For beginner runners it can be hard to know how often they should run.
Vicki asks: About three months ago, I started running again. Is it good to run every day or should I run three times a week?
Vicki, congratulations on starting running again! Generally speaking, I am a fan of running every other day, especially when beginning a running program. Doing too much too soon is a common mistake.
Decide what your running goals are and what you want to achieve from your running. Are you running for health reasons (like weight loss) or are you running to complete a specific distance or to achieve time goals? Map out how much time you have to devote to training. Consider work, family, school, and any other commitments you may have because no training plan will work if you cannot follow it.
Running three times a week is a great starting point and provides many health and fitness benefits. By allowing recovery time between workouts you reduce your risk of injury or burnout. A three-day-a-week training plan is also a very effective use of time, so for busy people this type of plan works very well. If you miss a training day though, remember that running two days a week is less than ideal.
Some three-day-a-week running plans recommend two or more days of cross-training in addition to running. Cross-training can be extremely beneficial for broadening one’s fitness base. It also strengthens muscle groups other than running muscles. However, not all runners are interested, willing, or able to commit to cross-training.
Running every day has pros and cons too. I would not recommend running seven days week because of the lack of recovery time. Always give yourself one day completely off for rest. If you choose to run five or six days a week, vary your running routine daily by using different routes, mileages and training paces.
The best training plan is the one that works for you and allows you to meet your goals. So assess your needs and goals carefully and pick the training plan that’s the best match. It’s also important to note that fitness is dynamic and as your training progresses, don’t be surprised to find that your needs or goals change. As they change, your training program needs to change and you get to choose another plan!
Susan Paul, MS