You Asked: Is It OK to Run Every Day?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
One of our readers recently asked this question: "I just finished the Couch to 5K program. I want to know if/when it is a good idea to run daily. I'm trying really hard to avoid injuries and burnout."

I've been a runner for a long time and love the feeling it gives me--the sense of accomplishment, the energy boost when I'm finished, and more. So if you're like me, I can see why you might want to run daily, both for the feelings it provides and the fact that it keeps you in a regular routine. But I wouldn't recommend it.

There are a number of reasons why running every day might not be the best idea. The first is that rest days are very important. You might feel like you're being lazy by taking a day off, but your body needs that time to recover. The best way to make progress with your running--whether you're trying to get faster, increase your distance or have another goal in mind--is to do workouts that are challenging. When you're constantly pushing your body to do more, it needs time off. That doesn't mean you're a slacker. It means you're playing it smart, doing your best to avoid injury and treating your body well.

There are some runners who are content to do the same 3-mile loop around the neighborhood on a daily basis, with no variation in their routine. For those people, it might be OK to run daily because they have gotten used to this routine and it's probably not much of a strain on their bodies. But for those people who are trying to improve their fitness level, perhaps to train for a longer race or beat their best time at a mile, it is taxing on the body. Although it's important to do a mix of challenging and easier runs throughout the week, it's still good to take a day or two off.

I'd also recommend doing a variety of activities. Even if you want running to be your primary form of exercise, it's still good to cross-train with other activities a few times a week. That gives your "running muscles" a break, but also helps improve your fitness level at the same time.

Do you agree? Do you find that rest days and cross-training help improve your performance? In what ways?

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RYCGIRL 4/28/2021
thx Report
SNUZYQ2 4/9/2021
Definitely with you on this one. Thanks for sharing! Report
CATNAP6291 2/27/2021
thanks Report
CECELW 12/18/2020
i'm a walker. Running just isn't for me. It hurts my knees Report
VHAYES04 10/17/2020
Ty Report
PATRICIAAK 9/16/2020
:) Report
PATRICIAAK 8/16/2020
:) Report
CATNAP6291 7/20/2020
thanks Report
YMWONG22 5/23/2020
Thank you. Report
I don't run, but love walking! Report
I don't think my knees and ankles could take running 7 days a week. Report
I agree. Rest is needed. Report
I agree with the article our bodies need time to rest. Even God rested after He completed His work. Report
I am getting back to my workout routine post ankle surgery. I don't call them rest days. I call them step focus days. So I wear my fitbit and see how many steps I can get versus working specific muscle groups. They're the days I take my dogs on a longer walk but it's a slower pace. Or maybe take a little walk at lunch. My workout routine is pretty mixed though because I get bored. I use the wiifit a lot which has a run program. I usually do a workout 4 times a week and step days the other 3, but I'm working to get that to 5 to 2. Report
Great info! Thanks! Report
Thanks Report
As someone who just developed tendoniitis in my ankle due to overtraining, I’m a believer in taking a couple of days off. I’ve also started doing cross training which has improved my fitness and running. Great article! Report
great information Report
thanks for sharing Report
I often feel that if I would get out of bed and run every day it would stick better, but find that three times a week is my optimum for strong improvement. I am currently planning this season's regime and fighting the internal lazy girl who just wants to watch telly...
I'm with TISH0125; if I take a rest day, it turns into a week, and my program derails. I can only keep with fitness if it's part of my routine. These days, my routine involves putting on my running shoes as soon as I get out of bed. I'm feeling great, and making progress. If I took a day off, it would fall apart. Report
Trying to figure this out since I've been running around 2 to almost 5 miles everyday...I'm in the boat where if I don't run one day I know I'll slack off and it may take me a week or longer to get back in the routine. I do realize I need to mix it up in order to work other muscles and to loose the weight, right? Thanks SP for sharing this and other informative articles :) Report
Yes Report
I have learnt the hard way not to run every day. I will often 2 or 3 days in a row, but by then I know it's time to take a break and cross-train, because I feel it in my feet. Luckily I don't have knee or hip trouble, but I tend to get pain in my feet if I run too much.
At the moment, I've got a niggle in my right foot so for the next couple of days I shall cross train, and then run again.
I have had too many lay-offs in the past through over-training to make the same mistake again.
I've also found that as I have got older, my body has taken longer to recover from a long run or if I've done something like sprint / hill intervals. Report
So glad this question was answered, and I hope lots of people read it . I think it's really easy to get into a false sense of security with running because one's muscles adapt quicker to the increased work out than one bones. You can feel your muscles stronger and more resilient but you cant feel that your bones aren't there yet. Until you get a stress fracture. I got a secondary stress fracture in my sacrum from overdoing running. I've had so many injuries since this time due to deconditioning and hypermobility ,that I've had to let go of running altogether. So in short as many other people have said cross training definitely key. Running is so simple you can do it pretty much any time you have a chance, straight out your door and go.If you have certain limitations the be they; time, physical health or financial. It is really important to get creative, in terms of other training options I wish I had. Lastly I would say please get out there and enjoy your running in moderation because there is nothing that puts a smile on my face than seeing someone run Report
I take three days off running, two 1.5 hour zumba days and one day completely off or yoga. Report
Today was the perfect day for me to read this, it is my rest day. I'm jumping up and down inside just wanting to get out and run. I know the importance of rest and listening to my body. I know after yesterday's run that rest today was needed. I now run 4 - 5 days a week, but I strength train twice a week, and on those two days I limit myself to a very short easy run on the treadmill, or I take a cardio class instead. The rest of the week I focus on my running outdoors. Report
Rest days are an absolute MUST! I used to think (and still do some days) that I was being a slacker, but when I would force myself to go--I'd just have a bad run. Might as well do something different and then come back to it for an awesome run! After all, absence makes the heart grow fonder (and the muscles stronger)! :) Report
Definitely agree: rest is super important! As a freshman in college I gained the classic Freshy 15. I've always been a runner but since I was freaked out by the recent increase in the number on the scale I started running about 7 miles every single day! Not good! I ended up getting awful stress fractures in my feet and even my hips- really bad and really painful!

