What’s Too Much: Is it Safe to Run Every Day?


Back in our 20s (pre-kids), my husband and I would run together quite a bit. But we basically convinced ourselves that it wasn’t healthy to workout and/or run every day. We would run as hard as we could for any run that we did, so our legs probably were feeling a bit worn out the next day. I think we believed for a long time that you should take complete rest days between all workout days. Once I started properly training for marathons in my 30s, however, it quickly became apparent that I was going to have to run multiple days in a row. If it’s training season, I run 6 days a week, pretty much every single week. And some people run every day! But a lot of people ask me if this is safe to do. Let’s look into it a bit more, because it’s not a simple yes or no.

So, is it safe to run everyday? There are absolutely runners out there who are safely running every single day (though I’d say it’s much more common to find runners who run close to every day with rest days here and there.) However, if you aren’t training correctly with daily running, it will quickly take its toll on your body.

Here I’ll discuss how someone can safely run every day as well as when cutting back a bit might be the better alternative for some runners.

Photo By Stage 7 Photography on Unsplash

Who Can Benefit From Running Every Day

I’m willing to bet it’s very rare to find someone who truly runs every day without ever taking a break. I think you’ll find runners who go on a “streak” of sorts (no, not that kind of streak) where they run every day for a certain period of time – say, maybe for the whole month of January or something. My husband has done that – even if some of the days were only 1 mile.

I want to look into the safety of running every day but also consider that 6 days per week is a lot more sustainable for the long-term. A lot of people who are essentially looking to run every day maybe only average 6 days per week over a period of time.

But who are the people who actually might do well running every day or close to it?

Endurance Athletes May Run Every Day While Training

Many people are shocked when they find out that I run 6 days per week. Especially since almost all of my runs during those training periods are 5 miles or more. But for someone with lofty running goals in the marathon space, to me, it’s a non-negotiable (provided I’m not sick or nursing any sort of injury). And the truth is that many athletes never take a true rest day at all.

Rest days are widely regarded as an important part of training. Though it doesn’t really feel like it, this is often where the magic happens in terms of building a faster and stronger body. But there are a lot of endurance athletes who choose to run every day during training – or at least during their peak weeks with the highest mileage.

People Who Depend on Running for Mental Health Could Benefit From Running Every Day

If you’re anything like me, the days you don’t run you just feel blah. Unless I have a day that’s completely packed I definitely feel better overall when I run (or do a different type of workout) and usually do what I can to squeeze it in.

Like so many other runners, I depend a lot on running for keeping my stress level and anxiety in check. If something is weighing heavily on my mind, going for a run always helps with that. It also helps me refocus if I need a break from work making me more productive overall.

This article from Cigna discusses the benefits of running on mental health. I definitely agree with all of their points! They mention its effect on sleeping, too – which is another major reason why people put running into their daily routine.

People Looking to Build a Habit May Choose to Complete a “Run Streak” for a Set Period of Time

Run streaks have become more and more popular. Because of the influence of social media in our lives, many people may choose to do a run streak when they see their favorite influencer promoting it.

I would say these happen a lot in the new year, or maybe right before or after a holiday that includes a lot of pigging out.

People who are struggling with their motivation to run or just want to start building a habit may choose to partake in a run streak. Ultimately, they’ll choose a set number of days to complete their run streak, and then run every day until the timeframe is up.

Often times, however, people completing run streaks only require themselves to run a minimum of 1 mile. These people are perhaps running a lot lower mileage than someone who is, say, running every day as part of marathon training. You’re a lot less likely to face an injury if several of your running days are in the 1-2 mile range. People do this safely all the time. This list from the United States Running Streak Association (yes, it’s a thing) proves it. Some of these people have run every day for over 40 years!!

Photo by Chander R on Unsplash

How to Safely Run Every Day

We’ve learned that running everyday can help with building endurance and boosting mental health – which are definitely positive! But there is a right way and a wrong way to go about running every day.

So is running every day truly safe? How do these runners do this without breaking down their bodies?

Many runners have shown that they can safely run every day. The key here is that they know how to SLOW DOWN. Safe daily running comes from building a high volume of “easy paced” miles into training. So instead of a rest day truly being filled with rest, runners who are committed to running every day may run a few (slow for them) miles. If you honor this 80/20 process (where 80% of a runner’s miles are at an easy pace) that I’ve discussed previously in length here, you can continue to run every day while staying injury-free.

(My 20-something self definitely could have used this easy running guidance!)

Seasoned runners realize how important incorporating lots of easy miles into their training is. If you want to run daily and in a safe manner, most of your running needs to be done at an easy pace.

