Different training plans call for different measures. Of course, training comes down to personal preference and every individual is different, but there are key concepts to keep in mind. Extreme runners may run every single day, but this isn’t advisable for most runners. This leaves you with no time to recover. However, if you’re feeling ambitious and ready to hit the pavement, is it okay to run multiple days in a row?
You can run up to three days in a row, although it is not recommended for casual runners. Generally, marathon and ultramarathon runners will benefit from running three days in a row, or six days a week. For other runners, the risk of overuse injuries such as shin splints, iliotibial band syndrome, or plantar fasciitis is not worth it.
Read on to learn about when running multiple days in a row becomes an issue and how you should structure your running regimen to avoid injury and boost performance!
When is running multiple days in a row a problem?
New runners tend to become overzealous when they begin to see progress in their training. The learning curve happens quickly and before you know it, you’re logging a few miles at a time.
It’s important not to get ahead of yourself. Running too often, depending on your level of conditioning, can result in a wide array of problems including symptoms of physical exhaustion such as a reduction in sleep quality and a variety of overuse injuries.
Be cautious and plan your running schedule meticulously to avoid these common overuse injuries and overtraining symptoms.
- Shin Splints
- Runner’s Knee
- IT Band Syndrome
- Plantar fasciitis
- Reduction of sleep quality
- Hormone imbalance
Shin splints are one of the most common overuse injuries across all sports, not just running. Running multiple days in a row could very well lead to developing this painful overuse injury.
Running multiple days in a row becomes a problem when runners begin to develop shin splints. Shin splints result from repeated stress on the shin bone and the muscles of the lower leg.
According to Cleveland Clinic, runners have a substantially higher risk of developing shin splints than other athletes.
When runners increase volume without allocating a proper amount of rest for their bodies to recover, shin splints become an issue. This is why rest days are paramount to being a successful runner.
In short, shin splints occur from applied stress on the tibial insertion, which connects the knee to the tibia. The muscles in the lower part of the leg pull on the insertion, leading to stress and pain.
Luckily for runners, shin splints are easy to take care of and RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) usually does the trick!
Another common injury stemming from overtraining or overuse is Runner’s Knee, also known as Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome.
Running multiple days in a row becomes an issue when runners begin to experience pain around the front of their knee. This is more commonly known as Runner’s Knee and stems from overuse that places strain on the patella.
The patella is where the kneecap connects to the end of the femur, or the thigh bone. Excessive running strains this connection and results in dull pain around the patella.
Runners with a history of knee pain should be extra cautious to avoid overtraining; past injuries or defects only heighten the likelihood of developing Runner’s Knee.
Unfortunately, the best treatment for Runner’s Knee is to stop running until it is a pain-free experience. The patella and its surrounding structures need time to reduce inflammation and adjust to the increased workload.
Follow RICE for best recovery results. Physical therapy may sometimes be necessary to correct muscular imbalances that contributed to the injury in the first place.
IT Band syndrome
The Iliotibial (IT) band is located on the outside of your thigh. It connects your hip to the outside of your kneecap.
Running multiple days in a row increases the risk of developing IT band syndrome. This is a syndrome where the IT band becomes inflamed and physical activity involving the knee becomes very painful.
Another injury stemming directly from overtraining is IT band syndrome. There are multiple theories about why IT band syndrome occurs, but they all trace back to one key idea: overuse.
The physiological workings are irrelevant; overtraining leads to IT band syndrome. Excessive bending and straightening of the knee, one way or another, leads to inflammation in the IT band.
This inflammation is accompanied by pain and oftentimes popping or clicking that coincides with the knee’s movement. Speaking from experience, it’s quite painful and sure to put a dent in your training.
As with most overuse injuries, the best treatment for IT band syndrome is to rest. Even better than rest, however, is prevention. Take rest days in between runs to prevent the development of IT band syndrome.
Arguably the most common overuse injury amongst runners is plantar fasciitis. Running too often is a known contributor to the injury.
Running multiple days in a row makes it more likely that runners will develop plantar fasciitis, a common overtraining injury. Plantar fasciitis is inflammation of the plantar fascia, a band of tissue that connects the heel bone to the toes.
Plantar fasciitis is particularly painful because it affects every aspect of our lives. It’s not an injury limited to when running is taking place; once plantar fasciitis has developed, simple acts such as standing or walking can be immensely painful.
