How Much Running is Healthy?

So, you’re getting into running and you know a lot of people that run a lot of miles, or you heard stories; 50 mile week, 60 mile weeks, 100 mile weeks, and you’re maybe a little scared, wondering how much running is too much? Well, that’s what I’m going to talk about today.

So, you’re getting into running and you know a lot of people that run a lot of miles, or you heard stories; 50 mile week, 60 mile weeks, 100 mile weeks, and you’re maybe a little scared, wondering how much running is too much? Well, that’s what I’m going to talk about today.

If you’re just getting into running, likely you haven’t been on this channel before, so you’re going to want to hit subscribe, stick around with me for more videos in the future of this show I call Runner’s High. I’m Jesse Funk, your host for this show, and we’re going to talk about how much running is healthy. So, first, we have to kind of figure out what’s our parameters? What do we consider healthy? So, there’s two ways to look at this. There is the performance runner away, which is typically where I live. And then there’s the kind of heart health, aerobic health variety. If you’re trying to figure out how much is healthy, we’ll split it into two, but let’s start with how much gets you all the benefits of heart health, aerobic health, and then beyond that is not needed anymore.

I’ve seen this figure quoted a couple different ways, so I’m going to give those to you. And that’s either five hours a week of running, or 15 to 20 miles seems to be the sweet spot where beyond that, you’re really not getting any kind of extra heart or aerobic benefit from running. So, that’s kind of if you get there, you’re good to go. If you’re still working towards there, absolutely fine. In either case, if you’re just running for heart health, aerobic health, trying to prevent strokes and degenerative issues that come along with age, well, then perfect.

You know the sweet spot, you know what to do. But getting there can be a little bit of a challenge for some people, and not doing too much too soon. Because most likely, you’re probably not going to jump into nothing to 20 miles a week straight away. So, I want to talk about some of the cautions you might look at when you’re building a mile to try to get into that zone.

Each of our capacities to handle mileage is going to be different. Where I am and where you are and where somebody else is, is not always going to be the same place. Case in point, when I spoke to Alyssa Clark on the Smart Athlete Podcast, also here on this channel, I’ll link to her episode at the end of this video, so stick around.

While I spoke to Alyssa, she actually had recently set the American record for consecutive marathons in consecutive days at 95. Meaning, she was running 26 miles a day, for every single day for nearly three months straight or a little over three months straight. That capacity is probably beyond you, it’s definitely beyond me. And that’s perfectly fine. But it took her time to build up to where she was getting to. And she followed a lot of good tips to get there.

Now these tips follow whether you’re trying to hit that 15 to 20 mile range, or you’re trying to go beyond for performance. So, regardless of the camp that you fit into, there are things you want to pay attention to. Now, often, I’ve talked about the 10% rule, which is you don’t want to increase your mileage more than 10% per week. Something that’s often missed by new runners is that you also want to go back down in mileage at a certain time. Some people build for three weeks and go down for one week.

I in particular build for two weeks, go down for one, and then you kind of go from there. When you go back down, often you’re decreasing your mileage by about 40%, and then you start back from where you were and continue building.

If this doesn’t work for you, or you find yourself really fatigued, then there are other things you need to pay attention to. And it’s more qualitative, like how do you feel rather than these are the strict numbers. You want to make sure that you’re paying attention to your body. And if it’s got aches and pains that are unusual, you’re sore all the time, you’re out running and every single run, you’re tired, your legs are achy, that’s a sign that you’re going too fast, too soon, you’re building too much mileage. Another way to do it is to keep track of your resting heart rate. That’s when you wake up, take your resting heart rate, if it is creeping upwards, then you are not getting enough recovery.

Now there’s a whole topic here about overtraining, overreaching that gets discussed in detail with another one of my guests on the Smart Athlete Podcast, Alex Coates. She’s a former ITU Canadian pro, that is triathlon, who now is working on her Ph.D. and she’s into overtraining as her research. So, if you want to hear more about her suggestions on how to avoid that, how to set up your train optimally, check that out. Again, both Alex and Alyssa I’ll have those episodes at the end of this video.

All of this brings to mind a friend and business mentor of mine who still runs. He’s in his 60s, early to mid 60s, if I can remember right. The years seem to pass by me even fast. But in any case, he stays kind of in that sweet spot, 15 to 20 miles, he doesn’t do speed work. If he has any kind of injury, he basically checks in with me and says, “What can I do about this?” But he stays healthy, really healthy, because he eats well, he spends time doing this. And there’s really no issues for him in terms of mobility and life. And it’s something that he’s been able to keep up for decades.

So, the downside of going with the performance bend, people like me, who want to be as fast as we possibly can, is that you increase your injury risk. And that’s something that I talked about with Alex, on that episode of the Smart Athlete Podcast is, how do we balance trying to increase mileage well past that health level, into performance, where we’re trying to maximize our speed, maximize how fast and strong we are, without getting injured. And kind of flirting with the line of overreaching and overtraining is something that a lot of athletes do. The things that she shares in that episode about how to recover, when to recover, and how much loan to put on might surprise you. So, you’re definitely going to want to check that out.

But in any case, if you just want the health benefits, you can do that for a very, very long time, and it’ll keep you healthy, into old age, which keeps you young and mobile. So, do you have any questions for me, anything you’d like to see in future videos? Leave them down in the comments below, I’d love to do a video just for you. Those episodes will be coming up here on the screen shortly. And I’ll see you next time on the next episode of Runner’s High.


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