How Much Should You Run? Don’t cross that line, Sparky!
This article is a balanced, fair assessment of how to determine how much mileage you should run and how many days a week you should run. Of course I can’t just let the expert say it all. Here’s my take on the discussion as well.
I’ve been asked this question several times and anyone who knows me realizes I swing to the high mileage side of the discussion. A fellow runner on Daily Mile asked, “Don’t you need a rest day between 10 milers?” and I responded, “10 miles IS a rest day.” I love counting the donuts I’ve burned, as reported by Daily Mile.
Hitting over 3,500 miles for the year gave me a nice warm feeling inside almost like eating a warm Krispy Kreme donut. I run miles because I know when I do, I will run faster times in every distance from 5K to the Marathon. Simply put, in an ideal, competitive world, you should run as much as possible; just below that red line where you get injured. That’s my perspective and potential bias in this discussion.
Where is the line?
It’s like one of those invisible dog fences with a shock collar. The collar is set to beep a few feet away from the line so the dog gets a warning. However, the first few times on the way to the line, the dog has no clue what that silly beeping means! Once the shock hits, the dog (sometimes after several tries) associates the beep with the shock warning and the distance to the invisible fence. As a runner, it takes experience and probably a couple of injuries to help you find the warning signs and the red line. Experienced runners can hover close to the line and log optimal miles, assuming other factors fall into place. After all, few of us are professional runners so time to train, work, attend kid’s events, and other aspects of life interfere with hitting high mileage, even if your body could take the miles without injury.
Answer the question, “Why do I run?” One other major factor is what motivates you to run or workout. I read articles from fitness experts that seem to think everyone has the same goals: Cut abs, muscular build, look good at the beach etc. If that’s what motivates you- GREAT! Go for it. Don’t run marathons. If you are motivated by accomplishing long distances like marathons and ultras; do those events. If you are motivated by the friendships and travel with your running buddies, then plan trips around any race that you want to run with friends and train for it. So even if you CAN do big miles and your body will thrive on it from training / competitive perspective but you are not motivated to train that way; you shouldn’t do it. It is more important for your long term health that you keep training in a way that will keep you motivated to run for many years to come. Don’t cross your mental, emotional, or social red line to get big miles.
“Run Less Run Faster” is a myth. I had this discussion with several runners after Bill Pierce, the author of “Run Less Run Faster” spoke at a local event. Simply put, that sentence, on its own, is baloney. It is a Runner’s World sensationalized, overblown claim with zero scientific basis. If it were true, the top competitive distance runners in the world would not be logging 120 + miles a week. In the pure sense of wanting to run your best time possible you must consistently log big miles over a period of years. There is absolutely no current or past scientific evidence to contradict that. The Godfathers of modern distance running, Arthur Lydiard and Jack Daniels believed in high mileage. The coaching gurus of today like Alberto Salazar believe in high mileage. In one small sense the “Run Less Run Faster” claim can be made. In a short term study, with recreational runners, assuming their training prior to the study was wrong, you can reduce their mileage and actually end up with better performances. A smaller amount of smart training is better than a larger volume of stupid training.
As the Marathon Junkie says, “Run More!” Of course, add in some common sense and use the ideas from the linked article to arrive at the optimal “More” for you.