Most runners don’t run every single day. Many take one or two rest days per week or cross-train with activities such as cycling, swimming or resistance training. You may know people who run twice a week or six times per week. So how do you know how many times you should run per week?
The answer is highly individualized—based on your current fitness, health, schedule, and goals. What is essential is finding the right balance to help you meet your goals while staying healthy and still enjoying running.
Consider running three days per week if…
- You are a brand-new runner.
- You are training for a triathlon (or enjoy a lot of cross-training).
- Your goals are focused more on fitness than performance.
- You have a busy schedule.
Three days of running a week ensures that you can have a rest day between each run. The extra rest promotes recovery between runs, making three runs per week an ideal option for a novice runner.
Three days of running per week also work well for busy schedules. If your work or school schedule (or both!) is hectic, you may only have time to run three days per week. Or, you may be a triathlete with a demanding training schedule. If you commonly train for triathlons (which involve swim, bike, and run segments), you may only have time for three days of running so that you can fit in your cycling and swimming.
If your goal is general health and fitness, three days of running can work well in a well-rounded fitness plan. Resistance training is recommended two to three times per week to maintain and build functional strength and promote metabolic health. If you run three days per week, you can fit in two to three days of resistance training plus one to two rest days.
Consider running four to five days per week if…
- You have 6–12 months or more of running experience.
- You run long-distance races.
- You enjoy both running and other activities.
Four to five days is the sweet spot for many runners. Generally speaking, running more often develops your aerobic system better and helps you run faster and farther. (This is only true to a certain point.) In four to five days, you can fit in enough mileage to prepare for a marathon or half marathon. With two to three to three days off of running, you can still do resistance training or cross-training if you enjoy those.
However, you may have less recovery time between runs since you may run on more consecutive days. You want to ensure your musculoskeletal system is adapted to the impact of running before you run four or five days a week. A safe guideline for most runners is to have consistently run for six to twelve months before increasing from three days to four or five days.
Run six days per week if…
- You are an experienced runner.
- You are not prone to injury.
- You have big performance goals.
Six days of running allows only one rest day per week. The fatigue accumulates more quickly, and the injury risk is slightly higher. If you run six days per week, you will want to have been able to run four to five days for several months without getting injured. You also want to have a lifestyle that allows you to sleep enough and support your training with proper nutrition.
Six days per week is optimal for when you have big performance goals in races. This schedule allows you to run higher mileage throughout the week. However, six days per week of running means less time for cross-training.
How to know if your run schedule is working
So how do you know which schedule is for you? After considering your injury risk, fitness level and schedule, you also want to ensure it is enjoyable. Some very skilled runners burn out on six days of running per week, while some people mentally thrive on frequent runs. Additionally, if you are tired all the time or are experiencing declines in performance, you may be running too often and need extra rest.
You are running the optimal number of days per week if:
- You have remained injury-free.
- You are enjoying your running.
- You have energy on most runs—and after your runs.
- Your performance is improving, not plateauing.
The number of days per week may also change with the training season. Some runners may run five to six days when training for a marathon. Then, they may drop down to four to five days in the off-season and spend more time cross-training. Just because you ran five days per week at some point does not mean you always have to. You should adjust your frequency based on your current situation, not what you used to do or what a friend does.
As always, stay mindful of your physical and mental state and prioritize your wellbeing. You’ll get the most out of your runs that way.
Read more: How Cross-Training Improves Your Running
Please note: This blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.