How many miles should I run a week to stay healthy?

It's a big concern for all of us as runners. How many miles are we running? Right. That's kind of what we talk about when we get together. We have nothing else in common.
How many miles should I run a week to stay healthy?

It's a big concern for all of us as runners. How many miles are we running? Right. That's kind of what we talk about when we get together. We have nothing else in common. How many miles are you running? What are you doing? How's it going? It's always about the miles, right? We want to know how many miles you're running. And it's often the tendency that more miles are better, except that may not always be the case. So what I've done is I've stopped trying to run more miles and more miles, and the results have been definitive.

If you haven't billed me here on the channel before, I'm Jesse Funk. This is a show I call Runner's High where we talk about everything running, including today's topic, stopping running so many miles. The thing is that you have to decide. How many miles you want to run and can I tolerate that? Plus, what's your distance? If you're running a marathon, you probably need to put in more miles than somebody like me who kind of specializes in like 5k, 10K. I like to go fast.

If you are going ultramarathon well then again, you may need to go even more. There's actually a comparison. I have to pull it up here. There's comparison in Runner's World about how many miles for various disciplines the elites run, and that Average Joe runs basically an average Joe on typically almost regardless of distance. It's around 30 miles a week is about what somebody can tolerate. It's like for 5k, 10k, it's like 20 to 30 miles a week. Then as you get to half marathon, you go 30, 40, and then marathon like 30 to 50 and it stays similarly for ultramarathon, whereas the pros of 5K is like 70 to 80 miles a week, then you go up to 100 plus as you go towards half marathon and on.

The thing is that most of us are you simply can't tolerate that many miles. There are things you can do to alleviate some of the issues that come up as you increase your mileage, like doing strength training, make sure you're getting enough recovery. But the big thing is that there are a lot of other stressors in our lives besides running.

If I look back on my running career, when I was running as a collegiate athlete on scholarship, we were maxing out at like 50, 60 mile weeks, something like that. And I was getting a little bit of cross training in as well. That wasn't a constant throughout the year. 40 miles is probably a little more common, but we would get up and do 50, 60 or I would, I guess not all the guys on my team. I simply can't tolerate that nowadays.

I think, as I mentioned, there are other stressors in life and if I look back then versus now, I'm a lot busier as a business owner, as somebody who has to take care of their own life, doesn't have somebody to make all of their meals for them, although my wonderful wife does make some of them for me.

So you have to take into account that there are certain phases of life, like in my case in college, where I wasn't quite as busy, I could focus more on running and had more time to recover and was younger so I could recover a little bit faster. And that affects how many miles you can really tolerate. Another example of this is a guest I had on the Smart Athlete Podcast, another show I do on this channel. If you aren't subscribed hit that subscribe button, you can check out episodes of Smart Athlete Podcast on Fridays. This show is Tuesdays and Thursdays, but Eric Bell is actually a very, very good runner.

When he was running collegiately, if I remember, I think he was running like low 20/9, high 20/8 for his 10K. So very competitive runner, not quite going to be Olympic caliber, but still beyond the realm of most of us humans. And he found himself injured over and over again, year after year after year. And finally, his senior year, he said, I'm out, I'm done. Like I'm not going to just try to max out my mileage anymore because I keep getting hurt.

And so he stuck around this like 40 mile range. Long behold, he had the best season ever. Fast as he'd ever been. And didn't get all the injuries he'd had previously. There's a saying that a rested runner is going to be faster than an injured runner, which is make sense, right? You don't want to run injured. But sometimes we try to push ourselves harder than when we really need to go. To try to maximize our gains. And walking the fine line, the balance of do we have too many miles or do we have not enough miles is going to be a game that you kind of have to figure out for yourself.

For me in particular, over the last couple of years, we have been trying to focus on 10K and trying to get me to the 40, 50 mile range. And I've had a number of little issues. It makes me reset, restart and again lots of extra stress. So we've stopped trying to maximize my miles and I'm kind of sitting in the mid thirties range much more comfortably now after some help from physical therapy to deal with some small, biomechanical issues that cropped up, I hadn't noticed.

One of the dangers of running by yourself for too much time. But it's also important to note that not all miles are created equal. And that goes back to the specificity of what are you training for? If you're training for a marathon, then unlike me, you probably need lots and lots of long, slow miles to make sure you're going to be able to complete it and not be just destroyed at the end.

Now, if you're trying to go like sub 230 in your marathon, your training is going to look different than somebody who's trying to go 5 hours. Similarly, training for 5K, I'm trying to get myself back under like 17 minutes. My training and my miles really need to be dedicated more towards specificity of that speed or higher speeds for me, because high end speed is actually one of my weaknesses, so I need to spend more time working on it.

So if I go to the track and I say a couple of weeks ago I did 400 meter repeats to try to break back into track routine. I did a couple of miles of that. Well, I'm running them like 520 pace, 515 pace somewhere in there. That's a little bit different than going out and running a couple of easy miles. The fatigue and the wear and tear in your body from a speed workout like that is going to be much different than just going out for that easy run.

So understanding that not all miles are created equally helps you at least, I guess you say helps me not worry about what I often refer to as the pissing contest of mileage. Who's running more miles because you're doing what is appropriate for your training.

All that being said, if you're just starting out and you're just building mileage, you aren't to that point where you're running 20, 30, 40 miles a week. If you have the time to do that, because, again, life has its own stressors. Everyday life, relationships, work, kids, all these things add to the stress of life. And although running should be an outlet, that stress still comes into play when we go out to workout. But if you're just beginning to build mileage, you need to allow yourself time to adapt. And one of those ways to do that is generally consider the 10% rule. Don't increase your mileage more than 10% per week.

But when you're starting out, it's a little less of a good guideline. One good way to check in is "How do I feel today versus yesterday?" And then also to plan in rest weeks. So like my schedule in particular, I have a 2 to 1, so I work hard for two weeks and then we back up my mileage to like 50, 60% of what I was doing for that third week so that I have time to recover and feel good again for the next two week block. You may play in that or you may plan, I'm just going to run whatever I can run. I don't know how lackadaisical you want to be.

But the point is, if you pay attention to how I feel, that gives you a better judge. And you have to be honest with yourself because sometimes you're going to be a little tired. That's probably okay if you're getting towards like in my example, towards the end of week two, which is where I am right now as I'm filming this. But if it's just after your rest week, you still feel dog tired, like your legs just don't want to move. That's a signal that, Hey, I need a little bit more time and you don't need to be ashamed about it. You should actually be proud that you recognize it and can make that adjustment on the fly.

So do you have any questions for me about adjusting your mileage, figuring out how to get your schedule in sync? Give me the all the details below in the comments. I'll help you out. More details is better. Everybody has kind of unique needs. So a little bit of your background, what you're currently running, what you're struggling with, what your race is, that kind of thing. Leave them in the comments below. I'll help you out if you want to check out that conversation from Eric Bell I mentioned on the Smart Athlete Podcast that will be coming up here on the screen shortly. I'll see you next time on the next episode of Runner's High.

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