Running is a wonderful form of exercise. It’s known for reducing stress and improving mental health. Running is also a crucial outlet for individuals who struggle with depression, anxiety, or have a lot of nervous energy to burn.
While it is a great idea to incorporate running into your workout routine, many runners wonder if it is safe to run every day. Those who want to make running their primary form of exercise can reduce the risk of injury and burnout by following a professionally-developed running training program from Custom Training Plans.
Running offers many benefits, such as a reduced risk of certain diseases, more strength, and increased endurance. However, running puts a significant amount of stress on your body, causing wear and tear on your joints, legs, and feet that can affect both your athletic performance and your overall health. It’s important for all runners to take precautions before setting off on a run and to follow a recovery plan.
Doctors, physical therapists, and athletic trainers recommend that runners take a day or two each week to allow the body to recover. If you cannot imagine a day without lacing up your sneakers, consider the facts and benefits of taking regular rest days.
Benefits of Running Every Day
One of the most common complaints we hear from new runners is that it’s hard to find enough time to fit running into their hectic schedule. Try utilizing your lunch break or evenings. Joining running meetups and run clubs is a great way to find a running companion. You can also plan short runs during the week and enjoy long runs on the weekend — or whenever you are free.
After all, the benefits are worth it. Research reveals that even a run of just 10-20 minutes offers many benefits to your physical and mental health and can help to reduce the risk of:
- Heart attack
- Many forms of cancer
- Cardiovascular disease
- Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and other neurological disorders
Studies also show that engaging in running improves cognition in senior brains. However, you do not have to run for hours to reap these benefits. Shorter, frequent runs can help you stay fit, and running five days a week for just 30 minutes has been shown to improve overall longevity and heightened brain function. Running at a moderate pace for half an hour each day often leads to better sleep and an improvement in mood.
What is the Importance of Rest Days?
According to research from the American Council on Exercise (ACE), the number and frequency of rest days you should take depends on the duration and type of your workout. While some people can recover from a one-mile run overnight, others take weeks to recover from a marathon. In other words, there’s no single schedule of rest days that suits everyone.
Rest days benefit your entire body and reduce the production of cortisol, also known as the stress hormone. Cortisol is one of the compounds responsible for issues such as sleep problems, fatigue, depression, irritability, and more. Plus, when you’re under a good deal of physical stress, your mental health is often affected as well. Runners also report feeling stronger during runs after taking a day off.
Without proper rest, runners put themselves at risk for overuse injuries such as plantar fasciitis, iliotibial band syndrome, shin splints, and stress fractures. It is important to give your body the time to recover from the physical demands of running in order to reduce the chance of injury. Running injuries can sideline runners for weeks.
Here are a few tips to avoid an overuse injury:
- Invest in high-quality running shoes
- Mix up your running days with activities like swimming or cycling
- Make sure to warm up before your run
- Slowly increase your speed and the number of miles you run every week
- Adopt a running style that suits your body
What Happens If You Run Every Day?
Regardless of how intense your training schedule is, you must allow your muscles time to rest, and people who are already engaging in rigorous workouts should not run every single day of the week. Building up a running streak is fun and can be a great way to motivate yourself. However, maintaining a streak doesn’t allow for rest days, which are necessary for your body to heal. Running every day will put your body in a state of constant stress. Moreover, it does not allow for flexibility, and you may be down with achy legs and sore muscles throughout the week. For these and many other reasons, a great running training plan should include rest days to help you relax.
Once you recognize that giving your body a rest day is crucial, the next step is to choose the best days for you to enjoy a rest day. For example, runners who take long runs on weekends often prefer resting on Mondays. Or, when you are preparing for a marathon and want to train on a Saturday, you might want to rest on Friday so you can hit the trail with fresh legs.
Picking a rest day isn’t an exact science. Sometimes the best thing to do is simply to pay attention to your body. On some days, you just do not feel like running at all because your legs are sore or fatigued. Listen to your body’s signals! There’s no point in dragging yourself around the track and stressing your already-tired body further. However, if you have a serious injury or excessive soreness that does not subside within a few days, consult your doctor immediately to rule out any underlying conditions.
If your body is begging you for a rest day, don’t hesitate to take a day off. Paying attention to your sore muscles and allowing for recovery can help to prevent you from suffering a potential injury.
What do Experts Say?
