Any successful physical fitness routine requires dedication and consistency, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need rest days, too. By nature, runners are extremely competitive. Not only against other runners, but they’re also constantly trying to beat their own records as well. And that makes them more likely to overdo it.
While everyone’s personal goals and fitness levels are different, it’s worth noting that the benefits of running max out at 4.5 hours per week. That means you don’t need to run every day to get those mental and physical health benefits. In fact, studies show that as little as five to 10 minutes of running at a moderate pace each day can reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke.
Keep in mind that running is high impact. Overtraining in any high-intensity sport can lead to a greater risk of injuries like inflammation, micro tears, shin splints, and stress fractures. To put it bluntly, without enough rest, running every day could cause you to lose ground instead of gaining it.
For most people, a combination of running, cross-training, and rest days will make them a stronger, healthier runner. But the truth is, everyone’s different and some people can work out daily without issues.
So, can you run every day, or will it do more harm than good? Here’s how to decide what running frequency is right for you.
Reasons to Run Every Day
Running offers a wide range of benefits for people of any age and fitness level. Studies show that it reduces the risk of heart attack, stroke, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. For older runners, it can also reduce the risk of neurological diseases, including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
Although studies show that you only need to run for 30 minutes a day, five days a week (or a total of 2.5 hours) to enjoy these incredible longevity benefits, many people still feel a strong urge to run every day. They find that it calms the nerves, improves mental clarity, and fights stress, depression, and anxiety.
Running daily can also help you sleep better and improve your mood. Not only that, but many people find it easier to stick to a fitness routine when they make it a daily habit.
So, Could You Run Every Day?
Yes, some people can run every day, but others need rest days to perform at their best. There’s no one size fits all running schedule that works for everyone. You need to find what suits your unique goals and fitness level.
Some athletes excel when they train daily, and others have a hard time getting motivated to work out after a day off. On the other hand, running every day increases the risk of overuse injuries and technique errors such as poor form and overloading certain muscle groups.
If you want to run every day, you can lower your risk of injury by wearing appropriate shoes. Increase the length, frequency, and intensity of your workouts gradually to build up strength and endurance. You can also alternate hard days with easy days to give yourself time to recover mentally and physically.
Be sure to use proper form when you run and consider mixing in other forms of exercise to give your body a break. Proper warm-up and cool down is a must. If you do get injured, use the RICE formula (rest, ice, compression, elevation) to speed recovery until you can see your doctor.
Let’s dive into all of this in more detail.
How to be Successful at Running Every Day
If you want to be successful at running every day, you need to create a plan based on your personal goals and fitness levels. If you’re just starting out with running, run every other day for 20-30 minutes and work your way up gradually.
Experienced runners can be successful at running daily if they remember to incorporate variety into their workouts. For example, you could do a long run at your goal pace one day a week, spend another day on speed work, one day running on the beach or on hilly terrain, and then do short, easy recovery runs twice a week. Consider jogging in a pool for active recovery on your easy days.
If finding time to run every day is a challenge, consider running on your lunch break, running in the morning before you start your day, or investing in a treadmill so you can do your run while you watch your favorite show. Or, keep it simple and do short runs during the week and longer runs on the weekends.
For extra motivation and support, seek out a running buddy or join a local running club.
Why You Should Consider Incorporating Other Forms of Exercise into Your Running Routine
Cross-training by performing a lower impact workout, such as yoga, Pilates, swimming, or cycling can help runners by:
Reducing the risk of injury
Engaging different muscle groups to avoid overuse
Strengthening your core
Improving muscle and joint recovery
Providing variety and reducing boredom/burnout
You should also consider incorporating strength training or calisthenics to round out your routine at least once or twice a week.
Signs You Need More Rest Days
Running every day isn’t for everyone, and for some, it can do more harm than good. If you notice that you’re no longer enjoying your runs, or you can’t find the motivation to run, that’s a sure sign that you need more rest days to recharge.
Other signs that you’re overdoing it physically include chronic injuries, sleep issues, an elevated resting heart rate, getting sick easily, general fatigue, and loss of appetite. Soreness or stiffness in one specific area that interferes with your performance could also mean it’s time to slow down.
The key is to listen to your body and mind. For most people, alternating hard-core days with recovery days is ideal. Even the most elite athletes know that rest and recovery are part of training.
How to Schedule Your Rest Days
Not sure how to schedule your rest days? If you’re a new runner, running for 20 to 30 minutes, three or four days a week is ideal. You can do low impact cross-training twice a week but be sure to have one day of complete rest.
If you’re an experienced runner, alternating low impact or easy days with your hard-core workouts is ideal. Plan on at least one day of complete rest and don’t run more than 40 miles per week to minimize injury risk.
Long-distance runners who do their long run on Saturday would benefit from making Friday a rest day so they can hit the pavement when they’re fresh. In general, if you do long runs over the weekend, consider making Monday a rest day.
General Safety Guidelines for All Runners
Start by investing in the right gear. That means good running shoes and reflective or bright clothing for improved visibility. Always choose popular and well-lit running paths, roads, and trails.
Be sure someone knows your intended route and when to expect you back. If you’re doing speed work, consider running on a local track. No matter where you’re running, be on the lookout for loose gravel, rocks, branches, or other obstacles in your path that could present a tripping hazard.
Hydrating before a run is essential. Drinks with potassium, such as Gatorade or coconut water, can help to prevent leg cramps. And be sure to warm up and cool down properly every time you run.
Frequently Asked Questions About Developing a Running Routine
· How many days a week should I run?
If you’re a beginning runner, you should start out running three or four days per week for 20 to 30 minutes. Over time, you can gradually build up to longer runs five days per week.
· Is it okay to run for 30 minutes a day?
Yes, 30-minute runs are optimal for reducing injury risk and muscle overuse. Be sure to read our tips for incorporating cross-training and rest days into your routine.
· Is it okay to run short distances every day?
Yes, running short distances is a good idea if you want to run every day. It’s easier to fit shorter runs into your schedule and your risk of injury will be less, but short daily runs are still effective for improving overall health and burning calories.
· How often do I need to run each week to lose weight?
If you are running to lose weight, or simply for overall fitness, you should run for 30 minutes a day, three or four times each week.
The Bottom Line
It only takes about 30 minutes of running three or four times a week to improve your health and longevity, so running every day really isn’t necessary. Every successful athlete knows that rest days and low impact cross-training are essential for reducing injuries.
However, if you really want to run every day, varying the intensity of your runs can give your body time to recover.
Either way, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor before you get started. He will be able to offer advice for developing a running routine that suites your health history, age, and fitness level.