Ask The Expert

How Many Times A Week Should I Run?

How often should you be running each week? We asked a group of experts to explain how best to balance running activity and recovery

How Many Times A Week Should I Run?
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How many times a week should you run? Finding the right balance between activity and recovery is important, and there is no set rule for everyone.

How often you should be running per week depends on factors such as your fitness level, as well as the intensity and duration of your workouts.

We asked a select group of experts to deliver their thoughts and tips when it comes to how often you should be running and answer the question: “How many times a week should I run?”

Here’s what they said.

Slow And Steady Will Win The Race

Christine Hetzel, Level 1 RRCA Run Coach

Unequivocally, it is a resounding absolutely NO on whether a novice and/or beginner runner should run every day.

When someone is first starting a new running routine, I would not program them to run more than three to four days a week, depending on their current fitness level, and would ask that they give their bodies a chance to recover by not running back-to-back days.

If they are someone who has a higher degree of fitness, they may be able to run more than the above scenario, but the standard rule of thumb is to increase your mileage, and therefore your running time, gradually.

By not increasing your time or mileage more than 10 per cent weekly you are giving your muscles, tendons, ligaments, and cardiovascular systems the opportunity to adapt before introducing added stressors.

When people first get started, they have a tendency to think more is better. In reality, more is just a sure-fire way of increasing risk of injury and/or reducing motivation to continue a running program that is approachable, sustainable, and valuable to increasing their fitness level.

A true novice, beginner, or even a runner coming back from injury or an extended break benefits from a run/walk approach three to four times per week that gradually increases the running segment and decreases the walking segment over a course of nine to 12 weeks.

Again, this will vary according to the individual’s level of fitness. Some may feel they are adapting quicker, but getting safely to the finish line of the training plan without injury while enjoying their increased fitness should be the main focus of a beginner.

For others, they may need a longer approach to their running segments and can benefit from a continued run/walk approach to their style of running indefinitely.

The running community did welcome quite a few new runners to the sport during the Covid-19 pandemic. To those runners I say welcome, we are so glad to have you here.

As you start out, slow and steady will win the race. Now buckle in and enjoy the ride (run), because running will transform your life.

Group running

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There Is No Set Answer

Peter Sherry, Distance Runner and Professional Running Coach for Tagalong

As a runner for over 30 years, a coach for almost 25 years, a shoe store owner, and a therapist who regularly treats running injuries, let me begin by saying that I have no problem with someone running everyday.

There is no set answer. I’ve had athletes who’ve almost never missed a day and remained injury free, and others who couldn’t stay healthy running every other day.

I don’t believe the amount you run or how often you run is a much of a factor on your ability to stay injury free, as is generally believed by many coaches and beginner runners.

Having said that, if I were to set a schedule for a beginner runner, as I do at Tagalong, I would suggest starting with running every other day during the week and one other day over the weekend for a total of four days a week.

Here are some tips for any beginner runner:

1) Start with a quality pair of shoes, go to your local specialty running shoe store, get fit properly, and try on different brands and sizes of shoes. Don’t go in with a preconceived notion of what you want; you will be surprised how often people leave with shoes they have no intention of trying on. Many shoe stores have a 30-day return policy, so if the shoes aren’t comfortable or give you blisters after several runs, don’t be afraid to return them for a different pair.

2) Run by time not by distance. With the rise of GPS watches and gizmos that can track every metric of your run from stride count to elevation gain, ignore the technology and just get out and run for a set period of time. Time is always accurate; measured distances are not, especially if you run on gravel roads or in the woods. Some days you will feel good, others not so good. So let the time be the judge and not how far or short you run. Using time as your gauge will allow you to enjoy the run more.

3) Experiment with different loops, different parks and terrain. Try running on gravel roads or grab a friend and drive to a local park to see what trails they have to offer. Single track trails in the woods can be a little dicey with leaves and roots, but can also invigorate your routine. Don’t enjoy hills? Consider leaving your comfort zone and give a hilly run a try anyway. You’ll be amazed at how your body adapts and benefits from new surroundings.

4) If you’re already a regular runner and need something to boost your routine, try adding one long run on the weekends to your schedule. If you run 40 minutes every other day, try running 60 minutes one day and only 20 minutes the next run, that way you haven’t increased your overall time but have added a stimulus that your body can adapt to. Trust me, after running for an hour, that 20 minute run will feel like a breeze and you might find yourself running even more on the shorter run, thereby increasing your overall training.

5) For both beginner and experienced runners I suggest a hard/easy approach for optimal recovery. Don’t try to run your hardest or fastest each run. Take one run at a comfortable pace and the next a little faster or longer or with added hills. Your body reacts well to increase effort only if you allow it to recover and adapt. Our fitness levels increase only if our bodies can adapt to the training. If we are constantly overtaxing our muscles, they never have a chance to recover.

