You’ve set a goal to complete a marathon or to run in order to lose weight. But does that mean you should run every day? Or that it’s okay to do so if you think you’re able to?
Running daily is not a good idea since your body needs time to recover from the repetitive stress placed on it when you hit the pavement or other surface underfoot. Incorporating cross-training and rest days into your running schedule helps reduce the chance of overuse injuries that can result from demanding too much from the same areas of your body day after day.
If you’re trying to improve your running or are training for an event, you’ll want to run at least 3-4 days each week. Vary your intensity throughout the week and give your body time to adapt and recover to the stress being placed on it during your more intense workouts.
These tips can help you avoid burnout or overuse injuries:
Intense days. Vary your workouts during your more intense running days by doing speed work one day, focusing on distance another or completing a tempo run. Changing things up keeps your body working differently all the time, even if the only thing you’re doing is running.
Recovery days. Between your more intense runs, you also need some runs that aren’t pushing you to the limit. This is especially true if you plan on running on consecutive days. These recovery runs allow you to still get in your miles while giving your body a chance to recover by not pushing it so hard. So if yesterday you got in your long run for the week, today stick to a shorter distance and a comfortable pace.
Cross-training days. In between running, schedule 1-2 cross-training days. These are days where you do something other than running that still helps improve your fitness level. By incorporating cross-training in your schedule, you can build strength, endurance and flexibility without overstressing the joints and muscles you use when you run. Consider weight-training, swimming, or bicycling on these days.
Rest days. Yes, sometimes you simply need to rest. On these days, you’ll want to do nothing – no running and no cross-training. Rest days allow your body to adapt to the stresses you’ve been placing on it so you get stronger.
Listen to your body. If you feel pain, take a break from running. Continuing to run through the pain can lead to more serious injury. If you’re running too much, you may also find your energy level or sleep patterns seem off or you just feel under the weather. These are signs that your body may need some rest. If things don’t feel right, give your body the time it needs to recover even if it’s not what’s on your schedule.