You started to run for any number of reasons. You may want to lose weight. Get fit. Spend more time outdoors since you feel tied to your desk for so many hours each day.
But as you start to explore the sport you have chosen as your recreational focus, questions arise that may leave you in a quandary. One the most often-posed is the ongoing debate about whether or not it’s wise to run every day.
We consulted experts on the topic and what we found could surprise you. All sides of this argument offer valid points, so if you feel strongly about your perspective, the following opinions and facts could validate your viewpoint. On the other hand, proponents of the alternate method could give you pause.
The argument for running every day
Lauren Kramer told anyone who would listen that she hated to run, which is why her story is so compelling. Lauren was no couch potato. She was a competitive gymnast and dancer, but she couldn’t conjure up enough enthusiasm to join her friends on the track, no matter how much they begged.
Then, she became engaged to marry. With her wedding three months away, she became so stressed by all of the planning that her bad temper literally drove her to run daily. It was a match made in heaven. Lauren fell in love with running. It became her favourite therapy.
Six joint doctors agree with Lauren that daily runs aren’t as catastrophic as once believed. Wear proper shoes, stretch, undertakes regular strength training and run on forgiving surfaces and “Running won’t ruin your knees,” says writer Debbie Strong. She bases this comment and more on feedback from those six doctors.
The argument for not running every day
Writer Christine Luff turned to Dr. Richard N. Fogoros for a definitive answer. The two found research that supports an argument for not running daily: “taking at least one day off a week reduces the frequency of overuse injuries.” But Luff adds that the evidence for this theory isn’t set in stone.
Does the “my body needs a day to repair and restore” notion resonate with you? Perhaps you came to this conclusion after developing shin splints, stress fractures or Achilles tendinopathy because you ran daily.
For proponents of this school of thought, the body isn’t the only organism that can suffer from daily runs. There’s plenty of evidence to suggest the mind needs a break, too. Athletes risk burning out and getting bored if they they run day after day.
How to schedule your days off? Experts suggest limiting the mileage you cover to 40 miles weekly, but don’t try to force yourself to take a day off if you don’t feel you need the break. Instead, listen to your body. If you experience signs of fatigue or you get sore, ignore scheduled non-run days. Take a day off when you need it.
The argument for playing it by ear
Olympic medalist and U.S. marathon record holder Deena Kastor was asked her opinion on this topic by journalists. Kastor has the most rational answer of all, relying on the overall theory that adopting either one or the other is simply too unreasonable because it may not be what your body and mind need or want if you insist on a rigid schedule.
“The short answer is that it depends on your current level of fitness and your goals,” Kastor asserts, tackling the often-used “repetitive motion” theory employed by some fitness gurus to convince runners that’s it’s in their best interest to take regular days off.
She believes that a black-or-white approach to days off can set one up for failure. “The frequency of your running workouts should ultimately depend on what you’re aiming to achieve,” not what your calendar says!
Acknowledging that over-using muscles and joints can put one at risk for injury, she urges runners to stay attuned to how their body feels and then make wise decisions.
There’s really no reason why you can’t run every day if you want to.
But being parochial about your run can be a footfall too far if you don’t commit to seeking balance—no matter how passionate you are about your run.
What’s your MO? Have you adopted a practical daily running regimen or are you firmly convinced that rest days aren’t just a good idea but therapeutic? We would love to hear from you.