How Many Days a Week Should You Run?
One of the many reasons to love running is that you really don’t need much to get started.
Sure, there’s plenty of running gear worth investing in eventually, but if you’re feeling motivated right now, there’s no reason you can’t go for a run this very moment.
Of course, the reason you’re here is because you don’t just want to run today and call it quits. You want to make this activity a habit, so you’re wondering how many days a week you should run.
It might seem like a simple question, but it’s actually really important for reasons I’m about to cover, so let’s dive right in.
How Many Days a Week Should You Run? 4 Important Tips
As you probably guessed, there’s no one answer here.
How much you should run every week depends on a number of unique factors like your:
- Current running regimen
- Body composition
- Sleep health
- Personal goals
Obviously, if you’re already in good shape or are even doing plenty of cardio, adding a few runs a week to your regimen shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
However, if you’re just starting out, you should probably only run once or twice a week.
Like I said, there’s no single number that applies to everyone, but here are four tips to help you decide for yourself.
1. Take It Slow and Don’t Run Every Day
If you can’t remember the last time you did any strenuous activity, I’d actually recommend that you put off weekly runs for the time being. You’ll be much better off going for hour-long walks and doing lots of stretching that will help with running.
Otherwise, you’re almost guaranteed an injury when you’re just getting started. And even something as “minor” as a shin splint can be enough to keep you sidelined for a week. Plus, for many people, their first injury is enough is enough reason to give up running altogether.
So, take it slow.
Don’t run more than twice a week for the first month and give yourself at least two days of rest between each outing. After that first month, take stock of how you feel before increasing your runs.
2. Consider Focusing on Weight Loss Before You Start Running
Many people become runners because they want to lose weight.
That’s great, but if your BMI is over 30, I’d encourage you to work on lowering that through your diet and nice, long walks (or even hikes) before your first week of running.
A first-of-its-kind study on body mass index (BMI) and running injuries, found that participants with BMIs over 30 were 50% likelier to suffer injuries during their first week of running once their total distance exceeded 3 kilometers (1.86 miles).
That kind of risk just isn’t worth it in my opinion, so while you could keep your combined runs under two miles a week and still (probably) be safe, I’d still recommend that you initially prioritize long walks and clean eating until your BMI gets below 30.
3. Create a Running Routine That Fits You Current Schedule
Another important step toward becoming a regular runner is to come up with a running schedule. Instead of just saying you’ll run three days a week, identify which days they’re going to be and what times you’ll be setting out.
It might seem like overkill, but this even applies to your first week of running. I want you to sit down and find the days and times you know you’ll be free to run.
The reason is that this first week of running will set the stage for the rest of your first month. If you deviate from that week-one schedule, you’ll be more likely to do it going forward, too, and that’s no way to build a consistent running habit.
If you’re a more experienced runner who’s just looking for advice on how often you should run every week, I’d still recommend a calendar. A big part of how often you can run will be how often you’re able to, so put the times and dates on your calendar and keep them there.
Before committing to the final number, give the schedule you just created lots of thought. Can you foresee any potential “surprises” that might keep you from running? How about any circumstances that might give you an excuse when you simply don’t feel like running? Be honest with yourself about those.
4. Runners Need Plenty of Rest
A lot of times, when people are wondering how many days a week they can run, it’s because they want to push themselves to greater and greater distances.
I’ll cover the right way to do this in just a moment, but I can certainly sympathize. We all want to improve as athletes.
But you also don’t want to risk burning out or, again, getting an injury. Both are inevitable if you don’t get enough rest.
If you’re a new runner, give yourself at least two days of rest between your runs every week. Feel free to take more. You don’t want to force yourself into running if your body doesn’t feel 100%.
On the other hand, if you’re a more experienced runner who wants to continue improving, try to limit yourself to no more than two rest days in a row. This will ensure that you’re not hitting your weekly mileage goals by squeezing them into just a couple of sessions, which will increase the risk of injury.
When to Increase How Many Days You Run Every Week
As you can probably tell, I place a lot of emphasis on taking it easy when you’re first getting into running.
It’s not just because this is the safest approach for avoiding injuries as a beginner. It’s also because this kind of discipline will be integral to your progress as a runner.
That’s why I’m adamant that you stick to your weekly running regimen for at least a month or however long it takes for your body to adjust. Once you’re able to get through your runs without discomfort and you aren’t feeling stiff the next day, it’s probably safe to start adding mileage.
To do this, most veteran runners say you should follow the 10% rule.
You should never increase the distance you run by more than 10% of what you ran the week before.
If you are currently running 10 miles a week, you shouldn’t exceed more than 11 the next week.
The reason the 10% rule has become gospel in the running community is that overuse injuries are the most common reason runners have to take time off. In fact, it’s estimated that up to 70% of runners will incur some kind of injury due to overuse every single year.
Injuries are never good, but as I’ve touched on numerous times now, you especially want to avoid them when you’re just starting out.
Therefore, once you’ve mastered your initial regimen of weekly runs, don’t push yourself past the 10% mark. Over time, these incremental increases will still give you plenty of challenges.
The Most Important Step for Weekly Runs: Get Started
Obviously, I’m a big fan of starting with a modest amount of running during your first week and progressing from there.
Ultimately, if you only begin with two one-mile runs, that’s still plenty to get you started toward a much larger goal. Try that for a month and, on the fifth week, feel free to apply the 10% rule.
And if you have specific running goals in mind, here are some other resources that might help you decide where you should start and how you should progress toward them.