How many days a week should you run is a common question whether you run for fitness, health, competitions, marathon training, or just because you love it.
Most experts agree new runners should limit themselves to running three to four days a week.
The truth is there is simply no pat answer to how often you should run because there are too many variables. 3 times a week is good for some, while others need to hit the pavement 5 or 6 times a week.
Try answering these 3 questions to get to the best answer for your personal needs and goals:
1. What type of runner do you see yourself as?
If you running to increase your fitness level or to decrease your weight, 3 or 4 times a week will probably provide the results you are looking for as a casual runner.
3-4 times a week is plenty to burn off calories and keep your cardiovascular system healthy.
If you are getting into competitive running and looking for your best results in the next race, 4-6 times a week.
This will give you the time and training to increase your speed, strength and stamina necessary for competitive runs.
Even if you are only wanting to only increase distance, running more times a week will help you increase stamina needed to go the distance.2.
2. How far do you want to go?
Deciding why you want to run will give you the edge on how far you want to go.
When I started running as a beginner it was primarily to lose weight. If you’re just beginning — running short distances and working your self up to 30 minutes to an hour a few days a week is great.
You won’t need to run nearly as many days a week as someone training for a marathon.
Beginners will do well to stick to 2-4 times a week to avoid over-training and risking injury.
Veteran runners running long distances get in as many miles each week as possible. So many miles a week often wind up taking every day of the week, and sometimes more than once a day.
3. Are you injury prone?
This may or may not be a hard question to answer? If, for instance you are already exercising on a regular basis, you know if overtraining takes a toll on your body.
If that’s you, you should only be running a few times per week to give your body time to adjust to building a new routine.
Until and unless you can strengthen your body to be resistant to injury, running more often than this will likely lead you to injury.
You might try cross-training with swimming, stationary bikes, strength training, etc. Cross-training will assist your body in strengthening as you become a better runner.
I’ve found that cross-training is vital to my own overall strength and endurance when it comes to how often and how far I run.
Cross-training gives some muscle groups time to heal, repair and rejuvenate while keeping fit.
So you’ll be miles ahead if you choose at least one other training activity, preferably something you really enjoy and make it part of your weekly routine.
By choosing swimming, weight training, bicycling, roller skating, or anything else that takes endurance and strength, you’ll find yourself enjoying your runs more.
Using a recumbent bike at home is one of my best cross training exercises.
Running Techniques Decide How Often I Run
The number of days you run each week is only one aspect of your running routine.
You must take into account the distance you run, and how fast, or how much effort you put into it. ( how hard you’re running, and the terrain?)
Even though distance and labor can go hand in hand: if I’m running 5 miles on level ground, that’s nothing compared to running 5 miles up and downhills.
Not to mention that my most comfortable gait is slower than some of the people I run with.
So when I’m stepping out pretty good to keep up, a shorter overall distance can really be a good workout, and all I want?
If I exert myself far over my usual boundaries, then I really need to make up for it with good stretches afterward and get more or better rest.
So, that usually comes into play when I decide how many days I’ll run this week.
Don’t start out trying to run every day of the week!
Taking days off or doing cross-training is taking care of your body, and is essential to everything you want to gain from running.
If you don’t take the time to get the rest you need, you will risk injury either serious or bad enough to interrupt your routine.
You’ll find yourself with poor results, burnout, and overworking your muscles.
When you’re overworking muscles, you’ll never get to your best and full potential.
How Fast Do I Need To Run?
The fact is that most runners who aren’t competition runners are usually jogging.
As you probably know, there’s a difference between jogging and running.
The main difference in jogging and running is the speed you are moving and the intensity.
Unless you’re a competition runner, jogging (fast or slow) is all you need? But then again, that depends on your own goals, and what’s a comfortable pace for you.
The speed you run has different intensity levels that can only be determined by your comfort levels, goals, experience, and training.
Different intensity levels include:
- Jog – Moving less than 6 miles an hour with a more relaxed form and less demand on your knees
- Tempo – a pace moderately faster than your normal pace.
- Threshold – the fastest pace you can run— still getting enough oxygen — as you breathe deeply, without straining. Beginners can usually sustain this pace for up to 30 minutes.
- VO2max – This a formula for the more technically inclined runners than myself. It’s basically a measurement of the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use while running. the fastest pace where you are breathing as hard as you can. Beginners experience will provide you with a natural understanding of how much air you can gasp for, compared to how much your body can use. Check out this article for more (and better) info on VO2max.
- All-out sprint – Sprints are the fastest you can run for short distances. Usually, something you’re body can sustain for about 20 seconds.
As you gain experience and miles, you may decide to go from running only for good exercise to stretching yourself and your body into each of the paces listed above.
You can experiment with different effects of each on your own body.
If you decide to go into competitive running, you’ll likely find that use each of those at different stages of both your training each day of the week and even during your warm-ups and actual racing.
The biggest thing I’ve learned over time when it comes to how many days I run each week is to listen carefully to my body.
Every time I ignore or overlook the signals it’s sending me, I pay in downtime. Some days I need to run easy and the run is more difficult than others.
Some days it’s easy to run at a fast pace for long distances, some days, not so much?
But, I also found that cross-training has really helped me run more enjoyable days every week. So don’t deny yourself the advantages of either cross-training or taking a day off from all of it each week.