Running has been a popular form of exercise for years. Runners find it not only fun but also healthy and very low-impact to your body. It’s no wonder that more people are beginning to run as their primary form of physical activity.
But many runners often ask themselves the question, how much should I be running? Because there is an overwhelming amount of information on this topic, we have decided to create a guide that will answer all your questions and concerns about running four miles a day.
In this article, we’ll discuss what benefits you’ll get if you’re running four miles each day, what disadvantages could arise from such a routine, and finally outline the best way to go about gradually increasing your mileage until you hit the 4-mile mark.
How To Start A 4 Miles A Day Routine?
A common question many beginners have is, “how much should I be running?” This all depends on your current state of fitness.
For those individuals who are just beginning a running routine, the American Council on Exercise recommends starting by walking for about five minutes and then gradually increasing your time to ten minutes (10). Each week you can increase the amount of time by five minutes until you reach 45 minutes total over three sessions per week.
Once you’ve reached this point, you will slowly start introducing runs that last 30 minutes or more. As long as these runs don’t cause pain in your lower extremities or severe fatigue within 24 hours afterward, they signify an appropriate training program.
Another common question for new runners is, “how fast should I be running?” We recommend that new runners run at an easy to moderate pace.
This means that your breathing is steady yet slightly elevated. The experience should feel somewhat challenging, but not too difficult at first. If you’re feeling excessively winded or fatigued throughout the activity, you’ve gone too hard on yourself and need to slow down.
Read More: How To Start Running At 50: Dos And Don’ts
Sample 4 Miles A Day Weekly Routine
An ideal weekly routine includes runs of varying distances, rest days, and cross-training. Each of these days is necessary for different reasons:
Varying Distance Runs
Changing how far you run throughout the week can help reduce injury (4). You might start on Mondays by running two miles at a moderate pace, followed by a short 5-minute walk. On Wednesdays, you can run a mile at a fast pace, then finish the week strong on Saturdays with a long run of four miles at an easy to moderate pace.
Everyone knows that muscles grow outside of the gym or while working out, not inside! If you don’t give your muscles enough time to repair themselves from the previous workout, they will not be able to perform optimally when it comes time for your next session.
There are many ways in which you can add variety to your fitness routine besides running alone. Doing so helps build muscles in different ways, minimizes the chance of overuse injuries, and will lead to a more well-rounded training program (9).
Here’s how a week of running may look like for a beginner:
- Monday: Rest day
- Tuesday: Two miles run at a moderate pace
- Wednesday: Three miles run at a moderate pace
- Thursday: Cross-training
- Friday: Rest day
- Saturday: Four miles run at a moderate pace
- Sunday: 30-minute walk at a moderate pace
How To Eat To Fuel Your Runs?
Your diet plays a big role in the effectiveness of your running routine. Here are some factors to consider while preparing meals that fuel your runs:
Choose Whole Foods Over Processed Ones
You want a nutrient-rich, low-calorie food to fuel your run, so make sure you are choosing foods that will help you achieve your workout goals (14). Some examples to consider are whole wheat bread over white bread, oatmeal instead of sugary cereal, brown rice rather than white rice, fruit than fruit juice, and the list goes on.
Don’t Eliminate Carbohydrates From Your Diet
Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred energy source, and they’re important for runners. This is because carbs break down into glucose in the bloodstream, giving you fuel when it is needed most. In addition to fueling your workouts, carbohydrates also help restore glycogen (glucose that has already been broken down) after an intense run or workout (7). So if you reduce your intake drastically, you will miss out on some serious benefits!
Choose Fruits And Vegetables Over Juices
No matter what anyone says about fruit juice being healthy, it is still missing fiber. Fiber-rich foods like fruits and vegetables take longer to digest than their processed counterparts (i.e., juices). So they keep blood sugar levels stable during your workout without having a negative impact on insulin levels (6).
