How Often Should You Run For Optimal Benefits? | Rockay

How Often Should You Run For Optimal Benefits?

Like anything else, running isn’t just running; it’s walking a tightrope between optimal benefits and risk of injury. The body can be pushed by a person’s spirit, but the spirit is unlimited and the body has plenty of limits.

Along with a variety of benefits and potential dangers, running also offers various methods and outcomes. Gather a room full of runners and you’ll find many incredible variations, depending on experience and goals. Some run for speed, others for endurance, or for weight loss. Everybody has a different upper limit.

Image result for runner pain 1000x1000

While there are some commandment-level rules that apply to all kinds of running. You need to run a minimum of three days a week for at least 30 minutes at a time for some progress to be made; you should never run seven days a week. Don’t run while injured, and make certain you’re healthy enough to run.

Now, we’re going to ask you a few questions to get us on the same page. Just don’t answer them out loud. We can’t hear you.

Below, you’ll find information on the most common types of running, along with possible schedules to help streamline what you’re looking for and how to get the most out of your run.

Are you a Jogger?

This is an important distinction to make. While some will attempt to claim jogging and running exactly the same, we can assure you that they are very different.

Joggers, in general, are usually jogging for different reasons than a runner runs. Joggers may simply do the exercise to keep their muscles loose and flexible. Jogging is also often suggested as part of rehabbing damaged foot and leg muscles after an injury. The low impact nature of jogging is easier on the body, making it perfect for those looking to dip a toe back into activity.

The easiest way to tell if you’re more of a jogger than a runner is the “conversation test.” A jogger’s top speed is below a slow run. You can easily maintain a conversation during a jog, which is not something we would suggest attempting during a run. If you can chit-chat on the phone or with a partner, you’re probably at a jogging speed.

For those more mathematically-inclined, anything above 6 MPH is a run.

Of course, there are limited benefits for joggers. While joggers can jog virtually every day due to the exercise’s breezy pace, you will only see the most modest of gains in speed and endurance. There will be a decent weight-loss possibility, but that will likely plateau rather quickly.

If jogging is for you, we would suggest a schedule like this:

SUNDAY: OFF

MONDAY: After a 5 minute warm-up, jog 15-20 minutes (interspersed with brief intervals of walking)

TUESDAY: After a 5 minute warm-up, jog 15-20 minutes (interspersed with brief intervals of walking)

WEDNESDAY: After a 5 minute warm-up, jog 15-20 minutes (interspersed with brief intervals of walking)

THURSDAY: After a 5 minute warm-up, jog 15-20 minutes (interspersed with brief intervals of walking)

FRIDAY: After a 5 minute warm-up, jog 15-20 minutes (interspersed with brief intervals of walking)

SATURDAY: OFF

As time goes on, you should increase your jog time to 30 minutes while decreasing durations walking.

Some acceptable variations would have a rest day in the middle of the week rather than on weekends. Other versions would have you exchange a rest day for another low-impact exercise like swimming.

Jogging is a necessary gateway into the world of running. You will likely be doing it as a warm-up exercise if running consistently is a part of your goal. If you are a beginner to the running world and starting from scratch, we would suggest downloading the (free) Couch to 10k app. It’s a simple app that will take you from a mere amateur to a 10k runner.

But, that still doesn’t answer our most important question.

What Kind of Runner are You?

Image result for different bodies of runners 1000x1000

There’s another question you’ll need to answer. What kind of runner are you? In other words: How far are we going to take this? In order to achieve the optimal benefits, you’ll need to be as hardcore as Private Joker at the end of Full Metal Jacket. That’s as modern as my references get, I’m afraid, so my apologies to anyone below the age of 40.

The most common goals runners chase are increased speed or endurance, or weight loss. All three of these goals are rather intertwined, naturally. However, their finer details are different. You’ll see gains in all three categories, but your primary focus will shine through.

Just make sure you’re willing to make this commitment.

Are you Running for Speed?

Well, you won’t have the Speed Force to rely on, so that’s out. Running for speed requires not only a specific type of running but several secondary exercises too to help boost gains and limiting injury potential. Many runners employing cross-training for this reason; it isn’t just the speedrunners.

It should also be noted that just because you are running to increase your speed, you will not be running at top speed the entire time. As a matter of fact, there will be times when you’re only jogging or walking. Varying your speed and footwork will keep your muscles from complacency.

