How Long Should I Build Mileage?

Q I started running several months ago and I’ve been building my weekly mileage up gradually. My question is, how far do I continue building? Do I just keep going or what? Right now, my weekly mileage is 30 kilometres a week. I’m running for fitness reasons. I have not done any races yet and I’m not sure if I want to. Do you have any suggestions for me? – Sonya


A Congratulations on your commitment! It sounds as though you have been very smart about increasing your mileage and that’s good because this is the best way to remain injury-free and continue running for a very long time. Improved fitness and health is a great reason to run, probably the best reason of all! Thirty kilometres a week is a respectable amount of mileage, especially for general fitness goals.

Given your health and fitness goals, I suggest building to a maximum of 50 to 55 kilometres a week and keeping a minimum of 30 kilometres a week. Variety in your training is important because it helps prevent injuries, continues improving your health and fitness by challenging you, conditions you, and keeps you mentally engaged in your training. So rather than run the same mileage week in and week out, vary it by running 40 kilometres one week, 50 kilometres the next week, then a 55 kilometre week, followed by backing down to 30 kilometres the week after that, and then rebuild again. This range of mileage will give you an average of about 45 kilometres a week for the month. This average weekly mileage will keep you fit, challenge you, offer variety, and give you a large base to work with, should you decide to train for any races.

Races can and should be fun, especially when used as part of your training plan. They are a very useful measurement tool because they let you know how far your training has taken you and reminds you of where you came from. Races don’t have to be about competition, speed, or beating others (unless you want them to be!), but rather, races can be a fun way to celebrate your training, your health and fitness, and your accomplishments with other like-minded people from the running community. Choosing a race can be helpful for defining your training too. Selecting a goal race makes your training more specific by targeting a goal distance and a race date. Whatever the race distance, a 5K to the marathon, it’s a commitment. Races can also be a great place to meet new friends and training partners too! I encourage you to consider participating in a local race and see what you think. – Susan S. Paul, MS

Susan Paul has coached more than 2000 runners and is an exercise physiologist.

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