Being new to running can bring about the runners high – and it’s so effective! We chase that buzz, quite literally, and want to feel if effects every day. Even though the motivation is there (and frankly, feel rather scared to fall off the bandwagon and lose momentum) is it safe to run every day? Is it productive? You hear rest is the most important part of a training plan, yet, so is challenging and pushing your body. As a newcomer to running this can be a difficult one to navigate, and don’t worry, you’re not alone!
Let’s take a look at the risk and rewards of running every day. Who does it, why and is it worth you following suit?
As a training coach, I constantly get asked ‘how many times a week should I be running?’ Well, that entirely relates to your goals. You most certainly CAN run every day, but SHOULD you is the million-dollar question.
Is running every day a good idea?
As a newbie to running, it is wise to mix up your exercise regime, utilising cross-training. Where you can certainly train daily, but at different intensities and with different body parts and body systems targeted. Not only will this make you a stronger, more well rounded, healthier and genuinely fitter athlete, but it WILL boost your running prowess too. Remember you don’t have to run all the time to get better at running; swimming, cycling, yoga, and resistance training all play a very important part on your fitness journey, so, let’s ditch the tunnel vision, eh?
Although, right now you might be super motivated to run every day, that mentality could wavier throughout the month, week, day. By mixing up your training, you’re much more likely to be engaged and mentally stimulated.
By pounding the pavement every day, especially as a road runner, you will be running the risk of injury (pun intended). As a beginner, you must understand the 10% rule. strong>Increase your training load (time running or distance parameters) by 10% per week to minimise the risk of injury.
The main complaints associated with over-training, are shin splints: An umbrella term used for pain in and around the shins (lower leg). It can be caused by so many factors, with the prime antidote being rest, recovery and rehabilitation to get back on track.
Inured or not, you’re body will need rest days, regardless of your fitness levels! They say (myself included) that rest days are the most important part of your training plans. It is during this downtime that our bodies have a chance to adapt, change and grow stronger. Your body finally has time to catch up with the physical stress you have put it through. Of course, you can do productive things on your rest days to help maximise your recovery – such as contrast bathing, stretching, sleeping, foam rolling or going for a light stroll. Ignoring rest and pushing on isn’t clever – “no pain no gain” will lead you down the path to burn out… and nobody wants that, especially a runner.
So as a beginner, how many days a week should I run?
For beginners, running 3 times a week is a sweet spot. Make sure they are on alternate days (to allow for that all-important rest). If you find in your work schedule that you can train extra, consider cross-training alternatives of the 4th day – or even better, fit in a resistance training session to super-boost your strength, power and flexibility (yes you still require all three even if you plan to run 5k or a marathon).
That being said, please don’t think 3 times a week is the magic number – it isn’t. Please consider your life demands (childcare, working hours) as well as being realistic about your running goals. You can train for a half marathon distance by training 3x a week, so maybe 3 is the magic number for most races? Really, you want to ensure you fit running around your lifestyle, and not the other way around.
Important note for the female, menstruating runner: by stating (and adhering to) a strict 3x a week running routine, don’t be surprised if you find week to week, your energy levels skyrocket one week and plummet the next. It’s not often discussed, but running with your menstrual cycle will undoubtedly impact your training, both for the good and the bad. Start by tracking your cycle and understand which weeks your energy fluctuates, and stay true to your natural rhythm. Since I have done so, my fitness levels and mentality have benefited so much, you wouldn’t believe it.
Running 1-2 days a week?
This is the start for those new to running or returning from injury, illness and burnout, or someone with a jam-packed schedule.
Starting with 1-2 days a week of easy, enjoyable perhaps even sociable runs can feel like a huge achievement- and it is! To build, add an easy walk or run-walk combo to get your body used to moving more often throughout the week.
Running 3 days a week?
Most people I speak to run on average 3x a week. It’s a pleasurable amount to maintain your fitness levels, with the scope to push it and intensify with interval, threshold or fartlek sessions should you want to work on fitness levels.
There are training plans that can safely get you to the start line of a half marathon 13.1-mile race by training 3x a week, so don’t be fooled thinking you have to become some kind of full-time athlete to reach distance goals.
Running 4-5 days a week?
You would need to build to this amount should you want to tackle the longer distances, such as a marathon. Runners who are experienced and like to keep their fitness edge, tend to lace up this many times per week, and it comes with some hefty benefits, such as VO2 Max (the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use during exercise) making you a better, more efficient athlete with each passing week.
Running 6-7 days a week?
This level is reserved for the advanced runners, who often feel worse if they don’t train. Or the runners aiming for ultra-marathon distances (anything over 26.2 miles). Even so, they would still utilise cross-training and resistance training. What about their rest? Good question. Now training 6 days a week leaves the obvious one-day complete rest. But 7 days a week, would lend itself to active recovery. Meaning a lower intensity run, cycle, swim would be used to help recover the athlete. Also, the runner at this level will likely have a copious amount of time throughout their day/evening to recover effectively.