Unlock Your Perfect Running Frequency – How Often Should You Run

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Beginner Runner
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David Dack

When it comes to planning your running routine, one of the first crucial decisions to make is determining how often you should run each week.

However, as we’ll explore in this article, the answer to that question isn’t as straightforward as black and white.

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.

These include:

  • Past experiences,
  • Present conditioning level, and
  • Future aspirations.

Here is how to make sense out of this.

Find your Goals

Running isn’t just about putting one foot in front of the other; it’s about knowing where you’re headed and how to get there. So, grab your running shoes and let’s get started!

Step 1: Define Your Running Goals

First things first, what’s your running ambition? Are you looking to shed those extra pounds, boost your overall health, or conquer a specific race with a jaw-dropping finish time? Your goals will be your guiding stars, so be crystal clear about what you want to achieve.

Here’s a glimpse of how your goals might steer your running journey:

  • Weight Loss Warrior: If you’re on a mission to shed pounds, your plan may involve running (or run/walking) around three times a week. I’ve got some good news – running is an excellent way to torch those calories and get your heart pumping!
  • Seasoned Runner: Now, if you’re a seasoned pro with miles of experience under your belt, you might find yourself lacing up those shoes five to six times a week. With your expertise, you’re ready to tackle new challenges and push your limits.

Step 2: Understand Your Uniqueness

Here’s the truth – there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of how often you should run. It all depends on YOU. Your past experiences, your current fitness level, and your future dreams are all pieces of the puzzle.

Research studies like those from the American College of Sports Medicine have shown that tailored training programs are far more effective in helping individuals reach their goals. So, take a moment to understand what makes you unique.

Step 3: Embrace the Good News

Guess what? There’s a silver lining in this whole “how often should I run” conundrum. When you’re crystal clear about your running goals, you’re better equipped to build a training plan that’s a perfect fit for you.

Step 4: Dive into Your Running Goals

So, let’s have a heart-to-heart. What are your running goals? Are you determined to smash a specific time record? Is it all about boosting your health and well-being? Or perhaps you’re running for a deeply personal reason that’s close to your heart.

Now, with those goals firmly in your sights, let’s map out your journey.

Step 5: Assess Your Time

Life can be a whirlwind of commitments – family, work, school – you name it. To create a realistic plan, assess how much time you can dedicate to training each week. Be honest about your schedule, and remember, consistency is the name of the game.

Additional resource – How to walk 10,000 steps

How Often Should You Run When You’re a Complete Beginner

Alright, fellow newbie runner, we’re about to embark on an exciting journey! But before we lace up those running shoes, let’s figure out how often you should hit the pavement as a complete beginner.

Step 1: Start Gradually

First things first, experts recommend running two to three times per week when you’re just beginning your running adventure. Whether you’re taking your first steps as a runner or making a triumphant return after some time off, this approach is a winner.

Step 2: Why 2-3 Times a Week?

Now, you might wonder, why not run every single day? Well, there’s a method to this madness. Running two to three times a week allows your body to ease into the sport. It’s like introducing a new friend to your life – you need time to get to know each other.

Step 3: Build Stamina and Strength

Running a few times a week provides the magic potion for success. It gives you the precious time needed to boost your stamina, strengthen those muscles, and make friends with your connective tissues. Plus, it helps you establish that delightful habit of regular exercise.

Step 4: Approachable Training

Imagine running two to three times a week, with each run lasting just 20 to 30 minutes. It’s like taking small, manageable bites of a delicious dish. Perfect for the complete beginner! This approach makes training feel less intimidating and more achievable.

Step 5: Avoid Burnout and Injuries

Now, here’s a crucial tip: resist the urge to go all-out and aim for six days a week right from the start. Why? Because doing too much too soon can lead to burnout and increase the risk of injuries. Plus, let’s face it, our busy lives might not always allow for daily runs.

How Often Should You Run When You’re an Intermediate

Alright, you’ve conquered the beginner phase and are now firmly in the intermediate ranks. It’s time to level up your running routine! So, how often should you hit the pavement at this stage? Let’s break it down.

