How Much Should You Run?
I can’t count the number of times people have asked me, “How much should I be running?” There’s a different answer to that for everyone, depending on your own particular circumstances, but the main factor controlling how much you should run is how much you can run.
Do you have only an hour a day to devote to running? In that case, your limit will be seven hours a week, if you don’t take a rest day, and six hours a week if you do. How far can you run in one hour? That depends on how fast you are, but in an hour-long training run some people can easily cover 16 kilometres; some will cover less than half that.
Besides the time constraints imposed on our running by work and family and other commitments, our bodies impose another: injury. Some few people have never been injured; their bodies seem to be able to take literally in stride any abuse hurled at it. The rest of us are on intimate terms with our physiotherapists, massage therapists and doctors.
Time and injury aside, the question of how much you should run will be dictated by your running goals. Do you run to keep your shape or to keep your weight down? Do you run simply because you love the feeling of flying (or plodding) along trails or roads, momentarily free of the obligation to answer your mobile phone and e-mail? Do you run in order to race 10Ks or complete marathons and/or ultra-marathons? Staying slim (or relatively slim) and completing or racing marathons are very different goals, as are the training requirements.
If you run every day because you love it, and you never get injuries, then you can run as much as you like. Fifty kilometres a week, or 150 … do whatever makes you happy, as long as you don’t get injured. If you run to keep weight off, only trial and error will get you to the balance point between injury and an extra piece of pie. Motivation is a factor as well, since it’s impossible to see immediate results from a single run, or for that matter a single piece of pie.
Runners who race get regular feedback from their race results, and many racers get sucked deeper into the running world, trying to figure out how to run farther and faster given the constraints of schedules and injuries.
Ultimately, it’s quality, not quantity that counts. For some people, quantity works. Others must do less to avoid injury. How much is right for you? First of all, assuming that you enjoy running at all, try to run as much as you want to. Second, try to figure out how much running will help you achieve your running goals.
Finally, don’t worry about how much other people are doing; we’re all doing different things. You need to figure out – probably through trial and error – what will work for you. It’s very possible that what will work best for you is less running (and more cross-training or high-quality running sessions)!
[First published on RUN Singapore, January 2020]