Moral of the story: you don't have to necessarily take the day off, but crosstrain doing something very different. I recommend Spinning, the elliptical, even a long fairly mellow walk. Report
I was told years ago that running is not the best way to go...I am torn on this. Therefore, I walk and I'm satisfied with it for now, again. I applaud all of you that can run. Report
I am a firm believer in cross training- this is after being a runner for almost 20 years. HIIT and metabolic resistance training have made me a faster and stronger runner. I do take one rest day a week to prepare my body for the 6 days of training. Report
I DO feel lazy on a rest day, even if I sneak in time on a bike or rowing machine, but after that rest day, I can almost guarantee a good run. It does make a difference, even if it is painful to skip that running high for a day. Report
as a new runner, i am finding that i have more stamina if i take a day off in between runs, not to mention taking care of my knees. Doing TaeBo and low impact aerobics is what got me the stamina to start running. I find that if I mix in some TaeBo and kickboxing, you really feel improvement in your hip flexors and core muscles which are important for lateral movement - which i need now because i have just started tennis lessons. The one thing that I have read here which I need to incorporate into my workouts is strength training. Any suggestions as to what strength training enhances your running endurance? Report
I am a runner and broke my ankle 7 weeks ago today. Though it has been hard not running I have had to crosstrain while healing (yoga, stationary bike, pool running and some elliptical) and think it is making me stronger. A couple of minor but nagging injuries have completely healed, and I can tell I am going to be a stronger road runner when I am allowed to start again since I am developing different muscles. Running is wonderful but if you have to take a break there is other exercise out there.... it may not be as much fun but at least it is a new challenge. Report
I have been an avid runner for 12 years now. I had times that I didn't run as much as I liked. I started a new job and got out of my routine. As I started up again I had to start with lots of easy runs. I am now training for a marathon and I take every Friday off (as a teacher I feel it is the best day to relax!) I make everyday look different too so somedays feels like a break. I do zumba twice a week with a short run and an aerobics class once a week with a long run. Then a nice long run mixed with hills on Sundays. It makes me feel great knowing that each day I work different parts of my body! Though a day off never hurts me or a weekend to completely relax! Report
Rest days are so important to help the body recover. So I take one to two days off. I also cross train. I walk, I run, I power walk, I do water aerobics and I strenght train. Report
Good info. Thanks Report
I've been running almost every day for six months but have taken an occasional day off if busy or not feeling so good. So far, no problems. I have noticed that varying strength workouts or added work with weights has dramatically increased my stamina and endurance almost immediately on my runs. Initially, I struggled to do one mile, though recently I've worked up to 5 miles per day and can now reach 5 in less than 50 minutes. In my youth, I was very active and a b-ball player in school and on military teams. Also, I've played in local (up to over-65 yoa) leagues in an attempt to balance a sedentary desk job routine. Now, retired, I'm able to devote more time to improving my health. I also golf several times per week. So far, the legs have experienced no fatigue but at my current age (68), I'm not certain I'll be able to push myself much further but will try to do so within limits. I do know that I'll never duplicate a five minuate mile I ran in combat boots during military physical training when a somewhat younger man! Nevertheless, I find the effects of weight training leading to improved stamina and endurance during running to be of great interest! Perhaps I'll take a day off once in a while and try to determine if that somehow improves my capacity to run faster and further (sp?). Report
If your aerobic base is large enough, a rest day can be a shorter, slower run, but I think few people are really at that level of fitness. I take one day off per week, plus one short/slow run. Priority number ONE (in my opinion) is to love your runs! If you don't love it because you're training too hard, you'll stop altogether. Report
I exercise everyday but Sundays; most of my mon-fri cardio comes from running both on cardio and strength days. I have noticed that come monday after not running since friday I am able to run fast and longer, so I think it is true that your body needs the rest....if only I could make myself rest more often! Report
great info. thanks Report
I used to run 6 days and totaled 75 - 80 miles a week. Those were the days I competed cross country running and I was much younger. Now that I am a lot older and no longer compete, there's no reason for me to run every day. I do resistant training 3 days a week then 2 - 3 days of cardio (1 - 2 days of jogging) and this less pounding approach works better for me.

