When planning your running routine, the first critical component you need to figure out is your running frequency. As in, how many times should you run per week?
And as we are going to see in today’s post, the answer to that question is not all black or white.
Running 101 – How Often Should Beginners Run?
Without further ado, here are the steps you need to take to determine how often you should be running.
The Main Factors to Consider
The exact mileage and time investment you’d need to devote to training will vary drastically depending on many factors.
- Past experiences,
- Present conditioning level, and
- Future aspirations.
Here is how to make sense out of this.
Find your Goals
The first thing you need to consider is your running goals.
For instance, an overweight beginner trainee with the main goal of losing weight may only run (or run/walk) no more than three times per week.
Nonetheless, a fit runner with years of running under their belts may run five or six times per week.
Because of this, it’s almost impossible to prescribe precisely how often everyone should be running per week.
All I can do here is provide you with general rules.
But here is the good news:
By getting clear on your running goals, you’ll be able to come up with a better training plan for yourself to help you reach your desired destination.
So what are your running goals?
Are you running to achieve a specific time goal?
Are you running for health reasons?
Are you running for (fill in your reason)?
Once you have a clear answer, map out how much time you have to devote to training.
Next, determine how many sessions to fit into your schedule, while taking into consideration your family, work, school, any other commitment you may have that can interfere with your training plan.
The Complete Beginner
According to experts, running two to three times per week is recommended, especially when taking up running for the first time or returning to the sport after a long layoff.
This gives you enough time to increase stamina, strengthen muscles and connective tissues, and build the habit of regular exercise.
Not only that, two to three runs of 20 to 30 minutes each will make training more approachable to the complete beginner.
On the other hand, shooting for six days a week can increase the risk of injury and burnouts. This also might be unachievable due to time constraints.
In other words, doing too much too soon can discourage you from getting past the first month of training—if you get started at all in the first place.
If you have been running regularly for the past few months, shoot for four to five days a week.
Nevertheless, be sure to listen to your body and increase your weekly volume gradually.
How to Progress?
Once you’ve been running for three to four times per week for a few months, add an extra running day, or preferably, start introducing speed training into your program.
To build your fitness up to running five times per week, follow the guidelines:
- Week 1-6 – Run (or run/walk) three times for 20 to 30 minutes at up to 60 to 70 percent of maximum heart rate (MHR)
- Week 6-10 – Run three times for 30 to 40 minutes at up to 65 to 75 percent MHR.
- Week 10-13 – Run four times for 30 to 45 minutes at up to 70 percent MHR.
- Week 13-16 – Run five times for 25 to 40 minutes at up to 65 to 75 percent MHR.
What I Prefer
Personally, I run three to four times per week, devoting the rest of the week to cross training, and one day of complete rest.
But, all things considered, you’re better off sticking to three days a week while incorporating some type of cross training three to three days a week.
The Exact Mileage
As soon as you figure out how often you should run per week, you’d want to determine your weekly volume—or how many miles to run every week.
As I have stated in my previous beginner runner posts, the ideal way to keep running while reducing the risk of injury is to run without obsessing over mileage.
In fact, during the first few months, forget about distance, pace, and all that sort.
Instead, focus on running for a specific length, 30 minutes for instance, at a relaxed pace, and without much huffing and puffing.
To get to that point, you’d need to train in a run/walk format in which you alternate between intervals of low intensity running—or jogging—for 30 seconds, and recovery walking breaks.
Once you get there, start to gradually increase mileage while following the 10 percent rule.
Here is an exemplary beginner’s running plan for the week
Monday – 30-minute easy run in the morning + 45-minutes of cross training (weight lifting – optional)
Tuesday – Rest or 30 minutes of cross-training such as cycling, spinning or swimming.
Wednesday – 45-minute run at tempo pace
Thursday – 60 minutes of Cross training – Weightlifting.
Friday – 30-minute easy run in the morning + 30-minutes of cross-training in the evening (Yoga – optional)
Saturday – 50 to 60 minutes long run at a relaxed pace.
Sunday – Rest.
Should you Cross Train?
As you can already tell, I’m a big fan of cross-training. And once you fully understand the benefits it has to offer, you’ll definitely catch the bug, too.
As a beginner runner, you would be smart to vary your training program to include a wide variety of activities because this will increases your overall conditioning.
This can help you build the exercise habit, and make you a well-rounded runner from the get-go.
Ideal cross-training exercises for runners include brisk walking, spinning, swimming, strength training, or yoga. All of these can improve your overall conditioning and supplement your running.
For the full guide on cross training for runners, check my post here.
So pick the ones that work the best for you.
Do not Forget to Rest
Take enough rest between challenging workouts. Ideally, take one day of full rest—meaning no running or cross—training allowed. Just rest on your butt and count your blessings.