Whether you are training to qualify for a marathon, to unwind or burn some calories, it is crucial how often you lace up your shoes if you want to get the most out of your run. Running irregularly once or twice a week doesn’t help you get into a good rhythm and makes running seem even tougher. On the other hand, if you are pounding the pavement or the treadmill too often you can end up sick, injured and overexerted. It’s important to find the right balance and a certain level of running fitness to feel good. Of course, this right balance is will vary across individuals. Shiva Douse, co-founder of RacePace running studio says, “The happy medium is very dependent on the person. Three components need to be taken into consideration whether you are getting ready for a race or are a recreational runner. ” According to Douse, the three components are your history as a runner, your goal, and all the other factors like time commitments, sleep patterns, diet habits, etc.

Run in race conditions to get used to the exertion
Running goals can vary across individuals

The Running Newbie

It goes without saying that if you are a beginner level runner, then you should take it slow. Gradual progression is key here, according to Stacy Sims, PhD, an exercise physiologist and sports nutritionist for Rodale Wellness. “Doing too much too soon can result in injury or burnout, and even contribute towards weight gain as fatigue and overuse both raise your cortisol levels and encourage fat storage,” she says.

Plan of action: Since you are a beginner, it is better to add frequency instead of volume. Adopt a run/walk approach: Run for 30 seconds, walk 4 1/2 minutes, and repeat 5 times (30 minutes total). Do this 3 times a week, adding 30 seconds of running during each session until you work up to about 30 minutes of just running. If you are running for three to four days in a week, then you have enough time to take care of your injuries by including yoga, strength training or swimming in your routine.

The Weekend Runner

Once you’ve had a few long runs or marathons under your belt, you might have the tendency to skip out on the weekday miles. But the problem with being a weekend runners is that it puts your tissues in a state of shock. Malindi Elmore, an Olympic runner and coach at the Run S.M.A.R.T. Project, doesn’t recommend that you take a long run without supporting runs. She says, “Your long run shouldn’t be more than 20 percent of your weekly mileage. It’s detrimental to your muscles and tendons.”

Plan of action: Instead of a long weekend run, break up your runs to fill out your week. You can run at an easy pace if you are not preparing for a marathon; if you do have a race goal, make sure at least one workout is a fartlek (switching between sprinting and jogging), hill intervals, or any type of speed workout. You need to include at least three or four days of planned sessions to improve your performance.

Stronger thighs make for a happy runner
When your brain gets a hit of adrenaline, it releases endorphins, dopamine, and norepinephrine.

Preparing for a marathon

If you are training to cover 42 kilometres in one day, then skipping out on your daily runs might not be such a great idea. However, the number of runs you need to include in a week depends on your goal. If you just want to go home with the finisher’s medal, then three to four days might be adequate. But if you want to set a PR, then improving your time will make a huge difference. Elmore advises to include five days of running in a week, out of which two should be quality speed work.

Plan of action: The goal for intermediate runners who are easily running 30-40 km should be time-based. You need to build your long run to about 35 km before the race and then you can alternate between 30-35 km, where the shorter of the long runs can include some goal marathon-pace running. It’s a good idea to stick to running instead of swapping out one or two runs for an elliptical workout or any kind of cardio. “If you’re just swimming or biking, you’re not loading your muscles in the same way. So when you go out for those really long runs, they can end up breaking down,” says Elmore.

Running To Lose Weight

The good news is that if you want to torch calories, you don’t need to add tons of runs to your calendar. You just need to make sure that you are doing quality runs. “The biggest thing people don’t do effectively that certainly helps with burning calories and body composition is adding intensity,” says Elmore, and suggests three or four weekly runs for maximum benefits.

Plan of action: Your weekly session should include four to five runs, of which two should be quick-paced like a fartlek, tempo run, or hill repeats. Add two days of strength training in the weekly mix to burn fat and boost your metabolism. This will also improve your strength and help you avoid any injuries in the long run.

Running To Unwind

Despite the exertion of the run, runners come away with a smile, because that’s what running does to you. The effect of the endorphin release after a longish run lasts nearly all day, and it ends up making you less stressed. Depending on when the run seems to offer you the most peace of mind, you can build a running schedule around it.

Plan of action: If running in the morning brings you calm, pick two or three days to schedule your run. For work-related stress, you could hit the road post-lunch or run right after work to reap relief. If you are running to unwind, then don’t let a missed run become another source of stress.

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