Let’s see what fitness trainers and athletes recommend to amateur and seasoned runners for choosing their rest days:
Rest Days for Amateurs
It’s important to choose a running regimen that promotes practicing a solid recovery plan. If you have just started a running regimen, you should not run more than three times a week. You may add on an extra day, but under no circumstances should you go out for a run every day, particularly if it’s your first time running. As your fitness, endurance, and aerobic capacity increase, you can increase the frequency and mileage of your running sessions. Taking part in 2-3 days of cross-training workouts will allow your body to recover and heal from the wear and tear caused by running.
Rest Days for Seasoned Runners
There are many myths and misconceptions about whether seasoned runners should run every day or take time off to allow the body to recover. However, even the most elite runners remain injury-free by mixing cross-training and rest days into their training plan. You can add low-impact activities like swimming and cycling that enhance overall fitness and give your running muscles a break.
Experienced runners should pay special attention to their bodies as soreness can sometimes lead to injuries severe enough to cause irreversible damage to the tendons and muscles. As a rule of thumb, most runners should not go beyond 40 miles per week to reduce the risks of injuries. If you want to extend the lifespan of your athletic career or prevent damage to your joint or muscles, stick to a solid recovery strategy and allow your body at least one rest day a week.
Recovery Strategy for Runners
Here is a simple recovery strategy that benefits both amateur and seasoned runners. On non-running days, engage in different types of cross-training workouts to stay active and increase your fitness. These workouts also improve cardiovascular endurance and help to increase mobility.
Cycling and swimming are the most common cross-training exercises used to engage different muscles and boost your strength, but there are many other forms of exercise in which you can take part:
- Pilates: Allows you to build strength and flexibility. Runners often find this activity helpful for strengthening their core muscles and improving their running form.
- Strength Training: Employs resistance for strengthening muscles using machines, weights, or resistance bands.
- Yoga: Postures that require the body to stretch and move can be an effective way to improve mobility and flexibility.
- Swimming: A low-impact way to get a cross-training session in. Swimming is one of the best cardio exercises to relieve stiff muscles and improve blood circulation.
- Massage: Book yourself a massage to relieve aching muscles and joints. You can also self-massage using oils and lotions.
- Hot Water Bath: At the end of the day, run a hot bath with Epsom salts that can help to ease muscle knots and soreness.
Preventing Overuse Injuries
If you choose to run most days of the week, you must take care to prevent injuries that can arise from running too often. Here are a few tips that can help you avoid overuse injuries:
- Increase Your Speed Or Miles Gradually: Do not make a big jump in your pace or distance as it can lead to injury or soreness.
- Pace Yourself: Maintaining an easy, conversational pace helps to avoid putting undue pressure on your muscles and joints.
- Invest In Good Running Shoes: Experiment with different brands and models to find the shoe that suits you best.
- Commit to Warm-Up and Cool-Down Sessions: Making warm-up and cool-down sessions part of your run can help reduce any soreness and prevent injuries.
- Hydrate: Remember to drink lots of water before, during, and after your running session.
What is the Best Surface to Run?
According to athletic trainers, grassy surfaces like soccer fields, golf courses, and grasslands are the most natural surface for running. Grass is easy on the joints but requires your muscles to work harder than they would on paved surfaces. You will see the difference once you return to the road! The only drawback of running on grass is that if you run on rough grassland, it can increase the risk of a turned ankle or another injury.
Trails are easy on the legs and let you enjoy scenic views. If you need the motivation to stick to your running routine, choose woodland trails with minimal elevation changes. However, beware of slippery or muddy trails that can affect your footing.
Constant Running vs. Consistent Running
There is a big difference between constant and consistent running. Constant running refers to a schedule in which you never take any days off. If you run constantly, you are more vulnerable to overuse injuries and burnout. Consistent running means you allow time for your body to take a break and recover, strengthening your network of bones, joints, ligaments, and muscles.
If you love to run throughout the week, remind yourself that your body deserves a break to repair the wear and tear caused by running. Moreover, many people lose the motivation and excitement when they force themselves to run every day.
Now that we know how much rest our bodies need to recover from a rigorous running schedule, be sure to take your rest days seriously. According to the American Council on Exercise, running three times each week and consuming a balanced diet will help you recover more easily. Before you start running, make sure you consult with your doctor and fitness trainer to decide the best training schedule that suits your health and lifestyle.
People who are new to running often find a running training plan useful as they progress. If you’re ready to run, try a Custom Training Plans program and get off on the right foot.