Runners love to argue. They love to tell each other what their favorite shoes are, what’s the best course for a BQ, and which shorts chafe the least. Mostly it boils down to personal preference and ability, but even so there are arguments that go deeper into our personal training philosophies. And for a long, long time we’ve been debating how many days per week we should run.
Marathoners will have their say (I’m guessing closer to 7 than 2) and casual joggers will have their say (I’m guessing 5 or less). But most of us are in the middle. As a collegiate runner, I am. Here’s my perspective on the age old question:
How many days should you run each week?
You probably remember how much fun training was when you first began. Your training plan probably only said that you were to run three times a week, but you were so excited and were feeling so good that you decided to run four days instead. Then five. And then, unless you enlisted a coach or a training plan that told you different, you probably stopped there. But consider that running more might yield positive results.
For example, during the cross-country season I run 5-7 days a week (This is just running, not counting the drills, lifting, and core work). Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday I run with my team and Saturday we race a 5k. Wednesday I’ll cross-train and usually (though not always) squeeze in a morning recovery run, and Sunday I’m generally on my own. Maybe I’ll run a couple miles, maybe I’ll run 13 if I’m really feeling it, sometimes I cross-train and sometimes I just go to a yoga class and call it a day.
For me the sweet spot is usually 6 days of running and either a rest day or a cross-training day. On weeks when I run 7 days, I start to get more tired and frustrated with myself, and when it comes time for race day, my legs feel more like lead than usual.
The frequency of your training all has to do with what you want to get out of it. If you’re just running to supplement your current fitness regime, you might only need to run two times a week to get what you need out of it. During preseason when I am not in class all day, sometimes I run twice a day. But during the off season (and since I’m graduating this spring, it’ll be a real off season for the summer unless I find a fall half marathon!), my running is pretty sporadic and random because I’m not looking for results or PRs.
So when deciding how often you’ll run, consider your goal. If you’re training for a race, make a plan that will get you to your goal, whether it’s getting to the finish line or earning a PR. Don’t be afraid to run more often if that’s what it takes, but do be sure to remember two rules:
First, general runner wisdom dictates that we should not add mileage and intensity in the same week. You can add one, but not both: i.e., if you’re running six miles a day five days a week and want to try six days a week, start by splitting a day. That is, run six miles for four days and three miles for two days. Once you’re comfortable there, start tacking on more miles if you like.
Second, remember to be patient with your body and listen to your legs when they’re tired. Especially if you’re a newer runner, it takes time to get to know your body, and particularly whether or not you’re more or less prone to injury.
And in addition to adding frequency, it’s important to add that there’s a time for every type of run – slow basebuilding, tempos, fartleks, recovery runs, etc. It’s hard to improve speed-wise without doing speedwork as you become a more experienced runner. Likewise, it’s hard to improve at all if you’re overtraining yourself, so be sure to take rest seriously too!
Your training intensity depends on you, not what others think of you. (I feel pretty strongly about making your own choices!) You can invest in coaches, training buddies, and the Internet (and who doesn’t?) but you know your body better than anyone else. So think about your goals, body, and your mental strength when it comes to running. Experiment, and make the choices that are best for you. After all, you’re the one achieving the PRs, right?
How about you, Salties? Do you run every day or hardly at all? What reasoning do you use behind your frequency philosophy?