Make Water Your Go-To Beverage
If you are trying to lose weight or just want to drink healthier, consider making water your go-to beverage. Coconut water is also a good choice because it contains potassium and sodium, which can help prevent muscle cramps during your run (13). If you do want to enjoy other beverages while running, keep in mind that caffeine dehydrates the body, so any time you drink coffee or caffeinated soda before exercising, plan to consume an extra 8 oz of water for every serving of caffeine.
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Up Your Protein Consumption
Protein is essential for muscle growth and repair, so it can help you become a better runner. Look for low-fat sources of protein like chicken and tuna to help you reach your goals.
What Are The Benefits Of Running 4 Miles A Day?
Running is beneficial to your health for many reasons. Running four miles a day will provide you with multiple benefits, but what are those benefits?
Reduced Risk Of Coronary Heart Disease
Endurance training (like running) increases your level of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (good cholesterol). This will reduce the risk of coronary heart disease (8).
A study posted in 2015 of men and women runners found that compared to non-runners, runners had a 45% lower risk of all-cause mortality. This was after taking into account age, sex, body mass index (BMI), smoking status, and alcohol consumption. The study also showed that running improves blood pressure and cholesterol levels (8).
Improved Bone Density
Like weight training, running strengthens our bones by placing stress on them, which signals the body to add calcium and other nutrients to make them stronger. The greater the stress, the greater the benefit to your bones (11).
Burns Calories And Body Fat
Running is one of the most calorie-burning activities there is (technically, it’s not an activity it is exercise). This means that more calories will be burned when running than during any other kind of exercise. This leads to potential weight loss (3).
How many calories are burned during a 4-mile run? Well, that depends on several factors, including:
- Gender. Men generally burn more calories than women when running.
- Age. As we age, our calorie-burning ability declines.
- Weight. The heavier you are, the more calories you will burn when running.
- Terrain. Hills make it harder to run, and this means that you will burn more calories.
- Pace. The faster you run your mile time, the more calories you will burn in a 4-mile run (not surprisingly). A fast pace means a high heart rate which means a higher calorie expenditure during your run.
In general, men can expect to burn about 600 to 700 calories per hour while running at an average pace of 5 mph or 10-minute mile. Women may only be able to do half of that since they generally have a lower calorie-burning ability than men.
You may not be able to do it every day, but running will boost your metabolism and keep it elevated for longer than most other forms of exercise.
Reduces Risk Of Depression And Anxiety
If you didn’t already know, running is an effective treatment for mild-to-moderate depression and anxiety. It triggers the release of endorphins which are feel-good chemicals in your brain (1). So get out there and get down with the runner’s high!
Runners often report feelings of accomplishment, focus, happiness, energy, excitement, and stress relief that come along with running. Running allows us to experience positive self-regard (in contrast to self-judgment). This is especially true when the run itself goes smoothly. As it gives runners a boost in confidence that spills over into other areas of their lives.
Many people love to run alone because it allows them to think clearly without distractions from others or technology. You can use that time alone in nature or on the trail as a chance to meditate, pray, or just relax. Some runners prefer running with a partner or group of friends, which gives them added motivation to get out the door.
Improved Sleep Quality
Running can help you get to sleep faster and stay asleep longer (5). This is for two reasons. The first reason is that an intense workout will cause your body temperature to rise, which releases melatonin so you feel tired. Second, the act of running also tires out your muscles, including those in your feet and calves, which need rest to repair themselves (this takes energy). Stretching or massaging these muscles helps them relax, allowing you to finally fall asleep.
What Are the Risks Associated With Running 4 Miles A Day?
The main risk associated with running four miles a day is injury from overexertion. Some of the most common runner’s injuries are (2):
This is an inflammation of the tendon running along the back of the lower leg. The pain is usually most intense after a run and may last for several days.
This is an injury to the cartilage under the kneecap that causes pain around or behind the knee. It is also more common in less experienced runners who change their running patterns too quickly.
The plantar fascia is a long tendon that connects your heel bone with your toes. These are most often injured by repetitive motions that pull up on this tendon, which can cause it to thicken over time, eventually leading to tears within the tissue.
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Runner’s knee is an inflammation of one of the tendons of your knee cap. It is most commonly caused by an intense increase in training or poor running form. Symptoms include swelling, stiffness, and pain around or behind the knee, which can be sharp or a deep ache.
