Work­ing out your weekly runs

De­ter­mine how many run­ning (and rest) days you need each week to stay healthy and happy

Runner's World (UK) - - Coach -

WORK­ING OUT HOW MANY days to run per week can feel like a com­plex cal­cu­la­tion, with all kinds of vari­ables to fac­tor in. For some run­ners, four week­day runs plus one week­end run equals a fit­ter body and faster times. For oth­ers, lac­ing up more than three days a week adds up to the kind of phys­i­cal stress that mul­ti­plies in­jury risk.

The right num­ber of runs each week de­pends not just on your run­ning goals, but also on your job, your chil­dren and the many other de­mands on your time. You need to find a bal­ance, says Scott Murr, of the Fur­man In­sti­tute of Run­ning and Sci­en­tific Train­ing (FIRST). Jeff Gaudette, owner and head coach of Run­ner­scon­nect in Bos­ton, US, agrees: ‘Make your run­ning sched­ule fit around your life, rather than say­ing, “Let's fit my life around this run­ning sched­ule.”’ Here you’ll find guid­ance on find­ing the run­ning fre­quency that best suits your life­style.


WHO DOES IT? Brand-new run­ners, those re­turn­ing from in­jury or ill­ness, neu­ro­sur­geons with new­born twins (or oth­ers with sim­i­larly packed daily sched­ules).

WHY? When you're just start­ing out, one or two one-mile jogs per week rightly feel like huge ac­com­plish­ments, says Katie Mcgre­gor, run­ning coach and two-time US 10K cham­pion. Keep it up and you'll be able to han­dle more, pro­vided you can clear the space on your cal­en­dar. Bet­ter yet, start with three run-walks per week and build from there.

CON­SIDER IT IF The al­ter­na­tive is not run­ning at all. Sup­ple­ment your run­ning with cross-train­ing to boost your fit­ness and pro­tect your over­all health, says Mcgre­gor.


WHO DOES IT? Triath­letes, peo­ple who race shorter dis­tances or not at all, or those who fol­low the FIRST Run Less, Run Faster plan.

WHY? Lower-mileage run­ners should stick to this fre­quency so each run lasts at least 20 min­utes, long enough to stim­u­late fit­ness-boost­ing changes in the car­dio­vas­cu­lar sys­tem. Some, in­clud­ing Murr, ar­gue that higher-mileage run­ners can also fol­low a three-day ap­proach to train for long dis­tances.

He and fel­low re­searchers at FIRST ad­vo­cate a plan that in­cludes three qual­ity runs plus cross-train­ing each week to pre­pare for dis­tances from 5K all the way to the marathon.

CON­SIDER IT IF You run less than 20 miles a week, you have a his­tory of in­juries or you like to run hard but you need a day or more to re­cover af­ter­wards.


WHO DOES IT? Most non-elite run­ners who’ve been at it for a while – those who log 30-50 miles per week.

WHY? You can reap the re­wards of hard train­ing – a stronger heart, more ef­fi­cient us­age of fuel and oxy­gen, and im­proved lung ca­pac­ity – with am­ple time for re­cov­ery and a nor­mal life. ‘Four to five is right in that sweet spot,’ says Gaudette. Plus, as your weekly mileage in­creases, dis­tribut­ing it across more days re­duces your in­jury risk.

CON­SIDER IT IF You al­ready run three days per week, want to in­crease your fit­ness or mileage with­out adding too much ex­tra run­ning time each day, and aren’t in­jured.


WHO DOES IT? Ad­vanced run­ners.

WHY? If you have the time – and your body can han­dle the ef­fort re­quired– your per­for­mance will prob­a­bly im­prove if you run more of­ten, says Gaudette. Younger run­ners of­ten can ab­sorb more run train­ing with less re­cov­ery time, Murr points out, while older run­ners may need more rest days.

CON­SIDER IT IF You want to, and aren't lim­ited by your sched­ule, in­juries or en­ergy level. Also, if you're look­ing to log up­ward of 50 miles per week en route to a PB in a half or full marathon.


WHO DOES IT? Elites, those on a run­ning streak.

WHY? Peo­ple who can han­dle this load – typ­i­cally young ath­letes and pro run­ners – might run ev­ery day be­cause they feel worse if they don’t.

CON­SIDER IT IF You have Olympic am­bi­tions, no is­sues with in­jury and a run­ning com­pul­sion.

TRAIL AND ER­ROR It might take a while to find the amount of run­ning that suits you, but it’s worth the ef­fort.

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