Not every run should be the same if you’re looking to build speed. Consider themed runs: On Monday, you’ll run for distance; Tuesday you’ll jog; Wednesday you’ll run a fartlek, etc. As part of your warm-up routine (or perhaps as part of a cross-training regimen) consider doing sets of speed-building supplementary exercises: back extensions, hip raises, squats and deadlifts. As always, a run should be a minimum of 30 minutes for physical progress to be made.

SUNDAY: OFF

MONDAY: After a 5 minute warm-up, run for 30 minutes (interspersed with brief intervals of jogging)

TUESDAY: After a 5 minute warm-up, run for 30 minutes (interspersed with brief intervals of jogging)

WEDNESDAY: After a 5 minute warm-up, run for 30 minutes (interspersed with brief intervals of jogging)

THURSDAY: After a 5 minute warm-up, run for 30 minutes (interspersed with brief intervals of jogging)

FRIDAY: After a 5 minute warm-up, run for 30 minutes (interspersed with brief intervals of jogging)

SATURDAY: OFF (or cross-training)

The Long Run

Shockingly enough, this isn’t just an Eagles song. Many choose to do a particularly long run one day out of the week. There are major benefits to these long runs in regards to speed and endurance, especially for beginner-level runners who are usually at a loss for the latter more than anything else. Adding a long run (minimum of 5 miles) to your schedule would necessitate some changes.

Depending on your level, you will most likely want to have a long run preceding a rest day (best for beginners) or before a cross-training day (recommended for the more advanced). Some runners–usually those with increased endurance–have no problem sandwiching a weekly long run between days of normal activity. That said, we should also note that long runs are meant to maintain a single pace. Believe it or not, it’s meant to be a leisurely one. Remember, you’re going for distance, not pace.

The Fartleks

Mentioned above, the Swedish Fartlek exercises are some of the most effective you can ask for when it comes to building up speed. They are intense; a fartlek run should last 45 to 60 minutes, and should be done at least once every two weeks. I’d also personally do them preceding a rest or cross-training day (if the latter, hopefully, you have access to a swimming pool, as a good swim would make for a perfect come-down from the fartlek).

There are structured and unstructured versions of the fartlek. For our purposes of building speed, the structured version is just simpler to follow:

4 minutes at a grueling pace

2 minutes recovery jog

2 minutes at a strenuous pace

1-minute recovery job

1 minute at a steady pace

Do 2-4 sets of these with a 5-minute recovery jog between sets with a 2-mile cooldown.

The fartleks rely on rapid speed changes, keeping the muscles off-balance and excited. It aids in muscle growth and strength and provides an intense workout for your aerobic and anaerobic systems.

Are you Running for Endurance?

Running for speed will help you build endurance. The aerobic workout will increase oxygen capacity in the body, making it easier to run longer distances and longer intervals. If running to build endurance, consider supplemental aerobic exercises. Your options are many: jump rope, swimming, ellipticals, rowing, kickboxing and aerobic strength circuits are just a few.

However, we’re here talking about running. The previously mentioned long runs and fartleks will help build endurance, and believe it or not, so will walking.

Walking is a distance game, and we’ve already established how important it is for your muscles to get workouts at different speeds.    

The schedule below takes into certain factors for endurance running. Distance running should be worked on incrementally (5 extra minutes or 1 extra mile), you will gain endurance. If you cannot handle the exertion, modify the schedule so you can continue to build as your muscles become more accustomed to your best run.  

SUNDAY: OFF

MONDAY: Run for 30 minutes

TUESDAY: Walk or jog for 30 minutes

WEDNESDAY: Run for 35 minutes or 1 extra mile

THURSDAY: Walk or jog for 30 minutes

FRIDAY: Run for 40 minutes or 2 extra miles

SATURDAY: Walk or jog for 30 minutes

Consider Multiple Runs a Day for Endurance

Endurance running can be difficult. Muscles still have their limits and you can potentially get injured from overexertion. However, some runners have the time and the ability to do two runs per day. They’re normally done early in the morning before breakfast and after work.

A good rule of thumb is to have a 6 hour difference between your morning and evening runs. That way, your muscles will have time to recover, but still be loose and ready to work out again. These runs should also be limited to no more than 5 miles and at a comfortable pace.

