By Dale Wallis
Whether you’re running for health, for fun or both, it helps to know how many days a week to run and for how long.
Your first step should be getting to know your body by starting small and running two or three days a week to better understand how much exercise it can handle. Once you’ve gotten into a comfortable exercise habit, kick it up a notch by adding days onto your running schedule. And while exercise is important, don’t underestimate the power of rest: Take time to let your body recharge to prepare itself to take on more activity.
These tips can help you learn how many days a week you should run and when to press pause on your running to let your body rest.
How Often Should You Run?
If running is a whole new experience for you, start by jogging just two or three days a week and work from there. Running this often helps you find a pace that works best for you. Try not to push yourself too much in the beginning and jog lightly. You don’t want to put too much stress on your muscles.
If all this running is leaving you tired or achy, go easy on yourself and mix it up a bit by completing intervals where you run, then walk, then run again. If you love that fit feeling and still want to work out on days you’re not running, cross training—such activities lifting weights—can keep your body active and moving.
Once running one or two days a week feels easy, challenge yourself with running three days a week. While you’re at it, bump up the length and speed of your runs.
Pushing yourself is a key part of running to stay fit and build a healthy body. You need to challenge and push yourself to allow your body to build muscle (and shed that extra weight, if that’s one of your goals).
Once you better understand how much exercise your body can take, it’s time to push yourself more by running four or five days a week. As you build on from three to four days, don’t forget to pay close attention to how your body is adjusting. Are you experiencing any aches and pains beyond the typical soreness you usually get from workouts? If so, scale back and take your time.
Pros/Cons of Running Every Day
After running comfortably for five or six days, you may be ready for the ultimate challenge: running seven days a week.
While your health can improve, running every day has the potential to burn you out. Go easier on yourself by running hard for five days and lightly jogging for two days. This gives you a sense of accomplishment without totally burning yourself out.
Committing to running every day helps you develop a strong sense of self-discipline. By building a training plan for yourself and sticking to it, you’re learning the value of hard work and the results will pay off as your body becomes more fit. If your schedule allows, try to commit to running approximately two to four miles each day.
Another positive to running every day is the satisfying feeling of stress release. When you run, your body puts out endorphins that provide feelings of calmness and relaxation, which you may need after hectic days at work. Running at the start of your day can be something you look forward to.
Though running every day keeps you healthy and gives you a sense of satisfaction, it can have its downsides, too.
While it’s great to set goals for yourself, forcing yourself to run every day can put pressure on you to complete it no matter what, even on days when you’re sick or injured. If you decide to run anyway, you might damage your body even more, causing you to spend more time healing and less time running.
Running every day can also be challenging to balance with your daily activities, which may make you stress about when you’ll fit in your run for the day.
Don’t let your workouts control your schedule. Decide when you have the most time to run and plan it around your day. On days where you barely have time to even cook yourself dinner, schedule a simple 10-minute jog. If you have the whole evening free, spend it tackling your longest time and distance. Your run should be a relaxing and motivating time.
Rest and Nutrition
Just like your body needs exercise to stay in shape, it also needs rest to recover. Recovery days give your muscles time to repair and strengthen themselves.
Make sure you’re getting a good night’s rest by sleeping for six to eight hours each night. Getting enough sleep also helps your brain focus on other events and activities throughout the day and boosts your energy levels, making it easier to motivate yourself and stay on track with your fitness goals.
Just because you’re spending a day or two resting from running doesn’t mean you have to stop exercising altogether.
Participate in light activities like yoga to help yourself stretch your muscles, improve your flexibility and control your breathing. Yoga encourages you to relax as you maneuver into different poses that help you focus on your balance and muscle building. Practicing yoga poses on your easy days for just 15 minutes is a great way for your muscles to regenerate as you clear your mind and find your center.
You can also spend your non-running days doing other activities that get you moving like rowing kayaks, riding bike trails, taking a dip in a nearby pool or experiencing nature on a walk.
Since you’re not working out on these easier days, your body isn’t burning as many calories, so it would make sense to consume fewer calories. Eat foods high in protein and low in calories. Protein helps the muscles repair more easily as they rest. Snack on at least 1.2 grams of protein each day, even on days you aren’t resting.
When it comes to carbs, not all of them are good for you. Skip the sugar and white flour, and concentrate on complex carbs like nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables; all contain a significant amount of nutrients your body needs to look and feel great. Complex carbs are also high in fiber, which aids digestion and elimination.
Last tip: If you’re serious about staying fit and active, you’ll keep yourself hydrated at all times. This helps prevent possible muscle cramps when you’re exercising and resting.