Whether you start running out of enjoyment or for your health, it can be hard to know how much is enough and how much is overdoing it when you first begin.
How many days a week should I run? It’s not an easy question to answer because it depends on your schedule, your fitness, and the length or intensity of your runs.
But we can offer some advice for new runners so you can better understand how to structure your week to avoid overtraining and injury.
Here’s how we advise new runners to get into the sport safely and find a love for it without injuring yourself!
How Many Days a Week Should I Run?
When considering how often you should run, it can be helpful to start right at the beginning—month number one. If you start off the right way, it will be easier for you to progress confidently and safely.
Your First Month or Two Running
When you first begin, it’s safe to aim for 2 or 3 runs per week. This will allow your body the time and space to get used to the activity with enough recovery time in between each run.
With two runs a week, you can get two full days of rest in between each run. With three runs, you can get at least a full day of recovery before running again.
It could be a good idea to start with two weekly runs for the first two weeks, and then increase it to 3 in weeks three and four.
This is the best way to get your body—especially your legs and feet—used to the kind of activity you’ll be doing.
Month Three and Four Running
Once you’re in your third month of running, you can add in a 4th run if you feel your body can handle it.
Keep in mind that you won’t be able to take a full day of rest between every run if you’re running four times a week. You can run 2 days in a row—for example, Monday and Tuesday—take a day’s rest—Wednesday—run on Thursday, rest on Friday, run on Saturday, and rest on Sunday.
We advise sticking to 4 runs per week for at least a month before increasing again. This will give your body enough time to adjust to an increased training volume.
Month Five and Six Running
If you get to month five of running and feel that 4 runs per week isn’t challenging enough, you can now increase it to 5 runs per week.
When you’re running this often, and not getting a proper rest between each run, you’ll need to start paying attention to what kind of runs you’re doing.
There are several different types of runs you should be incorporating into your training schedule. Make sure that you’re not running hard more than twice in a row and that some of your runs are easy runs or “recovery runs”.
If you vary your pace and intensity across your 5 runs per week, you should be able to sustain this activity level for a long time.
However, running five days a week leaves you limited time for cross-training. We highly recommend running for 3 to 5 days a week, having at least one full rest day per week, and cross-training 1 to 3 times per week.
Can I Increase to 6 or 7 Times Per Week?
We don’t recommend running 6 to 7 times a week, even if you’re including recovery runs in your training schedule.
You need at least one full day of rest during the week, although two is recommended if you aren’t an elite athlete.
Not allowing your body enough time to rest and recover leaves you open to overtraining, which can lead to fatigue and injury.
Running 6 to 7 times during the week also leaves you short on time for cross-training, and we highly recommend taking part in a non-running activity that builds muscle as well as running.
What Should I Do On the Days I Don’t Run?
You should have at least one full rest day a week. This means no activity and simply resting, or very light activity like walking.
On other days, cross-training activities will help maintain your fitness levels without overworking the muscles involved in running.
Activities like cycling, swimming, weight training, hiking, or using a piece of equipment like an elliptical machine are all good cross-training choices.
What Days Should I Run?
The days that you run will depend on your schedule. It’s best to try to spread out your runs throughout the week so that you can have some time to rest between each workout.
- 2 runs per week: Monday and Thursday; or Tuesday and Saturday; or Thursday and Sunday; etc
- 3 runs per week: Monday, Wednesday, Saturday; or Monday, Thursday, Saturday; or Monday, Wednesday, Friday; etc
- 4 runs per week: Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday; etc
- 5 runs per week: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday.
What Factors Will Influence My Running Schedule?
Everyone’s running schedule will look different based on their lifestyle, job, and family. Here are some factors you may need to consider when deciding what kind of weekly running schedule will work for you.
If you’re already quite fit, you should find it easier to run 4 to 5 times a week. If you aren’t fit yet, starting with 1 to 2 runs per week is the ideal beginning point.