Step 1: Transition to Intermediate

If you’ve been consistently running for the past few months, congratulations – you’re an intermediate runner now! This is where the fun really begins.

Step 2: Aim for 4-5 Days a Week

As an intermediate runner, your target is to run four to five days a week. This increased frequency allows you to challenge yourself and make significant progress. It’s like turning up the volume on your running journey.

Step 3: Listen to Your Body

Here’s a golden rule: always listen to your body. While it’s great to aim for 4-5 days of running, it’s equally important to understand when your body needs a break. Be attentive to signs of fatigue, soreness, or any discomfort. Your body is your best coach – trust it!

Step 4: Gradual Volume Increase

As you transition into the intermediate level, remember to increase your weekly volume gradually. Don’t rush it. Slow and steady wins the race. This approach minimizes the risk of overuse injuries and burnout.

How to Progress?

So, you’ve been running consistently for a few months and are ready to take it to the next level. Progression is the name of the game. Let’s dive into how you can do that effectively.

Step 1: Gradual Progression

To progress from running three to four times a week to five times a week, it’s essential to take it step by step. Rushing can lead to burnout and injuries. Here’s a structured plan:

Step 2: Weeks 1-6

Continue running three times a week for 20 to 30 minutes each session.

Maintain an intensity of up to 60 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate (MHR).

Step 3: Weeks 6-10

Stick to three weekly runs, but extend each run to 30 to 40 minutes.

Slightly increase the intensity, aiming for up to 65 to 75 percent of MHR.

Step 4: Weeks 10-13

Now it’s time to introduce a fourth running day.

Run for 30 to 45 minutes during these sessions.

Maintain an intensity of up to 70 percent of MHR.

Step 5: Weeks 13-16

You’re almost there! In this phase, embrace a five-day running schedule.

Keep each run between 25 to 40 minutes.

Maintain an intensity ranging from 65 to 75 percent of MHR.

Step 6: Listen to Your Body

Throughout this progression, always listen to your body. If you experience excessive fatigue, soreness, or any discomfort, don’t hesitate to adjust your plan. Rest and recovery are your allies.

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 a 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.

Additional resource – How to walk 10,000 steps

Should you Cross Train?

Cross-training isn’t just a buzzword; it’s a game-changer for runners. Whether you’re a newbie lacing up your sneakers or a seasoned road warrior, incorporating cross training into your routine can supercharge your running journey. Let’s dive into why it’s a must:

Boost Overall Conditioning

Variety is the spice of life, and it’s your best friend when you’re hitting the pavement. Cross training introduces different movements and challenges, enhancing your overall fitness. This well-rounded conditioning can elevate your running game, making you stronger and more resilient.

Injury Prevention

Repetitive motion can take a toll on your body. Cross training allows you to give specific running muscles a break while working on others. It reduces the risk of overuse injuries and keeps you in peak form. Remember, the best way to conquer injuries is to prevent them.

Build the Exercise Habit

Starting a new exercise routine can be daunting, but cross training can ease you in. It breaks the monotony and keeps your workouts fresh. This variety can make exercise a habit that sticks, setting you up for long-term success.

Well-Rounded Runner

Why settle for being a one-trick pony? Cross training transforms you into a well-rounded runner. You’ll have the strength, flexibility, and endurance to tackle any terrain and distance. It’s like having a Swiss Army knife in your running arsenal.

Ideal Cross-Training Options

The world of cross training is vast, offering something for everyone:

  • Brisk Walking: A low-impact exercise that complements running beautifully.
  • Spinning: Get your heart pumping on a stationary bike for a killer cardio workout.
  • Swimming: Dive into this full-body exercise that’s gentle on the joints.
  • Strength Training: Build muscle to power up your runs and protect against injury.
  • Yoga: Enhance flexibility, balance, and mental focus for peak performance.

Additional resource – Running Vs. Strength training

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.

How Often Should You Run – The Conclusion

I hope today’s post gives you some clear answers to how often should you run per week.

The rest is just details.

Please feel free to leave your comments and questions in the section below.

Keep training hard.

David D

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