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How often should you run? Here’s a breakdown

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How often should you run?

This is a common question from beginner and experienced runners alike looking to train for their next race or up their running game.

Running every day is not the answer when it comes to running faster or achieving your next PB.

It’s much more about training smarter and not harder in order to prevent burnout, overtraining and common overuse injuries.

So how often should you run? How often should you run to lose weight or train for a half marathon?

In this guide we’ll explore:

  • Should you run every day?
  • How often should you run as a new runner?
  • How often should you run if you’re returning from injury?
  • How often should you run to lose weight?
  • How often should you run after pregnancy?
  • How often should you run on your period?
  • How often should you run when training for a 5k?
  • How often should you run when training for a 10k?
  • How often should you run when training for a half marathon?
  • 7 tips for injury free running

Ready?

Let’s go!

how often should you run

Should you run every day?

How often you run each week really depends on your fitness levels, running goals and lifestyle.

Yes, you can probably run every day, 7 days a week, but this doesn’t mean you should!

In fact, you’ll probably do your body more harm than good if you run every day consecutively for a period of time.

Even elite athletes make time in their training schedule for rest and recovery days. 

Rest and recovery days give your body a much needed break in between runs to allow your muscles to rebuild and repair.

Runner’s knee, IT band syndrome and shin splints are all common overuse injuries in the running community which can be avoided by training smart, not training hard. 

According to a 2017 study, runners are particularly susceptible to overuse injuries due to inadequate recovery.

Here is a guide on the number of days running per week and who it is good for:

  • Running 1 to 2 days per week: Good for new runners, those returning from injury, people with a busy schedule.
  • Running 3 days per week: Good for low mileage runners (less than 20 miles a week), those who do other forms of training the rest of the week (e.g. strength training, cross training).
  • Running 4 to 5 days per week: Good for medium mileage runners (30-50 miles per week), those who have been running for a few years, those who are training for longer distances like a half marathon or marathon
  • Running 6 days per week: Good for high mileage runners (50+ miles each week), those who have been running for a long time, those who are looking to achieve a PB at their next half marathon or marathon

Related: How to start running again after an injury: 5 tips for success

how often should you run

How often should you run as a new runner?

If you’re a new runner, you’ll no doubt be excited to get some miles under your belt.

But before you go out all guns blazing, it’s important to take everything in your stride (excuse the pun!)

You need to build up slowly and steadily as a new runner to avoid injury, overtraining and burnout. 

Overuse injuries like shin splints come about as a result of running too often or running using poor running form. 

Once you develop a good base level of fitness, stamina and endurance, then you might want to look into running more often.

Training plans like Couch to 5k and other similar beginner training plans are great for new runners as they build your mileage slowly with plenty of rest and recovery days in between runs. 

In the Couch to 5k plan, for example, you’ll be running a maximum of 3 days a week.

When you first start out as a runner, running 1 to 3 days a week on alternate days is more than enough.

This means you’ll have plenty of rest and recovery days in between your runs. 

Related: How many miles should I run a day? Benefits + risks of running every day

How often should you run if you’re returning from injury?

If you’re returning to running from injury, then you’ll want to take it slowly. 

Depending on your injury and the advice you have been given from your doctor or physical therapist, you’ll want to limit the number of days on which you run to about 1 to 2 each week. 

This will give you a good base to work from and build your endurance, stamina and strength.

Running 1 to 2 days a week will also offer you a gentle way to return to exercise in a way that protects your health and wellbeing. 

Related: Running 4 miles a day: Benefits + what to expect

how often should you run

How often should you run to lose weight?

If your goal is to lose weight, then you should aim to run about 2 to 4 times each week.

The key is to combine this with other forms of training like high intensity interval training (HIIT) and a healthy eating plan.

Most people overestimate the amount of calories they are able to burn during exercise.

You will need to burn more calories than you eat each day (a calorie deficit) in order to successfully lose weight. 

You burn roughly 100 calories per mile, so running 2 to 3 miles is a solid workout to burn about 200 to 300 calories. 

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

How often should you run after pregnancy?

There is no one size fits all approach when it comes to exercise after pregnancy.

If you had a straightforward birth, you will be able to return to exercise as soon as you feel comfortable doing so. 

After a more complicated delivery like a C-section, or if you experienced complications during childbirth, your recovery time will be longer.

It’s important you listen to your body and only return to exercise only once you feel ready.

