How much is too much? Can I get injured doing too little? When it comes to the question How often should you run?, there are numerous factors to consider.
When it comes to ways in which we can minimize the risk of running-related injury, we often talk of the FIT factors: Frequency (how often you run), Intensity (how fast you run/how steep an incline) and Time (how far and long you run). In terms of intensity and time, our bodies soon let us know if we are pushing ourselves too much but deciding how many times a week we should be running can prove harder to calculate. Is once or twice per week enough to get results? Is every day too often?
For optimal well-being and health, studies show that we should be doing some type of exercise every day. However, this doesn’t mean that you should necessarily be running every day. Exposing your body to the same form of exercise day after day, especially if it involves impact like running, may lead to overload of muscles, ligaments and tendons so it’s recommendable to vary activities.
RUNNING TOO MUCH
Research shows that the risk of injury increases if you run every day of the week. Rather than running every day, you should replace at least two of those runs with another type of exercise. Strength training helps runners reduce injury and boost performance, and the explosive strength it takes to hop from one leg to the other means that this needs to include heavy weights; in many cases, bodyweight won’t suffice. As a general rule, you should be aiming at doing 8-12 repetitions.
RUNNING TOO LITTLE
Just as running every day of a week has been shown to pose greater risk of injury, so has only running one day a week. This often catches many runners unaware, especially those with plenty of work or family life which makes more than one session a week tricky. The problem is that if you run only once a week you aren’t stimulating adaption often enough to make progress. By putting stress on the body during that one running session but then having six days off, the next time you run you are no stronger than before, and this can quickly lead to overload and injury. For this reason, run at least twice a week.
3 DAYS A WEEK
To see improvements, two runs a week may not suffice. For the majority of recreational runners, three times a week will bring far more gains. Three times a week is enough to stimulate adaption yet not too much that it could lead to injury. Exactly how productive those three days are will depend on the duration and intensity of your sessions, but the positive side is that you can make those sessions really count and then use the other days to recover. The basic rule is to make one session a tempo run to develop intensive endurance, one of them a speed run to build speed, and the other a long run to increase endurance.
As mentioned before, to help promote general health runners will benefit from doing some type of other exercise on the days they aren’t running. Two strength training sessions per week are a great idea, but you can also benefit your running by doing non-impact exercises such as swimming, cycling, or rowing. You’ll still enjoy the cardiovascular benefits and see a carry over into your running.
4+ DAYS A WEEK
Running four or more times per week will encourage more adaption, but for numerous runners will also increase risk of injury. Some experienced runners run twice a day but these are normally runners who do over 70 miles a week.
So, how often should you run? Well, there’s no right answer. It depends on your way of life, fitness levels, goals and experience. But to minimize the risk of injury, incorporate strength sessions and cross training into your weekly workout routine.