You will need to fit your runs into your daily schedule. This may mean getting up early to run before work, or fitting in a quick run during your lunch hour.
Everybody recovers at a different pace. It may take some time to find your ideal recovery time, but if you’re feeling fatigued when you start your runs, you may need more recovery time between each run.
If you have a goal in mind—for example, a 5k race in 2 months—you will need to cater your training schedule to suit that. One run a week for two months isn’t likely to get you up to speed, but 3 or 4 runs are.
The reason behind starting to run can be a big factor. If you’re doing it at a doctor’s recommendation, or for health reasons but aren’t very motivated, one run a week may seem like a lot. The more motivated you become, the easier it will be to add more runs to your weekly schedule.
Tips for Starting a Running Program
Becoming a runner isn’t as hard as it may seem! Follow these tips to start and maintain an effective running program.
Focus On Time In the Beginning
For new runners, it’s much easier to focus on running for a certain amount of time instead of aiming for a certain mileage.
This means you can run at your own pace until you’ve been running for the required amount of time.
In your first month, you should run for 20 to 30 minutes at a time. From month 2, you can increase to between 30 to 45 minutes. After that, you can increase to an hour of running if you’re comfortable.
Mix Running and Walking
If running for a full 20 or 30 minutes is difficult, you can mix running and walking. Try to run for as long as you can, and then slow down to a walk until you can run again.
The important thing is to keep moving. Walk slowly, but don’t stop.
If you do this every time, you will find that the running periods become easier and you can go for longer before needing to walk.
Avoid the temptation to increase your time or mileage too quickly. This can easily lead to overtraining and injury, which could set you back a few weeks.
Try to increase by 5 to 10% every week, maximum 20%. For example, if you ran for 30 minutes last week, try 33 to 36 minutes this week. Or, if you ran 10 miles total last week, then try to run 11 or 12 miles this week.
It may be tempting to run more, but sticking to this formula will ensure that you progress steadily without injury.
Change Your Run Types
As we mentioned above, try to incorporate different types of runs into your schedule. For example, if you’re running four times a week, you may want to do one long run, a recovery run, a fartlek run, and a tempo run.
Paying attention to the types of runs you do will ensure that even though you run often, you vary the intensity enough to avoid overdoing it.
Do Recovery Weeks
To further avoid overtraining, it’s a good idea to have a recovery week every 4th week. This means you run at 60% of your time or mileage for that week.
For example, if you ran 50 miles during week 3, you should aim for 30 miles during your recovery week.
If you run based on time, and you ran for a total of 2 hours in week 3, aim for 1 hour and 20 minutes in week 4.
Sometimes you may feel the need to take a full week off with no running. If that’s the case, then begin the following week of running at minus 10% of what you were doing to avoid overtraining.
For example, if you were running 10 miles in the last week of running, minus 10% so you’ll run 9 miles the first week you’re back to running.
If you break for two weeks, then start again minus 20%—8 miles—and so on.
Run on a Flat Surface
If you’re new to running, we recommend starting on a flat course rather than a hilly one. This will allow you to build your fitness slowly and steadily without having to account for changes in terrain.
Recovery isn’t just about the days you don’t run. You should get into good recovery habits every day! These include:
- Dynamic stretching before your run to warm your muscles up
- Gentle stretching to cool down after your run
- Staying hydrated during and after your run
- Using a foam roller to ease stiffness and muscle pain
- Paying attention to healthy nutrition
Make sure you know the signs of overtraining as well. If you start to feel unmotivated, fatigued, grumpy, or have muscle stiffness and soreness, these are signs that you need more rest than you’re currently getting, and you may need to adjust your training schedule.
Strength training—resistance training like lifting weights or bodyweight training—is important to build muscle. This also helps to prevent muscle imbalances.
You should also add an alternate form of cardiovascular training, like swimming, cycling, jumping rope, rowing, elliptical, or another type.