In the first six weeks, you will still be recovering from the delivery and you’ll be caring for your baby, so this time can be challenging for new mothers.

The general advice is to try and stay mobile and do gentle activities, such as going for a daily walk, while you’re recovering. 

Talk to your doctor or midwife before starting any form of moderate or vigorous exercise. 

Related: Returning to exercise after pregnancy: The complete guide

How often should you run on your period?

Whether or not you work out on your period boils down to your personal preferences and the severity of your period symptoms.

If you prefer to rest and stay at home during your period because it just feels too uncomfortable to do anything else, then you may want to skip your run for a few days.

Whatever your situation, it’s important you are aware of the benefits of exercise during your period so you can decide whether or not it’s the right thing for you. 

There isn’t any scientific evidence that tells us that you shouldn’t exercise during your period – it is generally considered safe.

Related: Should you work out on your period? 6 best exercises

How often should you run when training for a 5k?

How often you run when training for a 5k will depend on your desired race time, running experience and fitness levels. 

Most 5k training plans will have you running at least 3 times a week.

As you progress, you will be able to increase this to 4 to 5 times each week depending on your goals and lifestyle. 

Related: The ultimate advanced 5k training plan: Week by week plan + printable

how often should you run

How often should you run when training for a 10k?

As with the 5k running distance, how often you run will depend on your 10k race time, running experience and fitness levels.

Most 10k training plans will have you running at least 3 times a week. 

This will increase to 4 to 5 times a week depending on your running goals and lifestyle.

Related: How many miles is a 10k? Average 10k times by age and gender

How often should you run when training for a half marathon?

If you’re training for a half marathon, you should generally be running 3 to 5 times a week. 

With any well-rounded half marathon training plan, you will increase your mileage as you get closer to race day. 

You will also do a long run (at least 5 miles) every week so your body can adjust to running longer distances.

The long run will typically increase by one mile or two each week.

With any long distance training, rest and recovery days are integral to avoid overtraining and burnout. 

Related: What is a good half marathon time? Average half marathon times by age and gender

how often should you run

7 tips for injury-free running

Now you know more about running each week, here are 7 tips for injury-free running.

#1 Listen to your body

It sounds simple but one of the best ways to prevent injury and fatigue is to listen to your body.

Running can be physically demanding.

If you run regularly each week, then you have to be on the lookout for signs that may mean you need more rest and recovery.

These signs could be fatigue, muscle soreness, lack of motivation, illness or strains and niggles. 

To make sure you are making the most of your rest days – make sure you take one day completely off running each week.

This doesn’t mean a sneaky run in the morning! 

You need a rest day to repair and rebuild your muscles and replenish your energy stores. 

By taking rest days seriously, you will gain more in the long term. 

#2 Strength train

As a runner it’s really important you incorporate strength training into your routine.

Strength training is one of the best ways to significantly reduce running injuries. 

It will also go a long way to help you achieve your next PB. 

Strength training will help you even out any muscle imbalances which could eventually lead to injury. 

Many runners neglect strength training, but if you get into the habit of doing 1 to 2 strength training sessions per week, you’ll up your running game hugely!

#3 Cross train

Cross training is a great way to add some much needed variety into your training plan.

Activities like walking, cycling, swimming, yoga and Pilates can all be considered cross training activities for runners.

Cross training should be done on active recovery days, so don’t be tempted to go for a long walk or cycle on your rest day.

Rest days are just for that – resting!

#4 Wear the right gear

The right pair of running shoes are vital so you protect your feet and provide the right amount of comfort and stability.

Factors like running gait, weekly mileage and footstrike will determine the type of running shoe you need. 

The best way to assess what running shoe is best for you is to visit your local running shoe store for professional advice. 

#5 Progress slowly and gradually

If you are looking to increase the number of days or miles you run each week, then the recommendation is to increase gradually in small increments.

The general rule of thumb is to increase your training by no more than 10% each week to avoid sudden leaps in your training.

Sudden leaps in training often result in burnout and injuries like shin splints, so it pays off in the long term to progress gradually. 

#6 Fuel your runs

Your diet as a runner is just as important as the training itself.

You need to be fuelling your body in the right way to ensure it has enough energy to keep you running.

Carbohydrates, protein, fats, vitamins and minerals – these are all key nutrition sources for runners.

You also want to ensure you drink enough water to stay hydrated before, after and in between your runs. 

Related: What does it mean to be fat protein efficient?

Caroline Geoghegan
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