IT Band Syndrome
This is inflammation of the Iliotibial Band, which are long tendons that run along the outside of your thigh from the hip to the shin. These muscles are overused when they become too tight, causing friction on this band resulting in pain just above or below the knee often after a long-distance run.
This condition causes pain below either side of the front part of your shin bone. This injury occurs as a result of repetitive impact to the bone resulting in tendonitis. Symptoms of this condition include a dull ache along the inside part of the leg and swelling above or below the shin bone (12).
How Can You Prevent Running Injuries?
To enjoy the benefits and avoid the risks of running four miles a day, here are a few things you can do:
Consider Your Fitness Level While Creating A Routine
Running four (4) miles a day does not necessarily mean running for four miles every day. Beginners should start with short distances and slowly build up their endurance. It can take time for muscles in your feet, legs, hips, back, and stomach to strengthen enough to carry you for this length of time (9).
Increase Gradually Your Distance And Speed
Increase the number of days per week that you run gradually over several weeks rather than all at once. You should also gradually increase your speed when preparing to run faster in races or when trying for an improved marathon time. However, training plans usually suggest that your speed remains the same throughout the full distance until there are only a few weeks left before race day.
Listen To Your Body
If you feel pain, stop running immediately. If the pain doesn’t subside within a few days, take several months off of running to allow your muscles and joints time to heal. Make sure that you are especially careful during the first month or two after coming back from an extended break.
Warm Up And Cool Down
Before starting any run, be sure to warm up for at least five minutes by stretching your legs slowly and running at an easy pace before you start running four miles. Be sure to cool down as well after your run with another 5 to 10-minute walk followed by stretches focusing on the areas most used when running. These include the hips, ankles, calves, quadriceps, hamstrings, hip flexors, glutes, lower back, quads, and IT band (9).
Focus On Form And Technique
A good running form helps prevent many of the most common injuries associated with this sport and helps you run faster and more efficiently. Focus on your posture — shoulders rolled back, chin up, and core engaged— while also paying attention to your foot strikes; land lightly on the balls of your feet while rolling forward from heel-to-toe (9).
Improve Your Flexibility
The best way to do this is by adding some strengthening exercises for your lower body into your daily routine. These focus on the quadriceps, hamstrings, hip flexors, glutes, calf muscles, and Achilles tendon. This will help to provide balance in strength which will also reduce injury risk (9).
The Bottom Line
Running four miles a day can be a great goal, and it will help you stay in great shape as well. It is important to build up strength and endurance before attempting this length of running, and it takes several months to fully train the body for such an intense workout. If you listen to your body, focus on form, strides, stretches, and gradually increase your distance, then you should be able to run four miles safely.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- A Scoping Review of the Relationship Between Running and Mental Health (2020, nih.gov)
- Classifying Running-Related Injuries Based Upon Etiology, With Emphasis On Volume and Pace (2013, nih.gov)
- Energy Expenditure Comparison Between Walking and Running in Average Fitness Individuals (2012, lww.com)
- Excessive Progression in Weekly Running Distance and Risk of Running-Related Injuries: An Association Which Varies According to Type of Injury (2014, jospt.org)
- Exercising For Better Sleep (n.d., hopkinsmedicine.org)
- Health Benefits of Fruits and Vegetables (2012, nih.gov)
- High-Quality Carbohydrate and Physical Performance (2018, nih.gov)
- Leisure-Time Running Reduces All Cause and Cardiovascular Mortality Risk (2015, nih.gov)
- Preventing running related injuries using evidence-based online advice: the design of a randomised controlled trial (2017, nih.gov)
- Ready to Run? (2009, acefitness.org)
- The effect of long-distance running on bone strength and bone biochemical markers (2019, nih.gov)
- The treatment of medial tibial stress syndrome in athletes; a randomized clinical trial (2012, nih.gov)
- The Truth About Coconut Water (2010, webmd.com)
- Whole Foods Best for Workouts (2003, webmd.com)