation, or worse, injury. If you are feeling particularly tired, have a higher than normal heart rate or feeling exhausted, these can be signs of overtraining.

A common phrase when working out is ‘no pain no gain’, there is some truth in this, in the sense that you want to push past some discomforts to advance certain barriers. However, we will never recommend running through pain.

If you are dealing with some form of consistent pain, stop, there is something not right. When training, soreness and discomfort can occur as your body adapts its new routine. But if you are ever in doubt of a certain pain, slow down and take a rest day. Pushing through the pain often leads to injury, and when there is injury…nothing gets achieved, period.

Tip 4: Rest, rest, rest.

It doesn’t matter if you’re training for a 5k, 10k, half marathon or a full marathon, the objective is always the same, cross the finish line. If you start to over train by pushing past your limits, you will start to wear yourself down. This almost always leads to injury, what happens when you’re injured? Nothing…nothing happens because you can’t run and you can’t train. Then what?!

Make sure to have consistent rest days. Let your muscles (and mind) recover. If you’re not feeling up to a run, reschedule and switch to a rest day. Simple.

No one is marking you down for not following a strict plan. The objective is to cross the finish line on race day, make sure you get yourself through it.

Tip 5: Increase and adapt

As you progress through your training, you should be upping your mileage, however, in order to avoid injury while running, you need to take it slow and allow yourself to adapt to the increase. A common rule is 10%. Meaning you should never push yourself to more than 10% of your previous weekly mileage.

You should try and up your mileage in short stages before have a recovery period to allow your body to adapt. Typically, a weekly mileage build should be around 3 weeks and then use a low mileage low pace recovery week to give your body an adaptation process. After that, you should be ready to build again.

Every time you increase your mileage and push yourself a bit more, your muscle tissue, on a microscopic level, breaks down. This is why your recovery period and rest days are so important, so your muscle tissue can rebuild and become stronger.

Tip 6: Injury Woes and Recovery

Injuries when running happen, twinges, sprains, twists and more. Despite all your best efforts to avoid injury, it’s sometimes unavoidable. A quick look at your watch can result in a slip off a curb, a hidden hole on your usual trail, even the change in weather can cause issues. If this happens, we feel your pain!

If an injury does occur, you have to take rest days and you have to tweak your goals. This is important, no runners have ever fully healed by running more! Before you start running again, make sure you can walk for between 40 – 60 minutes with ZERO pain. Walking helps re-establish your muscles and ligaments, which will prepare them for future running.

Now you need to consider how much rest you have had, if you’ve only been out of the game for a week, you may be able to pick up exactly where you left off. However, for extended periods of time, you need to adjust your base mileage. Here is a brief breakdown:

  • 1 week: 90 – 100%
  • 10 days off: 70% of your weekly mileage
  • 15 days to 1 month: 60% weekly mileage
  • 1 month – 3 months: 40% – 50%
  • 3 month + (you poor soul): Start from scratch

If pain or issues persist, make a note to visit your local GP, or if it is something you believe to be minor, invest in the correct injury supports to help the healing process.

Tip 7: Estimated Target Goals

Every runner is different and goals vary from race to person. However, through experience we can estimate your weekly mileage should be around these:

  • 5k Race: 10-20 miles
  • 10k Race: 20–30 miles
  • Half Marathon: 30–40 miles
  • Marathon: 30–60 miles

If you’re not hitting these, don’t worry! These aren’t set in stone, and they aren’t the be-all and end-all of your training. They are simply a basic average estimate. Every person is different, and everyone has their own set routine that works for them. You just need to find yours.

Hopefully, some of our other articles can help

We always recommend runners serious about their training get properly fitted running shoes from a store that uses a biomechanical assessment and video gait analysis. Running in trainers that are not suited to your running gait can hinder your targets and even lead to more frequent injuries.

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