Not sure what your easy pace is? Here’s the best way to know that you’re running easy:

  • you can breathe through your nose
  • holding a conversation is easily doable
  • it’s 2-3 minutes slower per mile than your 5k race pace
  • if you’re used to heart rate training, you should be about 60 – 70% of your max heart rate

This training pace calculator from Runner’s World will give you a good starting point for the paces you should be running at for your easy runs. Ulimately though, you should also learn to pay attention to body signs and going off how you feel.

Additional Measures to Take To Stay Safe With Daily Running

Running easy is the number one thing you can do to incorporate running every day in your fitness journey. But the following are other things you should be doing in your training to stay healthy while doing so:

  • Foam Roll and Stretch – This is invaluable for people who want to run daily. Be sure you’re being proactive instead of reactive in this area. Heading out for a run AFTER you foam roll and prepare those muscles can make all the difference.
  • Get plenty of sleep – For the super active, sleep is crucial to recovery as I discuss in length here.
  • Cross Train and Strength Train – Though running every day is great for cardiovascular health and staying fit, the repetitive motion ultimately ignores certain areas of the body. Cross training and strength training ensures that your muscles, tendons, and joints can remain strong even with daily running.

Concerns Related to Running Everyday

Running daily can be done in a healthy way. Ensuring you’re following the guidelines above will help you run every day safely. But is there anything runners should worry about if they want to run daily?

Ultimately, if you’re paying attention to signs your body is giving you and heeding those by taking a day off when you need it, then there really isn’t any negative to running every day. If it’s something that you enjoy doing and makes you feel good, then that’s great! What I think happens sometimes, however, is that people push through just to get their daily run in when they probably shouldn’t be.

Here are the concerns I see:

Pushing Through Your Run Even When You’re Sick or Injured

One of the worst things a runner can do is to continue running through pain or sickness. Overuse injuries are all too common, and they will creep up very quickly if you’re running too hard, too often. If any niggle starts to pop up, that’s a sign you need to back off. Though a little head cold generally doesn’t require someone to skip a run, there are a lot of sicknesses where running through them is a bad idea. Your body needs extra rest when you’re sick or even nursing minor injuries. Running through those just to get in your daily run isn’t smart.

Ask yourself, “What’s my purpose in running every day?”

If you’re running every day, it’s important to consider if you’re doing it because you HAVE to or because you WANT to. Sure, if you’re in training mode, daily running will probably feel like a chore sometimes. But ultimately, you know the goal you’re seeking makes it all worth it. (And I strongly recommend taking several days off after your big race to recuperate – which you can look forward to.)

On the other hand, if you’re running every day out of a place of guilt, that’s not a healthy place to be. Or if you’re doing it simply because you think you’ll lose fitness or gain weight by taking a day off once in a while…well, that’s simply not true.

Ulitmately, you have to do what’s best for you – not anyone else. You know when you’re pushing too hard or doing something simply to please someone else. If you feel like you need a day off – then take one! I take one every single week.

Why I Only Run 6 Days Per Week

The most I have ever run was in my last marathon training cycle. I only took 4 days off the entire month. In my current lead up to my Boston Marathon, I will probably have a month or two that look the same. So, even though I have run every day before – maybe up to 10 days in a row, I have never run every day consistently.

So, why don’t I run every day if I enjoy it and have lofty goals?

I believe strongly in rest days both from a physiological as well as mental standpoint. Though it may just feel like I’m being lazy, I know how important recovery is for staying a healthy runner for life. You can also see gains in your training that you might not otherwise! As stated in this article from Mcmillan Running, “Taking a rest day also allows your body to absorb the training you have been doing and you may actually see a fitness boost following a day of rest. ”

I also don’t ever want to get burnt out from running! It’s something I want to continue to love. I think taking breaks from it now again to focus on something else is important in a running journey.

For me, personally, running every day would be forced. Though I’m sure I’d be completely fine getting in an extra mile on a rest day at a very easy pace, what would be the point? If you are someone who really wants to run every day, then you should do that! Or if your particular race goal warrants a daily training cycle, then by all means (and then take a break when your A race is complete!) But, if you’re only doing it because you think you should or feel pressure to do so, then I’d say it’s time to pull back.

I always enjoy a rest day off from running. And if I feel the need to move my body, I do something else. Walking with my family, doing extra strength training or fitting in a yoga class are excellent substitutes.

There are absolutely runners out there who are safely running every single day (though I’d say it’s much more common to find runners who run close to every day with rest days here and there.) However, if you aren’t training correctly with daily running, it will quickly take its toll on your body.

Jane

Hi, I'm Jane! I'm an avid runner who races 5ks to marathons. After a 4:59 first marathon, I came back to the distance years later running a BQ time of 3:36. I did a lot wrong for a long time and finally started doing a lot right. Now I'm an RRCA certified running coach and love sharing what I've learned to help others run their best.

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