As a final note, after about four to six months or 400 to 500 miles of running, you will need to go out and get a new pair of shoes to keep you healthy! No matter how good the running shoe, they don’t last forever!

Athletics at University

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It’s Best To Take At Least Two Rest Days Per Week

Marnie Kunz, RRCA Certified Running Coach and Founder of Runstreet

It is OK to run every day – if you take easy, have slow recovery days and do not have any lingering pains or injuries.

Each person’s body is different and some people are able to run daily while many need a rest day. It’s important to take a few easy days each week if you do run daily.

Also, keep up your stretching routine and use a foam roller on any tight muscles. For beginners, I recommend starting with running four to five times per week.

Taking at least two rest days per week will help your body rebuild and repair and also gives you a mental break.

If you have been running more recently due to the Covid-19 lockdowns, just make sure you follow some simple training principles to allow your body time to recover and rebuild.

Do not add more than 10 per cent to your total miles from the week before. For instance, if you run 15 miles in one week, you can add 1.5 miles to run a total of 16.5 miles the next week.

Also, follow the easy-hard principle of training and give yourself an easy day or rest day after a hard workout such as a long run or speed workout.

Make sure you get properly-fitting running shoes and change them regularly (about every 400 miles for most shoes) to help prevent injuries as well.

Woman Running

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It’s Very Important To Let Your Body Recover Properly

Tami Smith, ACE Certified Fitness Trainer and Pre and Postnatal Fitness Specialist

Running every day may sound like a great idea, but it can increase risk for lower body injuries and unnecessary wear and tear over time.

That being said, if you pursue running daily, be sure to keep the volume and intensity at a low rate.

A beginner should start with a running schedule and be sure to include days of rest. If you’re just starting out, start with a low intensity and volume route, then progress as your body becomes stronger and ready to ramp it up.

Without question running, and fitness activity in general, can help relieve stress, and sometimes that can get addicting. However, it’s very important to let your body recover properly.

If you need physical activity on your running days off, use lower-joint friction workouts, such as cycling.

I believe it’s so important when you schedule your running to set goals and push yourself.

There’s a fine line between going too hard and feeling good after a great run. The last thing you want to happen is an overuse injury. For example, a hip flexor, which could set you back, as that takes at least six to eight weeks to recover from.

Man Running

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Running Every Day Is Too Much For Most People

Lev Kalika, Clinical Director and Owner of NYDNRehab

Seven days a week is too much for running. Your body does need a break for at least one day a week even if you are an experienced runner with excellent running form.

For less mature runners, I recommend to have at least two break days spaced out as such: run, break, run, break, run, break, break.

It is more than just about running and resting days. It is about the distance, the pace, the terrain, treadmill vs outside, cadence, shoes, time of the day, as well as what other physical activity that person is involved in.

You need to be strong to be running and not running to get stronger. I always recommend at least two days of strength training and mobility work for beginners. The strength training should involve frontal and transverse plane motions.

For someone who is not new to running, I recommend getting a running app which looks at your step rate, energy expenditure, heart rate and more. I also strongly recommend getting a gait analysis done with a reputable running clinic. Avoid getting a gait analysis at shoe stores it is a gimmicky set-up.

Injury is an interesting topic. The biggest predictor of a running injury is a previous injury, whether sustained during running or anything else.

Once you have an injury, the body subconsciously alters how you walk and run; and that will lead to a running injury further down the road.

Rule number one: listen to your body. Don’t run when you feel tired. Stop running if you feel fatigued. Do progress to longer distances gradually. Use two pairs of running shoes – alternate them.

Running Every Day Isn’t Recommended For Most People

Jordan Duncan, Owner of Silverdale Sport and Spine

The number of days per week you should run is a very important point to consider, especially if you are preparing for a race.

In most training programs, you will run between four and six days per week, and these programs intersperse easy runs between long runs, tempo runs and interval days.

The reason for this frequency of running is to make sure you train enough, and the easy days are to make sure you don’t overtrain.

In this case, the intensity is more spread out. Most elite runners are given a green light to train every day, however it isn’t recommended for most runners.

If you are starting out, you can decrease the frequency so that you are running every two or three days. Once you get comfortable with this, you can increase your frequency in order to fit most training programs if you are preparing for a race.

According to the article, Running injuries. A review of the epidemiological literature, up to 75 per cent of all running injuries are the result of overtraining.

Overuse injuries occur when the body’s physiological ability to heal lags behind the microtrauma that develops with repetitive action.

Therefore, in addition to the number of days you run per week, weekly mileage is also important. The exact number of miles per week varies from person to person, however research has shown that the rate of injuries tends to increase in those who run more than 35 to 40 miles per week.

While it will take time to build up to this volume, not exceeding this mileage can go a long way in preventing injuries.

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