If you're new to running or are looking to step up your training to a more competitive level, you may wonder how often you should run. There is always a balance between how much you should run and how much you should rest. If you never rest, your muscles will not have time to recover, rebuild, and get stronger. Rest is always an integral part of any training plan.
For beginners, most experts recommend running three to four days a week. If you've been running for a while and know how to pace yourself, you may be able to up that total to five days a week. That being said, you'd probably still be better off sticking to the three to four days a week and adding in some cross-training one to two days a week.
Cross-training can consist of walking, cycling, weight training, swimming or a myriad of other physical activities. Find one that works for you. Also remember to always rest--meaning no running or cross-training, for at least one day a week. If you don't allow your body to rest, you risk injury, burnout and just poor results since your muscles will be too tired to become stronger.
You might feel overwhelmed by the idea of three to four days of running plus some cross-training. Don't be.
When you're starting a new exercise program, the idea is to start slowly and build up. You may want to start with a Couch to 5K program that will have you do a combination of running and walking for 20 to 30 minutes three to four days a week. It will help guide you from mostly walking to mostly running, and will do so gradually.
If the idea of cross-training another one to two days a week makes you want to scurry right back to you couch, then my advice is simple: don't cross-train! I'm serious. If getting out the door for your Couch to 5K training is hard enough, then don't add on anything else yet. You will find that as you do more and more running, your body (and mind) will start to crave your runs. Once you have your running habit well set, then you can add in cross-training. Remember that Rome wasn't built in a day and no new habit is formed in one week.
So the basic answer to the question how often should I run is three to four days a week with some cross-training thrown in, if possible, and at least one day a week of rest. And one last thing: remember to have some fun, even on those days when your run is on the tougher side.
Find your next race.