The Minimum Amount of Running Necessary to Stay Fit

Right now, you may not have time, be motivated or be able to get in the kind of run volume you’d like. The good news is if you already have a running base, it doesn’t take much to maintain it or even make improvements. Case in point: Western States 100 winner Clare Gallagher typically runs less than 60 miles weekly and was still able to win one of the biggest (100-mile) ultra races in the world.

If you’re a new runner, any time you can spend out on the roads or trails is time well spent. Even if you can only partially stick with your training plan, try to keep some kind of running routine going. Five minutes of jogging (or walking) in the morning is better than nothing and keeps you in the running habit so it’s easier to get back to it when you can run more again.

Here’s what you need to know about just how little you can run to stay at the level you’re currently at in your journey.

YOUR MINIMUM RUN PRESCRIPTION: 40 MINUTES OF AEROBIC TRAINING TWO TIMES A WEEK

A 2010 study showed minimal training time can keep your running base intact. Reduced training load included two 40-minute aerobic training sessions each week, with a few minutes of strength training twice a week. So for less than 90 minutes total per week, elite athletes were able to maintain most of their fitness.

Note: There’s no magic mileage threshold, rather, it’s about time on your feet. That’s because a 40-minute run for a serious racer could mean 6 or 7 miles, while for a newer runner, getting 2 miles done in that same time is a victory.

So, aim for at least two 40-minute runs each week. Sprinkle in 5–10 minutes of strength training (i.e., essential bodyweight exercises like pushups, lunges and air squats) two times each week as well to maintain your fitness.

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