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How Long Should I Run: What is the Optimal Miles For Fitness

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Running is perhaps the oldest sport known to people. Whether athletes or just people trying to live a healthy lifestyle, running has itself become a lifestyle with clubs, gear, apps, and training options galore.

From sprints to jogs to trail runs to laps to marathons to ultra-marathons, there are countless types of running, and every runner has a different goal. How long should I run and how many miles for fitness?

Someone new to running should try to run one to three miles (if not very active recently) or three to four miles (if generally an active person). Or, consider it in terms of minutes, and try to run for 30 minutes by rotating between running and walking.

How far you should run, or for how long, and how often all depends on the type of runner you are and what you’re trying to achieve.

The same goes for how quickly your health will improve and how fast it’ll get easier. Let’s wade through some of the details in the world of running.

How Far Should a Beginner Runner Run at Once?

Someone who is taking up running for the first time, and who has not been active in running-based sports like soccer or basketball, should start with one to three miles.

That’s a reasonable distance to be able to assess how your body will respond.

On the other hand, if you’re a generally athletic person who has been active in sports recently, three to four miles for a first run is reasonable.

Some new runners won’t think of their first run in terms of distance but in terms of time. Without worrying about how far you run in the beginning, how long should you run?

Running outdoors on a track is a healthy way to track - post on How Long Should I Run and How Many Miles For Fitness
Running outdoors on a track is a healthy way to track

In terms of time, beginning runners should aim to run for 30 minutes(source). To balance out the idea of distance versus time, consider alternating between running and walking.

One way to do that is to run for three minutes, then walk for one minute.

Repeat the cycle for a total of 25 minutes to half an hour. This is an especially good option for people who’ve been particularly active, or not for a long time.

As you get more used to being active, gradually increase the amount of time running while decreasing the time walking within your 30-minute block of time.

Your goal is to get to the point where you can run continuously for half hour. Thirty minutes of running will equate to between two to four miles(source) for most beginners.

How Often Should a Beginner Run in a Week?

A beginner runner should run two to three times per week, to a maximum of four times per week(source) for 30 minutes each time. Once you’re able to run 30 minutes non-stop, gradually increase the distance you’re covering. Let’s take a look at a few different methods to do that to find out how much running is healthy.

Adding Distance With the Every-Other-Week Rule

The first way to stretch out the total distance of your running is to run more often every other week then, after several weeks, add five or 10 minutes to one of your runs each week.

The thinking behind this approach where increased distance only happens every other week is that it will be easier for your body to tolerate the increasingly demanding hobby.

Adding Distance With the Ten Percent Rule

A second strategy for increasing the distance you run overtime is to increase the length of your runs every week by a maximum of 10 percent.

Having said that, don’t increase your run length until you’ve consistently been able to run two to four times weekly for 30 minutes without stopping.

Once you hit that point, consider increasing the length of your runs 10 percent.

You can do that by adding 10 percent to each run, or by adding 10 percent to just one run (making it a “long-run” like in the first approach) while keeping the other runs shorter.

How Much Running Will it Take to Get Healthier?

Studies have shown that you can reap the benefits of running with a surprisingly low number of miles(source).

People who run just a few miles each week even less than one mile a day for six days a week have been shown to be lighter, have lower blood pressure, and have fewer cholesterol problems.

They were also less likely to develop diabetes, arthritis, and cancer.

Five or six miles a week(source) has been shown to be enough to show significant health benefits, but not necessarily weight loss. More on that in a bit.

There’s nothing wrong with adding more miles to your new running routine depending on your goals, but realize that gains can be won at these low levels of consistent activity.

Other than health effects, how quickly will you notice that running gets easier(source) and that your body feels in better shape?

That depends on the type of running that you’re doing, and how hard you’re going at it.

If you’re working on building speed, you may notice a difference within three days of a dedicated running program.

If you’re working hard at running hills, you’ll feel a difference after two weeks. If you’re trying to build up your capacity for long runs, you’ll see improved results after a month or so of dedicated effort.

What is an Ideal Running Schedule or Routine?

The best running routines(source) in terms of days per week, time per day, and time spent warming up, walking, and running will all depend on how experienced a runner you are and especially on your goals.

It also depends greatly on how well your body tolerates the routine you’re trying to build and the increased demands you’re placing on it.

There are several possible running routine options for different types of runners and goals.

Here are some of those categories that justify different approaches, with details of a couple of the most common of them (jogging and weight loss):

  • Jogging: Are you a jogger versus a runner? If you can carry on a conversation while you do it and generally move at 6 MPH or less, many would call you a jogger rather than a runner. One recommended routine for a jogger would be (over time, stretch those 20-minute jogging blocks to 30 minutes):
    • SUNDAY – Off
    • MONDAY – 5 min warmup, 15-20 minute jog with occasional intervals of walking
    • TUESDAY – 5 min warmup, 15-20 minute jog with occasional intervals of walking
    • WEDNESDAY – 5 min warmup, 15-20 minute jog with occasional intervals of walking
    • THURSDAY – 5 min warmup, 15-20 minute jog with occasional intervals of walking
    • FRIDAY – 5 min warmup, 15-20 minute jog with occasional intervals of walking
    • SATURDAY – OFF
  • Running for speed
  • Running for distance
  • Running for endurance
  • Running for weight loss: Determining how often and how far you need to run to lose weight is a mathematical exercise (pun intended) based on the formula for burning calories. As a general rule, burning one pound of fat in one week requires that you burn 3,500 calories.
    • If you’re a 145-pound beginner runner who runs five miles in an hour,  you’ll burn 250 calories after 30 minutes, and 500 calories after an hour.
    • If you’re a 145-pound intermediate runner who runs six miles in an hour, you’ll burn 315 calories in 30 minutes and 630 calories in an hour
    • If you’re a 145-pound advanced runner who runs seven miles in an hour, you’ll burn 370 calories in 30 minutes and 740 calories in an hour.

Should You Run Every Day?

There are many different opinions on whether you should run every day.

This depends largely on your goals and ability to tolerate that amount of sustained exercise, and the need to balance progress and results versus the risk of injury.

Some people say there is practically a commandment that thou shalt not run seven days a week.

Some people point to studies that indicate decreased risk of adverse health consequences(source) from daily running and suggest daily running as a healthy option.

While there is some diversity of opinion, the consensus seems to be that daily activity is a good idea, but daily running is not, especially for a new or novice runner.

Take at least one day each week off from pounding the pavement. The risk of an overuse injury is too high to warrant running daily.

When not running, consider cross-training-type activities such as swimming or cycling.

Ultra-Marathons Why 100 Miles

I love this video, I can’t run 100 miles even being chased by a bear but the video is awesome and it delves into the mind and will to complete that is just amazing to me and I wanted to share it with others.

Final Thoughts on How Long Should I Run

Hopefully, this has helped you choose to look at adding or supplementing a run into your current workout plans, I used to hate running but over time I have grown to love the outdoor time.

While many people see it as a slog and totally not interesting I find it a good time to listen to an audiobook and to broaden my mind to more thoughts and information.

Do take it slowly at first if you aren’t already an owner as you can cause some good injuries if you should push it too hard and too fast which can set you back a long time!

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