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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