For some people, their body can take more pounding than others so running every day for them is all right. But this is not something we all should do. For people who are overweight, beginners, older, have had joint/muscular injuries, should take it easy and work their way up. Doing too much too soon will only result in injuries and put you back to square one. Not worth it. Report
I have been mixing kickboxing, elliptical and bike riding with my running...very helpful. I have a strange ache above my hips when I run 4 miles or more... Report
days off kill my motivation. I just try to be consistent and "listen" to my body. If I feel fatigued, I take it easy. I haven't gotten in shape enough to RUN everyday, but I do walk nearly every day and try to toss in some bits of jogging here and there. If I was training like I did a few years ago, yes, a day off per week would be mandatory. I think it depends on the intensity at which you exercise. Report
Runing is a good way to burn of fat. Also passing, lite jogging, and keeping your heart rate between 50% and 65% to burn the most fat. Just an FYI, when you walk, jog run, breath through your nose for 4 steps, and exhale out through your mouth for 2 steps. Your giving your muscle fiber oxygen. Your can run, jog, alot longer. And also you'll burn fat faster. Make sure heart rate is between 50% and 65%. Thats fat burning zone. Glad to help or explain this better. Sends some line if want more info. Report
I've burned myself out on running one too many times. I get overzealous and injure myself. That said, I just started doing weights 3x a week and cardio 3x a week. I feel the opposite of lazy on my one day off -- I like to visualize all my muscles sending out a repair team with hardhats to make my muscles harder, better, faster, stronger. ;) Doing cardio every other day instead of every day helps keep me looking forward to doing it, too. Report
I personally don't run or jog, because running/jogging, although great for your heart and respiratory system, is really hard on your joints. I did, however, hear that they've recently discovered that those who walk regularly add about one year onto their life than those who have a sedentary lifestyle, but runners add five years. Hahaha, I still don't run but I'm inspired to walk further and more often. Report
I definitely need rest days and cross training, otherwise it is entirely too easy to overtrain! Report
If you are working out to overload than you certainly need to rest.

For someone on a walking program that doesn't exercise to exhaustion rest days may not be necessary.

I'm also a big believer in "active rest." My sport used to be bike racing and I discovered that I recovered much faster from a hard training day if I did a short easy ride the next day instead of not riding at all. Report
I hate to run and my primary sport is swimming. I find the using jogging/running intervals a couple of times a week when I do my regular walking is helping my swimming endurance. I am a sprinter, but love the challenge of long distances, so endurance is a concern. I don't believe in doing any heavy cardio or heavy strength training daily. I prefer active recovery even when I am interval training. For instance, if we are given a 10 sec rest interval when swimming, I like to bob! On days that I am not doing running or jogging intervals in my walk, I take leaisurely walks instead of power walks. Report