Running is great. It clears your head, gets you fit and is super accessible. All you need is a pair of trainers and a stretch of road, it doesn’t cost you a thing and you can do it all year-round.
It’s no wonder it’s fast becoming the most popular way to exercise in the UK. But if you’re a new starter it can be hard to know just how much you should be doing.
It can be tempting to think, ‘the more, the better’, but is that true? How often should you actually be running every week? The simple answer is that it depends on your experience and your goals.
If you’re brand new to running you might want to start at two runs per week, whereas a veteran marathon enthusiast might choose to run nearly every day.
If you’re just starting out it’s best to ease into it and build up your tolerance. Running seven days a week when your body isn’t used to it will likely increase your risk of injury and, ultimately, slow your progress down.
Also, you don’t just want to stick to running. If you’re really want to be a better runner, you need to throw some strength and conditioning training into the mix – that will help get your body in the best shape to really optimise your performance.
So it’s crucial to mix it up.
Vary your run route, how long you run for and the intensity. And make sure you’re keeping a note of your progress. Founder of community running movement Run Dem Crew, Charlie Dark, thinks that getting in to running is an intensely individual process.
‘Going for a run shouldn’t be a punishment, it should be something you look forward to,’ Charlie tells Metro.co.uk. ‘Although I’m all for using trackers and apps, I tell my runners not to get to obsessed with the numbers.
If it makes you feel good then you will do it more often – until going for a run will feel as natural as brushing your teeth. ‘Run as little or as much as makes you feel good inside.’
Once you’ve nailed the basics, three runs per week, complemented by conditioning and crucial rest days, would be a great place to start.
Running on alternate days is a great way to ensure that you give your body rest days, and allow your muscles to recover properly before pounding the pavement again.
The benefits of running are vast and varied, but there are some potential risk factors. Particularly if you’re doing too much. Dr. Clare Morrison of MedExpress, says you need to really careful of over-training.
‘Running is a fantastic form of exercise, however doing it too often can put a strain on your health in a number of ways,’ Dr. Morrison tells us.
‘The first is muscle loss. During endurance running your body becomes catabolic, which means you produce higher amounts of the hormone cortisol and experience drops in testosterone levels, which causes your body to burn off muscle. ‘Aching joints is also a health problem which is quite common with runners. Most runners experience issues such as shin splints, knee pain, Achilles tendinitis and plantar fasciitis. Many of these injuries can be prevented with joint supports and proper running shoes.
‘Having regular days off from running and steadily increasing speed, rather than heading straight into a sprint can help prevent joint aches. Too much running could also potentially have adverse effects on your heart.’
Ultimately, there are no set guidelines about exactly how often you should run or how many miles you should be doing per week.
You have to listen to your body. Running frequently will improve your endurance, fitness and help you run for longer – so if you’re serious about being a runner, or working toward an even like a half-marathon, make sure you draw up a weekly schedule and stick to it.