The middle of the day is for rest/work. If worse comes to worst, sleep under your desk like George Costanza.

The progress you make, of course, can be offset by poor dieting, so watch out for that.

The potential benefits to endurance are obvious, but the danger is too. Of course, the best way to introduce multiple runs into your schedule is incrementally.

Week 1

SUNDAY: OFF

MONDAY: Run for your average time (30 minutes minimum for progress to be made)

TUESDAY: Run for your average time

WEDNESDAY: Run for your average time

THURSDAY: Run for your average time

FRIDAY: Run for your average time

SATURDAY: Double run; morning, night and 6 hours in between

Week 2

SUNDAY: OFF

MONDAY: Run for your average time

TUESDAY: Run for your average time

WEDNESDAY: Run for your average time

THURSDAY: Run for your average time

FRIDAY: Run for your average time

SATURDAY: Double run; morning, night and 6 hours in between

Week 3

SUNDAY: OFF

MONDAY: Run for your average time

TUESDAY: Run for your average time

WEDNESDAY: Run for your average time

THURSDAY: Run for your average time

FRIDAY: Run for your average time

SATURDAY: Double run; morning, night and 6 hours in between

Week 4

SUNDAY: OFF

MONDAY: Run for your average time

TUESDAY: Run for your average time

WEDNESDAY: Double run; morning, night and 6 hours in between

THURSDAY: Run for your average time

FRIDAY: Run for your average time

SATURDAY: Double run; morning, night and 6 hours in between

As the schedule says, the 3 three weeks should only have you add a single double run to the regimen. Advance as much as you are able, but keep in mind that it is incredibly rare for even the most ardent distance runners to have more than 3 double runs in their schedule. Don’t overdo it for the sake of itself.

Are you Running for Weight Loss?

Image result for running for weight loss 1000x1000

So, do you enjoy distance and endurance running? I sure hope so, because if you want to lose weight while running, that’s what you’ll have to do. The schedule below is for experienced runners. For those unable to meet the demands of this regimen should consult the jogging and endurance schedules above to help build them up to this point. Exercise is a structure built brick by brick. I know it can be frustrating and interminable at times, but it’s worth it.

SUNDAY: OFF

MONDAY: 45 minute to 60 minute run (walking/jogging rarely interspersed)

TUESDAY: Rest day or low to no impact exercising

WEDNESDAY: 45 minute to 60 minute run (walking/jogging rarely interspersed)

THURSDAY: Rest day or low to no impact exercising

FRIDAY: 45 minute to 60 minute run (walking/jogging rarely interspersed)

SATURDAY: Rest day or low to no impact exercising

If you feel like you have plateaued, try shaking things up on some of your runs. Try Interval runs (like abbreviated fartleks). You will have to run at your top speed for short bursts during a more leisurely paced run. Timed running is, well, exactly as it sounds. Get an idea of how far you can run in an hour and try to beat that record.

Plateauing

Running can be a strange thing. You’re doing something good for your body, but you’re fighting it and listening to it at the same time. You have to push limits to obtain progress, but not so far at once that you get hurt. And the body itself, both pliant and adaptable, can be frustratingly stubborn.

Eventually, you’ll hit some walls. You can’t seem to run faster. You can’t seem to run farther. You’re stuck at this weight. We’ve mentioned earlier that plateauing will happen, but it will happen the fastest if you’re running for weight loss. That’s why dieting and adding a variety of exercises and cross-training to your repertoire is important, especially if running is your primary method of weight loss.

And it’s not just a problem for those trying to lose weight either. If you’re training for a marathon, you can plateau too. Check out the video below to see how you can avoid doing so.

The Final Basics

Running branches off into so many different directions it can be difficult to keep everything straight. Yes, many sections cross over into one another, but the finer details make the difference. However, there are some easy to follow, final basics that apply across the board for any runner.

As we mentioned before, never run 7 days a week; at least one, complete rest day has to be on your schedule.

Diet. (I know, I hate it too, but it’s necessary.)

Don’t run injured.

Runs need to be a minimum of 30 minutes for progress to be made

Never skip the warm-up.

Good luck.

Sources:

  1. Mile Split, Benefits of Running Twice a Day
  2. Strength Running, Sarah Canney…
  3. Active, How Far Should You Run
  4. Healthline, What Are the Benefits and Risks of Running 

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