The sensation is one of stabbing pain on the underside of your foot. Plantar fasciitis occurs when the fascia is forced to endure more tension or stress than it is accustomed to.
Some runners have a predisposition to this injury based on their foot structure. Runners with flat feet or a high arch may be more likely to develop plantar fasciitis due to uneven weight distribution.
Think you know how to treat it? You’re probably right. Rest!
Rest is one of the key factors in healing plantar fasciitis, but it isn’t the only one. Make sure to purchase running shoes that accommodate your foot arch, and stretch your feet.
Reduction of sleep quality
While running and other forms of exercise are typically associated with higher-quality sleep, overdoing it can cause insomnia in endurance athletes.
Running multiple days in a row can result in chronic inflammation if not careful. Over time, chronic inflammation has been associated with insomnia from hormonal imbalances and the inability to recover.
There are multiple different reasons why running too often can lead to insomnia.
Most commonly, the sympathetic nervous system is unable to properly react to the stress it is placed under. Adrenaline and stress hormones end up chronically elevated, subsequently increasing resting heart rate and blood pressure.
In this scenario, neurotransmitters are unable to be produced and sleep will suffer as a result.
Luckily, allowing the body to recover should restore great sleep for runners. With recovery, hormones can reestablish a balanced state and properly functioning neurotransmitters.
Overtraining can sometimes result in a hormonal imbalance. Men are less likely to suffer from hormonal imbalances than women. Ladies, take notes.
Similar to how running can interrupt sleep through hormonal imbalance, running too much can throw off hormone balance in women due to prolonged stress. The body isn’t given enough time to recover and the hormones are thrown out of balance as a result.
Women are especially at risk for a hormonal imbalance due to overtraining. In this case, there are three main hormonal imbalances to be concerned with.
Women often face low estrogen, high androgen, and low progesterone as a result of overtraining. This often means reproductive issues as the body prioritizes recovery and survival to reproduction.
Even more severe is that hormonal imbalance has further complications: runners are more likely to get injured. Estrogen is an anti-inflammatory agent, so reducing the amount of estrogen production will further inflame the body.
Inflammation is a common trait in many overuse injuries, aforementioned above. Please take the time to rest; this is the only opportunity for your body to recover and improve from the strain you impress upon it.
Is it okay to run on consecutive days?
Running on consecutive days is often met with controversy. Is it too much wear and tear on the body? Or do we need this level of frequency to truly progress as runners?
It is okay to run on consecutive days, especially as an advanced runner. However, for beginners, running on consecutive days may not be advisable. When runners begin to increase frequency to five or six runs a week, running on consecutive days is inevitable. Be mindful and avoid scheduling high-intensity runs on adjacent days.
There are three different levels of running: beginner, intermediate, and advanced. The lines are slightly ambiguous, but each level retains its respective recommendations.
Beginners need the least stimulus and therefore can avoid running on consecutive days. This is optimal because beginners need as much rest as possible to adapt to the strain of running.
Intermediate runners have built a sufficient base but don’t need quite as much stimulus as an advanced runner. They may have to run consecutively once or twice a week, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Their bodies are well-adapted.
For advanced runners, six days a week may be necessary to acquire the necessary stimulus for improved performance. Make sure to alternate low and high-intensity runs to avoid overuse injuries.
Runners new to the sport should it easy in the beginning. Ease into the sport and make it enjoyable! The best exercise is one that’s fun and sustainable.
Beginning runners should aim to run three days a week, allowing for sufficient recovery. New runners have not yet adapted to the strain that running places on the body, so it’s crucial to move slowly and allow the body to adapt.
According to Craig Strimel, a USA track and field coach, new runners are best off running three times a week with an off day in between every day of running, the body can sufficiently recover.
It’s tempting to run multiple days in a row, but as a beginner, you should really try and limit yourself.
As a new runner, your body is not yet adjusted to the wear and tear that running generates. Your hips and knees are placed under tremendous stress, and without giving them enough time to rest, chronic injuries are destined to occur.
Follow the 10% rule and increase volume in slow increments. It’s the most sustainable way to build a running base while skirting injury.
A step up from being a beginning runner, intermediate runners are likely to bump up their running frequency. What is a responsible, well-thought frequency to follow in your training plan as an intermediate runner?
Intermediate runners should run four to five times a week, depending on their individual goals. Runners looking to compete in long-distance races may want to run more frequently, whereas simple recreational runners may want to run less frequently.
