In the United States, the current longest running streak for an individual runner is more than 50 years. That’s running at least 1 mile every day (365 days a year) for more than 50 years — which adds up to more than 18,000 consecutive days of running … and counting. For most of us, that time frame is unimaginable. Running at least a mile every day for that duration takes an incredible amount of commitment — and a little bit of luck.
Whether you’re a long-time runner or just getting started, you may have wondered if running every day is beneficial. Is it better to take a day off each week? Or will you gain more from an everyday commitment? There is no single answer that’s right for everyone. The exact answer depends on your goals, training schedule and the intensity of your love for the sport.
If you’re looking to start a running streak, you’ll need to commit to at least a mile every day. For most of us, the answer to whether you should run every day is a little more complex. Runners get out the door with an endless variety of goals in mind, including weight loss, training for a race, maintaining fitness in the off-season or for mental and physical health benefits. No matter your reason, there are a number of factors to consider when it comes to running on a daily basis.
RUNNING FOR WEIGHT LOSS
We all come to running for our own reasons, but maintaining or losing weight is a common source of motivation. Getting out the door every day can be a beneficial tool if burning calories and staying lean is your primary goal. If you’re a new runner, your body adapts and becomes more efficient over time, meaning you may find yourself burning fewer calories if you stick to the same length and intensity run every day.
Variety is the key to longevity in running since it’s such a repetitious sport. If you run every day, try to add variety in any number of ways, including the length and intensity of your run and the type of terrain (trail/road/treadmill, hilly versus flat, etc.). Adding even a small amount of strength training to your routine can also help you build muscle, stay lean and avoid running injuries.
TRAINING FOR A GOAL RACE
When you’re training for a goal race of any distance, the intensity of your training increases as the season progresses. A complete training plan should vary both the length and speed of the running you do, becoming more race specific as you gain fitness. With higher intensity training, it can be mentally challenging for some runners to run every day. A recovery day can give both your mind and body a break.
If you enjoy running daily and don’t feel burnt out from your schedule, make sure to incorporate recovery runs. For competitive athletes, a short, easy effort can act as a recovery tool in place of a rest day. A rule of thumb: You should almost always finish a run feeling better than when you started, especially when it’s a recovery effort. If these types of runs become too draining or leave you feeling more fatigued, it’s probably time to take some days off.
MAINTAINING OFF-SEASON FITNESS
If you’re a runner who has both short- and long-term racing goals, you’ll likely find yourself with stretches of time after an important race where you want to get out the door without the volume and intensity of race training. Ironically, it may be easier for some athletes to run daily in the off-season than during intense stretches of training.
When there is reduced pressure for workouts and long runs, you may find it enjoyable to get out for fun, easy efforts on a daily basis. An added bonus will be maintaining your baseline fitness, so you aren’t starting from scratch when you ramp up for your next race. Now is also a great time to add more complementary work like yoga and strength training to keep you strong and healthy when you return to more intensive training.
MENTAL AND PHYSICAL HEALTH BENEFITS
Along with other forms of vigorous exercise, running has been shown to be beneficial in improving mental health and reducing stress. While the physical benefits are better understood, running can be an important outlet for individuals who struggle with anxiety, depression or just the stress of everyday life.
If running is your time for stress reduction, there is no harm in getting out the door every day. Just 30 minutes of activity may be plenty if this is the primary goal. Committing to a streak provides an additional source of motivation for some runners, but it’s certainly not a necessity. As long as running continues to be a source of positive energy and doesn’t evolve into a nagging, overwhelming commitment, feel free to enjoy your time outdoors and stick with the daily run.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Whether you run three days a week or seven, cross-training and strength training is always beneficial to support athleticism, mobility and prevent injuries. A consistent commitment to a well-rounded routine helps you stay healthy. Find the balance in training that works best for you mentally and physically so you can enjoy the sport for years to come.