How often should I run?

Running frequency can play a pivotal role in your fitness level. Our resident running coach Tom Craggs from RunningWithUs looks at the key factors to consider when deciding how many times a week you should run.

How often should I run?

In the world of social media it can sometimes seem like we are all out running and exercising every day of the week. If you are new to running or looking to achieve a PB one of the key variables you can control in order to get fitter is the frequency of your running, that is how often you run.

There are no rules

Running is not black and white. There are runners who can cope with training twice a day most days and over 100 miles a week, whereas other runners break at 25 miles and 4-5 runs a week. The key is deciding what is right and sustainable for you. 

Consistency is key

Sit down and ask yourself how much training you think is realistic for you at this stage. You’ll rapidly find your motivation plummeting if you set yourself a goal of 5 runs a week when realistic you’ll only be able to fit 3 sessions in. Focus on building a consistent frequency of runs for a period of 4-6 weeks, you will get much fitter from a regularly 3-4 runs a week, every week, than 6-7 runs one week, nothing the next.

Marathon gains

If you are training for a marathon you will need to be get in a bit more volume than if you were training for a 5K or 10K. Whilst its very possible to train to complete a marathon from 3-4 runs a week increasing your running frequency can help take some of the emphasis of the long run alone and spread your fitness gains though the week. So don’t just look to add volume to your runs, increasing the frequency from 3 runs 4-5 a week can make a big difference in marathon prep.

A matter of recovery

The key decision for runners to take, once they have decided if they actually have time for more sessions in a week is whether they are physically able to recover from an increase in frequency. Do you get enough sleep? are you fuelling correctly between sessions? Do you work very long hours or have a lot of stress in your family or work lives? There is no point adding additional training unless you are able to recover effectively between sessions. 

Too much change?

As a runner you have 3 variables to control – the frequency of your runs, the volume of each run and the intensity of each run. If you are planning to increase the number of runs you complete each week aim to build this before also making changes in volume and intensity as well. If you change all these variables at the same time you risk injury.

Enough to progress

There does come a point there if you want to get a bit fitter you need to train a bit more. Running once a week complemented with other cross training can certainly keep you fit but if you want to progress to a key race increasing your run frequency gradually to 3-4 runs a week will make a bit difference to your fitness.

Build the frequency

If you have decided increase the frequency of training start by adding a short, recovery run of 30 minutes relaxed before you start to volume in additional intensity or volume. If you are uncertain about your ability to recover to additional sessions consider starting with a cross training session such as cycling, swimming or elliptical work before adding additional running.

Spread the load

Sometimes increasing the number of days you run can actually be a way of reducing the impact of your running. If you are struggling to complete a low frequency of longish runs, you’re getting tired and struggling to recover day by day the consider splitting one of those runs in half and spreading it over two runs on different days. You may find an increase in frequency with decrease in volume is all you need to recover better. For more on the benefits on slow running, click here

Double days

Experienced runners might even consider increasing the frequency of their running by adding in double days, that is running twice on one day. Lots of runners adapt very well to this sort of training but you need to be pretty experienced to cope with it. Aim to leave about 7-8 hours between your sessions. A classic what to add double days a would be to do a very easy 30 minute run on the morning before a harder session in the evening.

For more expert running advice or one-to-one coaching, visit RunningWithUs.com