If you’re new to running or you’ve been running the same 4-mile route five days a week with regularity, adding structure to your training can help you make major gains. With a plan, you know what you’re doing on any given day, which may impact how hard you push, or not. Even a light-touch framework that forces some variety, along with plenty of rest and recovery, helps you move closer to your running goals, and may also prevent overuse injuries.
Many plans assume a Sunday long run, but the beauty of this framework is you can adjust it to fit your schedule — as well as how your body feels.
DAY 1: REST DAY
Recovery is a building block of fitness. Aim for at least one rest day a week. Most people opt for Monday since traditional schedules hold that weekends are high-mileage days. If you’re new to running or prone to injury, you may even want to add a second rest day in place of an easy run. But don’t think of this day as a waste. Your body is rebuilding at a cellular level.
Use your rest day for gentle stretching, foam rolling, a yoga session, to focus on hydrating and dialing in nutrition with some meal prepping, or the obvious nap.
DAY 2: EASY RUN
Note that an ultra-runner’s easy run will be a lot longer than a 5K runner’s would be. Easy is relative. For some, this may look like 15 minutes; for others, around 60 minutes of running at an easy pace is perfect. If you’re new to running, easy may involve a walk/run combination. Focus on keeping your perceived exertion level low, which means you should be able to run while easily holding a conversation. Make sure to incorporate some strides, aiming for around three 20–30 second bursts of speed throughout the run, so you’re ready for the next day’s speed workout.
DAY 3: SPEEDWORK/WORKOUT RUN
Again, the exact workout depends on your goal, but every runner, even ultra-marathoners, benefit from speedwork. The duration and amount of intervals varies based on your current race goals and fitness level, but if you’re new to running, a simple interval workout to try is to aim for a 15–20 minute easy warmup, followed by 8 sets of 1 minute at your ‘hard’ pace, followed by 2 minutes of ‘easy’ recovery, which can include walking. After that, cool down for another 15–20 minutes. (Need some help choosing a workout or want to mix things up? Check out this article for more on interval training.)
DAY 4: EASY RUN
Remember to keep these easy runs easy. That may mean bringing a friend along to force you to maintain a conversational pace so you can catch up on life. If you have a hard time defining what easy means for you, invest in a heart rate monitor and learn more about your zones. For most healthy runners, an easy run should keep your heart rate around 115–145 beats per minute. If you’re not good at self-moderation, avoid hills or any sections of road you know will spike your speed.
DAY 5: CROSS-TRAIN OR REST DAY
If you’re a new runner, take this day to go to a yoga class or do a long walk as cross-training. If you’re tired or simply too darn busy, give yourself the extra off day. If you’re a more seasoned runner, you can add cross-training that has a bit more intensity, like a spin class, lap swimming or a strength-training session.
DAY 6: EASY RUN OR WORKOUT RUN
Depending on how long your long run is and how long you’ve been running regularly, you can opt for another easy run day or do a short, harder run workout. As a general rule, stay short and easy if your long run is going to last more than two hours. For a workout, you could repeat Day 4’s session, but cut down to only four intervals since tomorrow is going to be your long run, which tends to be the hardest part of a runner’s week.
DAY 7: LONG RUN
You probably knew this was coming: One run during your week should push you in terms of volume, but don’t go big all at once. If you’re new to running, 3 miles may be a long run. Again, the distance of your long run depends on your goal race distance or how endurance-trained you are as a runner. For someone with a marathon on the calendar, a long run could be 16 miles. If you’re a 10K runner, a long run could be anywhere from 5–10 miles. (Here are a few tips on how to run long when you’ve never done it before.)