Making a specific recommendation for anyone beyond the beginning stage of running gets murky. Every runner has different goals, different lifestyle factors, and the like.
However, a safe bet for intermediate runners is to run four to five days a week. This means running on consecutive days once or twice a week.
Running four to five days a week allows for runners to maintain a sense of balance in their fitness journey. Intermediate runners will greatly benefit from strength training and should aim to lift weights twice a week.
Lifting weights improves muscle endurance, provides better returns on energy expended, and reduces the risk of injury by fortifying joints and tendons with strong muscles.
With running and strength training factored in, intermediate runners still have a day or two to rest and recover. This is essential for avoiding overuse injuries.
The best of the best! Marathoners, ultramarathoners, and other elite runners alike are considered advanced. They’ve long transcended beginner and intermediate workouts and can put their bodies through the most grueling of runs.
Advanced runners should run six days a week, leaving a day off for recovery purposes. While many long-distance athletes run seven days a week and sometimes even run two-a-days, the risk of injury skyrockets. Simply put, running any more than six times a week is not worth the added injury risk.
Advanced runners are different from intermediate and beginning runners in that they need lots of stimulus for improvement. They are in peak shape, and their tendons and joints are adapted to the voluminous workload.
Advanced runners will benefit from six days a week, but no more. Factoring in cross-training and rest days, whether that be strength training or a form of low-impact cardio, six days is plenty of stimulus for runners.
Remember that the body heals through rest. Even advanced runners are prone to overuse injuries if they run every day.
If advanced runners should choose to run anyways, their running regiment must be programmed to allow recovery.
When should you take a rest day in between runs?
As a runner, it’s important to listen to your body. There’s a distinguishable difference between fatigue and injury.
Runners should program rest days at least once or twice a week for recovery purposes. Additionally, runners should allow themselves a rest day to heal if dealing with excessive fatigue or pain.
When your body begins to feel beat up, it’s already too late. Prevent overuse injuries by properly programming your training plan.
There are many different ways to structure a running regimen, so there’s surely a schedule for everyone out there! Here are some of my favorite recommendations.
3 days per week
For beginning runners, three runs a week is perfect.
Run every other day when aiming to run three days per week. An example plan could be running Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, with cross-training on Tuesday and Thursday. Take the weekend to rest and prepare to tackle the next week.
Running three days a week offers the most flexibility. You could take your rest days whenever so long as they are spaced out between runs.
Even for beginners, cross-training is important. Perform low-impact cardio like swimming, biking, or strength training, a couple of times a week on off days. This achieves the best of both worlds.
4 days per week
For intermediate runners, four runs a week will be beneficial.
Run two days in a row, then implement rest days between the other two runs. An example schedule could be run Monday and Tuesday, cross-train Wednesday, run Thursday, cross-train Friday, run Saturday, and rest on Sunday.
While runners will have to run back-to-back days in this plan, running two days in a row is plenty doable once you’ve worked up to it.
Make sure to schedule cross-training and strength training time, as all runners should. Recovery is the priority!
5 days per week
Five days a week is good for intermediate runners and even lower-level advanced runners.
Run three days in a row, followed by a rest day, and then back-to-back running days. An example plan would have runners running Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, resting on Thursday, and then finishing the week strong with runs on Friday and Saturday.
Once again, make sure to implement cross-training and strength training into this schedule.
At this frequency, the importance of intensity begins to increase. Pay attention to how hard you’re running.
For example, spend Monday running at a high intensity, and then spend Tuesday and Wednesday running easier for recovery.
In this case, you should follow the 80/20 rule. This rule states that 80% of running should be performed at an easy pace, while 20% should be performed at a high intensity.
6 days per week
Six runs a week is doable, although it does push the limits of runners and should only be done by advanced runners.
Running six days a week will have runners running three days in a row, two times a week. Split these cycles up with a rest day in between.
Once frequency reaches these heights, running at an easy pace becomes monumental. If runners are pushing their bodies six times a week, they’re asking for injury.
Alternate easier runs with more challenging runs. At this point, it can be difficult to work in cross-training. If possible, cross-train on the days when runs are performed at a low intensity.
- About the Author
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Joshua Bartlett is a professional amateur when it comes to running – basically, he takes his mediocre running ability very seriously.
As the Editor-in-Chief at Saltmarsh Running, it is his job to make sure that readers get only highly-researched and comprehensive questions to all of their running questions.