Wednesday, 5 June 2013

"How often should I run?", asks a new runner

In my office there are about 50 people based there and we come in all shapes and sizes.  Some run and make a big deal of it, some are more discreet and some are curiously interested; most are some distance from being runners.  Then there are some who routinely take the lift rather than walking up one or two floors.

So, there I was yesterday discussing a practice issue with a colleague and the conversation got 'round to running.  We were chatting about the number of times we run each week and whether there is an optimum number of running days.

Here's what we decided between us.

1 run per week is better than nothing and okay for simply ticking over.  Don't be too ambitious with speed or distances.

You won't be feeling the immense benefits of being a runner although any running is better than no running.  "Period" as they say Stateside.  However, there are times when this is appropriate; perhaps after an intense season of running, easing back to a single weekly run can be appropriate in allowing a restful healing period - so if that's the case, please don't be too hard on yourself.

2 runs per week mean you could have a longish run over the weekend and a slightly brisk shorter run mid week.  This is the minimum for us!

Even within our busy schedules there are still 168 hours in a week - do we make best use of those hours?  Surely we can accommodate 2 or 3 hours for some exercise?  Even the Namby Pamby NHS guidelines are recommending we spend at least this amount of time raising our heart beat with some form of regular exercise.

3 runs per week is probably ideal.  As the optimum number for us  it means an opportunity for more serious training i.e long run slow on a Saturday morning (at least 8 miles), a 30-40 minute run with intervals on Tuesday evening followed by an hours' run on Thursday evening at a 8 minute/mile pace.

With this pattern of running established, you're going to be gaining so many benefits of running and getting into a really great habit.  Nobody will ever doubt that you are a real runner!

4 or 5 runs per week are okay for many people, especially if you have the time in your work / home routine.  Be careful not to incur any injuries by maintaing sufficient rest and sleep.

I think age is a possible limiting factor in terms of what can be done and what can be recovered from.  Having said that there are numerous runners still running well into their 60s at this kind of level but one has to be sensible, listen to your body and know any warning signals.  For runners fortunate enough to be younger, in their 20s and 30s, it will generally be easier to maintain running most days of the week.

6 or 7 runs per week are okay for short periods, although if you're young and in really good shape you may handle this well but it all depends on what running we're talking about.  Over the Christmas holiday period I ran everyday for about two weeks.  Sometimes it was little more than a 5 minute jog around the local streets.  Other times I ran for up to 90 minutes over the hills.  That was absolutely fine for me and I thoroughly enjoyed it, plus it's a good way of burning off those additional calories which will inevitably be consumed.

Wrapping up here it is worth bearing in mind what you could do as a new runner.  I suggest for many who are new, going for 4 or 5 runs each week is a good start - providing they are very short runs and which are slow, or combine walking.  This is where establishing a habit is important and gradually building up speed and distances.  So even a 20 minute walk / jog really does count and could be done several times each week.

Frequent running increases the risk of injury but it does depend on numerous variables.  Running too little can also cause injury as you're not prepared in handling a more demanding run.  These are all generalisations but I reckon for many people 3 or 4 runs a week are okay providing you don't push yourself too hard.  Apart from muscle, tendon or ligament damage, running too much can lower immunity to infections such as colds or flu.

So, do you have any thoughts on this?  If you run, how many times each week?  How do you find it?  What's it like?  what can you handle?

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