Whether you’re just starting out or trying to figure out how to maintain fitness between races, the inevitable question arises about how many days a week to run, to strength train and what’s best.
As a running coach, I’m able to dive deep in to the answer for those in our group program or with custom training plans and of course that’s my preferred way to answer because it’s PERSONALIZED to you.
But alas, I’ll give you my best thoughts….
How Often Should I Run?
The answer is going to depend, but if you want to run your first 5K, you might easily get by with just 3 days of running per week. Meanwhile if you’re wanting to run your first marathon it’s ideal to work up to 5 days per week.
This is just one example, so you’re going to want to consider
- Current running goals
- Current level of fitness (will detail for new and experienced runners below)
- History of injuries or current injuries
One thing, I will say up front is I do NOT love running streaks or running every day. You can click that to read all about why, but for today let’s say it’s overkill most of the time.
If you want to run your first 5K, you might easily get by with just 3 days of running per week, meanwhile if you’re wanting to run your first marathon it’s ideal to work up to 5 days per week.
Do you get shin splints every time you start running? Then you’re likely diving in too fast. The same can be said for most running injuries. So knowing your body, be smart about starting slow with just 2 days per week and spend another few days walking or cycling, giving your body plenty of time to adapt to the stress of running.
The biggest excuse from any runner about why they skip the warm up or don’t do the injury preventing hip work is time….it’s also the main reason a new runner might find themselves swearing to run every morning at 6AM and instead only making it happen once a week.
How much should new runners run?
Let’s breakdown a few of the most common scenarios to help you figure out what’s best for you and your body.
Once a week could be the perfect place to start if you’re brand new to running! Don’t forget that showing up to walk other days will help to build your fitness, get you used to being on your feet and then allow you to run additional days.
Beyond that it’s HUGE to know that the run/walk method is ideal for all new runners.
- 1 day per week is a great jumping off point, add in walking 3-4 other days.
- 2 days per week is good if you have already been doing a lot of walking.
- 3 days per week is where you start to build some endurance and are ready for the Couch to 5K training plan which you can print out free at that link! It’s truly the best way to help you go from wanting to run to being a runner.
- 4 days per week is a really healthy balance, ensuring you still have time for at least 2 days of strength training which will build your metabolism to help with weight loss and overall fitness.
- 5 days per week is doable for those who have strong base level of fitness and are not doing a lot of other cardio cross training, but can still work in at least 2 runner strength training sessions.
- 6 days per week is generally not necessary for any new runner as it often limits their ability to recover and to complete the cross training that will keep them running injury free.
- 7 days per week as noted previously is not recommended, especially for new runners because you are far more likely to end up injured and sidelined rather than making progress.
How much should I run to maintain fitness?
If you’re a long time runner who is currently between races or just trying to maintain your endurance while you enjoy other sports then again there are a few options. I always ask a few questions to help these runners find the right schedule:
- Are you enjoying running right now or feeling burned out on training?
- Do you have your eye on any future goal races?
- Are you having more fun doing other training right now?
- Are you injury free or feeling exhausted from running?
Depending upon these answers we can put together a solid plan of attack that will ensure both enjoyment of the run (because that is SO IMPORTANT) and maintaining fitness.
From a high level, many long time runners could use a schedule like this:
Monday: Active recovery day
Tuesday: Mid-distance easy run
Wednesday: Speed workout + 20 minute full body strength
Thursday: mid-distance easy run
Friday: Full body strength workout
Saturday: Long run
Sunday: Optional short easy run + upper body/core workout
If however you are feeling burned out or just really enjoying some new classes, then DO NOT WORRY about cutting your running down to 3 days per week. Triathletes, obviously, mix in a variety of cardio and are often less injury prone and very fast runners thanks to those other disciplines.
How many days per week to run isn’t a one size fits all answer because we all have different goals and different bodies. But hopefully this helps to give you a starting point with your current fitness goals!
Looking for detailed training plans? Here are a few:
- Couch to 5K
- 10k Training Plan
- First half marathon training plan
- Sub Two Half Marathon training plan
- Low Heart Rate training plans
I’ve got a ton of other resources for new runners, so don’t hesitate to look around or ask! I’m happy to help.
Other ways to connect with Amanda
Instagram Daily Fun: RunToTheFinish
Facebook Community Chatter: RunToTheFinish