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How many days a week should I work out? 4 game-changing workout routines for runners 

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“How many days a week should I work out?”

This is a common question from runners looking to improve their strength and build muscle.

There’s no doubt that strength training has many benefits for runners. 

Unfortunately, the injury rate in the running community remains pretty high – with common overuse injuries like runner’s knee and IT band syndrome being the bane of many runner’s lives. 

Strength training is one of the best ways to dramatically reduce the risk of injury.

So how many days a week should you be working out, and what are the best workouts to build muscle and lose weight?

In this guide we’ll explore:

  • Benefits of strength training for runners 
  • Which strength exercises should I do as a runner? 
  • How many days a week should I work out?
  • How many days a week should I work out to build muscle? 
  • How many days a week should I work out to lose weight?
  • 4 game-changing workout routines for runners

Ready?

Let’s get going! 

how many days a week should i work out

Benefits of strength training for runners 

Strength training is important for runners on so many levels.

You may be wondering: “What is strength training?”

Essentially, it’s exercise that involves the use of resistance – either in the form of your own bodyweight or weights like dumbbells or kettlebells. 

From reducing the risk of injury to improving your running form, strength training can help you become a stronger, faster and more efficient runner. 

According to a 2012 study, resistance training may promote bone development, with studies showing 1% to 3% in bone mineral density.

Adding that resistance training may be effective for reducing low back pain and easing symptoms of arthritis and fibromyalgia, and has been shown to reverse specific ageing factors in skeletal muscle.

Here are the benefits of strength training:

  • Reduces the risk of common running like runner’s knee and IT band syndrome
  • Improves running form. 
  • Improves running performance and efficiency.
  • Improves all round fitness. 
  • Builds skeletal muscle.
  • Improves bone density.
  • Boosts self-confidence and self-esteem. 

Related: The ultimate 30 day workout challenge for runners

Which strength exercises should I do as a runner? 

Your workouts should focus on the following types of strength exercises:

  • All body exercises 
  • Unilateral exercises 
  • Core exercises 

Remember: strength training should complement your running and not replace it entirely. 

The key takeaway? You still need to be running each week to maintain your aerobic fitness levels. 

Here is a breakdown of each exercise type:

All body exercises 

All body exercises (also known as compound exercises) are movements that incorporate your entire body.

Some or all of your muscle groups in your arms, legs, upper body and core are used in these types of movements.

All body exercises include:

  • Squats
  • Lunges 
  • Deadlift
  • Pull ups
  • Push ups 

Not only are compound exercises an efficient use of time, they allow you work more muscles and build greater strength. 

They also help to burn more calories and improve muscular coordination. 

how many days a week should i work out

Unilateral exercises 

Unilateral exercises involve only one side of your body when performing movement. 

Some sample unilateral exercises for runners include:

  • Side lunge
  • Forward lunge
  • Box step up
  • Single leg deadlift
  • Jump split squat 
  • Single arm chest press 

Running is an unilateral form of movement. 

In other words, your legs and arms are moving independently of one another, supporting your body and propelling you forward. 

Unilateral exercises help to correct muscle imbalances, help with injury prevention and aid rehabilitation. 

Core exercises 

A strong core is important for all runners, but especially distance runners. 

Core strength allows your muscles in your trunk to work together more effectively.

The goal is to work as effectively as possible so you expend less energy when you run. 

If you have a weak core, you’re more likely for example to hunch over when you get tired on a long run which can negatively impact your running form and lead to injury.  

Your abdomen, pelvis, hips and lower back are all part of your core. 

Some good core exercises for runners include: 

  • Plank
  • Bicycle crunches
  • Mountain climbers 
  • Windshield wipers 
  • Deadbug
  • Leg raises 

Related: The ultimate 30 day strength training plan for runners

how many days a week should i work out

How many days a week should I work out? 

The amount of strength training you do each week will depend on the extent of your running and your fitness goals. 

Simply put, the more running you are doing, the more you need to focus on your strength. 

To really see benefits it’s recommended you do between 1 to 3 workout sessions per week depending on the amount of miles you’re putting in each week. 

  • If you’re a beginner runner running 1 to 3 times a week, aim to do at least one workout session per week.
  • If you’re a more experienced runner running between 1 to 4 times a week, aim to do 1 to 3 workout sessions per week. 

No matter your running experience it’s important you build rest days into your weekly routine, especially if you’re starting out, so remember to include these too!

Related: 7 of the best running workouts to build endurance, strength and speed 

How many days a week should I work out to build muscle?

Many runners think that they will become too bulky if they do strength training. 

The truth is, running will only go so far if you’re looking to build muscle. 

Granted, activities like interval training and hill sprints do help to build leg muscle.

However long distance running can inhibit muscle growth. 

This is why it’s even more important for distance runners to complement their running with strength training to prevent muscle loss. 

So if you are looking to build muscle, aim to include 1 to 3 strength training sessions in your routine each week. 

Related: Strength training workouts for runners: 6 of the best workout routines

how many days a week should i work out

How many days a week should I work out to lose weight?

If your goal is to lose weight, then mixing cardio with strength training is a great way to shed the pounds and burn calories. 

That said, there’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to losing weight.

What we do know is that high intensity training is one of the best ways to burn calories and lose weight. 

However this doesn’t mean you should be doing high intensity training all the time. 

Make sure you combine high intensity training like HIIT or interval training with low intensity training like easy steady runs to avoid burnout.

A happy medium is to do 2 to 3 cardio sessions and 1 to 3 strength training sessions each week.

The total amount of sessions you do each week will depend on your fitness levels and weight loss goals

Related: Running for weight loss: The most effective running workouts to help you lose weight

how many days a week should i work out

4 game-changing workout routines for runners 

Now you know the answer to: “How many days a week should I work out?” – hopefully you have a better idea of what is best for you. 

Here are 4 game-changing workout routines for runners to get you started. 

#1 Beginner workout routine

Best for runners who started running and have been running for at least a month.

  • Monday – Easy run
  • Tuesday – Rest day
  • Wednesday – Easy run
  • Thursday – Rest day
  • Friday – 45 minute strength training session
  • Saturday – Rest day
  • Sunday – Long run

#2 Novice workout routine 

Best for runners who have been running for at least 6 months. 

  • Monday – Easy run
  • Tuesday – 30 minute strength training session
  • Wednesday – Rest day
  • Thursday – Easy run
  • Friday – 30 minute strength training session
  • Saturday – Rest day
  • Sunday – Long run

#3 Intermediate workout routine

Best for runners who have been running for at least two years. 

  • Monday – Rest day
  • Tuesday – Easy run + 30-45 minute strength training session 
  • Wednesday – Speed training
  • Thursday – Easy run + 30-45 minute strength training session
  • Friday – Easy run
  • Saturday – Rest day
  • Sunday – Long run

#4 Advanced workout routine

Best for runners who have been running for over five years. 

  • Monday – Rest day
  • Tuesday – Easy run + 45 minute strength training session
  • Wednesday – Speed training
  • Thursday – Easy run + 45 minute strength training session
  • Friday – Easy run
  • Saturday – Rest day
  • Sunday – Long run

Related: 7 of the best glute strength exercises for runners

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