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Should Beginner Runners Run Everyday?

Determining how many days a week to run is a make or break factor for most new runners. If we choose too many days we risk falling off the bandwagon never to return to running. If we choose too few days for running, you might not ever progress beyond the novice runner title.

New runners that run between 3-4 days a week (staggered), allow their bodies 3 days of rest and recovery. When you’re an absolute beginner runner, your legs are less likely to have formed your running muscles, therefore, your body needs time to build those muscles which require rest.  Your age and fitness level also play a huge roll in how quickly your body can adapt to the impact sport of running.

Determining how many days you should run

For most absolutely brand new runners under the age of 50, you’ll probably be able to run between 3-4 days a week fairly easily. These run days might actually be walk/run or run/walk days to let your body get used to running and building and repairing your muscles. These 5 criteria will help you decide how many days you should run:

1. Have you ever run before for a sustained period of time?

If you’ve never run 3 to 4 times in one week then consider yourself a new runner. As a new runner, you’ll need to take it easy out of the starting running gate so that you don’t get injured and quit. You can simply start out by running 3 days a week by using a walk/run (more walking than running) or run/walk (more running than walking) interval to make sure you ease into running. You can use a couch to 5k plan or my plan, 5K Fury (resources found here), to get you up to a 5K in less than 9 weeks.

A simple walk/run example would look something like this:

Monday: Walk 4 minutes / Run 1 minute ( repeat 2 times )

Tuesday: Rest

Wednesday: Walk 3:30 minutes / Run 1:30 minute ( repeat 2 times )

Thursday: Rest

Friday: Walk 4 minutes / Run 1 minute ( repeat 4 times )

Saturday: Rest

Sunday: Rest

The following week you could decrease the walk time by 3 minutes and up the run time to 2 minutes – repeat 2 times. You can gradually build up your running legs by changing the amount of time spent walking and running and also by adding additional repeats to extend the total amount of time on your feet.

2. Are you overweight?

If you’re 20% beyond your ideal weight you will need to take it easy when you first start running. The more you weight the more impact you’ll have on your legs and feet during your running gait. This is not to say that you can’t run, however, you’ll need to take running more cautiously to reduce the risk of injury. I totally get it. The main reason I started running was to get in shape because I was overweight. I too had to take it easy and perform more walk/run intervals at first before my legs could sustain miles and miles of running without stopping. Take your time, don’t give up, and remember that what you eat (85%) has more to do with your weight gain/loss than running itself (15%).

3. Are you physically able to run (medically licensed professional gave you the good-to-go approval)?

Do you have any pre-existing conditions? The last thing you want to do is go out and start running without a physical check-up. If you start running and your body becomes injured, your less likely to take up the sport of running again. I coach individuals so that they can sustain a lifetime of running by staying injury-free. Running while injured or without a medical professional’s blessing – is just simply – not smart.

4. Listen to your body

No matter what training plan you decide to follow to get you up to running speed, don’t forget that you’re the person in charge of keeping yourself safe and injury-free. If at any point during a running session or even while your resting you feel like you need to ease up then do so. In the early stages of running, you’ll need to become very aware of your body and its adaptation to running. If you find that running 4 times a week is too much, then drop back to only 3 days per week and take an additional rest day.

5. Have you ever run one mile without stopping?

This is a great place to start if you’ve never been able to run one mile without stopping. I’ve written 3 free training plans detailing, how to run 1 mile when you’re out of shape (no sign-up required). The three training plans last from 2 weeks (novice runner) all the way up to 9 weeks (absolutely beginner runner)

Don’t forget your running shoes

If you want to start running while getting off on the right foot, make sure that you’ve purchased the right pair of shoes. While some recent studies have actually pointed to new evidence that the type of shoe you run in doesn’t matter as long as it supports your foot correctly, you still need to visit a local running store and get fitted for some decent shoes. Here is a brief article that describes the different types of running shoes you might want to consider purchasing, what type of running shoe are you, however a visit to your local store is still worth the time.

Is fitness level an important factor when determining how many days to run?

While your current fitness level isn’t the only factor involved when determining how many days to run, it remains the biggest factor. If you’re in fairly decent shape from participating in other types of sports, your body will more than likely be quicker to adapt to running. For someone that has never run before and hasn’t been involved in many sports, their body will normally take longer to adapt to running.

Is age an important factor when determining how many days to run?

Age is a factor when an individual’s physical fitness level of participating in sports can’t be determined or they have never truly run before. As we all age our bodies tend to repair itself at a slower and less efficient rate than when we were younger. When we fall our get hurt when we are older the pain and recovery sometimes last longer. If you find your self starting to run at a later age in life you will probably want to scale back the numbers of days you run at first. After your body starts building the necessary muscles in your legs and core to help sustain extended periods of running, you can add another run day to your weekly schedule

Don’t make the #1 biggest mistake most new runners make

If you’re going in to prove that you can run a 5K the first time out and your fitness level is dragging at the bottom end, you might be setting yourself up for injury or in short – quick burnout. The number one reason why most new runners quit and don’t come back is running too much or too fast – too soon. Your body must take time to build your running muscles. If your body is rushed through the process your mind will break and/or possibly your body.

New runners in their 60’s and 70’s:

For runners who are brand new to running and they are in their 60’s and 70’s, I recommend the following beginning weekly running schedule:

Walk/run or run/walk a maximum of 3 days a week. More than likely you might need to start with only 2 days of running before increasing to 3 times per week.

New runners in their 80’s +:

For runners who are brand new to running and in their 80’s +, I recommend the following beginning weekly running schedule:

While it’s unlikely that a new runner will start in their 80’s it’s not impossible. If you’re 80 and you’ve just started to run – you are simply amazing! I would definitely limit yourself to only 2 days of running for an extended period of time. In your 80’s and actually, for any age, you don’t want to become injured. When we become injured when we start to age, it takes longer for our bodies to heal.

How far should I run as a beginner runner?

Determining how far you should run is just as important as how often you should run. Check out this detailed post on how far you should run as a beginner runner.

What If I’ve Tried Running Before and I Hate It?

All runners will have absolute lousy, if not atrocious, runs from Time to time. It’s in our human nature that we are imperfect creatures. What separates the runners from the wanna-be new runners is the fact that the veteran runner followed sane advice and didn’t quit. I’ve had my share of bad runs so I know the train of thought that comes with messing up a bad run, especially if it’s in the middle of an import training cycle.

If you’re continually finding yourself executing horrific runs, check out this post – 5 questions to ask yourself after a bad run.

If you’re really, absolutely fed up with running, and your not sure exactly why this might be the case, check out my deep dive post on why you might hate running and 35 ways to help restore your love for the sport.

Should Beginner Runners Run Everyday

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Coach Scott is a published author and RRCA certified running coach. He has published over 20 books including, Beginner's Guide to Half Marathons: A Simple Step-By-Step Solution to Get You to the Finish Line in 12 Weeks! (Beginner To Finisher Book 3), which has become an Amazon International #1 bestseller. Scott specializes in helping new runners become injury-free race finishers. He recently completed his 13th half marathon race. 

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