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Running 5 Days A Week: How To Construct Your Perfect Training Plan

Is 5 days a week the right running volume for you? Find out!

Ron Hill, a British International Marathon runner, famously ran every day for 52 years and 39 days. That’s an incredible 19,032 consecutive days.

There’s a famous story1Olympian Ron Hill ends 52-year running streak. (2017, January 31). BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-lancashire-38810882 he tells about when he had broken a bone in his foot and was in a plaster cast. Sitting at home during the day, he would sneak out when his wife left the house to do the shopping and run with his crutches for at least 1 mile.

Now that’s commitment for you!

We are not recommending attempting such a long-running streak and the need to go to the extremes that Ron did, but in this article, we will examine the commitment to running 5 days a week and how to arrange your workouts for optimal gains and performance.

A person running on a beach.

How Many Days A Week Should I Run?

The number of days that one should aim to run per week is largely determined by age, training experience, and the distance that they aim to race over.

Young athletes (generally under 30 years of age) are lucky in that their bodies are still able to handle a full week of running with potentially no real issues.

On the other hand, those moving into the veterans or masters category (over 35), generally start noticing a decline in strength and mobility and an increase in setbacks in the form of niggles and injuries.

In my early 20s, I was able to consistently run 6 days a week with Friday as my recovery day and not have too many issues with niggles or injuries.

However, now in the v40 age category, my body takes longer to recover between my key sessions, and taking more rest days is essential if I want to maintain consistency in my training.

In addition, if you are aiming to run over longer distances than 5 days a week will allow for sufficient time between your key runs you will need to find a way to allow your body to recover from the week’s training load.

If training for a marathon, for instance, you want to have enough time between your long run session and your interval or tempo session.

Let’s go straight in and discuss how we can maximize your potential by running 5 days a week consistently.

A person running outside.

The Importance Of Consistency

One consequence of the running streak executed by Ron Hill2Ron Hill. (2023, June 3). Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ron_Hillwas a level of consistency in running that allowed him to become a much better athlete.

He was able to build up his mileage steadily over time, allowing his body to adapt to the additional stresses that he was putting on it.

The importance of ensuring that you can keep to your training schedule week after week over an extended period can’t be underestimated.

Each run puts stress on your body which will then go through an adaptation process to allow you to become stronger, more able to endure and increase your aerobic capacity.

Frequent breaks in your training due to illness, niggles, and more serious injuries will keep setting you back in the pursuit of your running goals.

Therefore, aiming for the sweet spot of running enough to reap the rewards of your training and not running too much that it leads to injuries and inconsistency is the real challenge for a seasoned runner.

The role of adequate rest and recovery in your schedule goes hand in hand with your actual running to achieve the desired consistency.

In addition, it’s important to understand the distinction between a rest day and a recovery day. While a complete rest day means no running or exercise at all, a recovery day refers to low-intensity, easy-paced aerobic exercise that gets your legs and circulation moving.

People running uphill.

Benefits Of Running 5 Days A Week

Here are the top benefits of running 5 days a week:

  • You are running enough days to allow you to steadily increase your mileage and distance.
  • It allows you a chance to build your aerobic base before committing to a specific training plan.
  • You still have 2 days to consider cross-training and/or complete rest days.
  • You can train adequately for longer distance races like the half-marathon or marathon.
  • You reduce the risk of injuries and setbacks due to overtraining.
  • You can maintain the joy of running as with 2 days of non-running your mind and body can take a break.
Two people running.

Factors To Consider Before Deciding That 5 Days A Week Is Right For You

#1: Schedule and Desired Life Balance

Outside of running, there are other key commitments such as work, family, and children that will require you to consider how many days you can dedicate to running and when in the day you will find the time to train.

#2: Current Mileage

If you are only starting out and have been running low mileage, we recommend that you don’t jump straight into running 5 days a week.

This would significantly increase your risk of injury. Moreover, we advise that you look at your weekly schedule and not increase your mileage by more than 10% per week.

#3: Current Number of Weekly Runs

If you are already running between 3 and 4 days, then adding an extra day won’t be too much of a jump.

However, if you are only running 1 or 2 days currently then it is better to gradually increase your distance before adding too many additional days.

The mantra “start slow and build up gradually” is your friend here.

Two people running on a beach.

#4: Injury History

Calf strains and tendonitis in the knee are quite common injuries when a runner first starts out, most often due to increasing their workload too quickly.  

So, if you have a recent history of picking up injuries or niggles then it would be better to continue running the current number of days to ensure that your body is able to build adequate strength before trying to cope with the additional demands of 5 days a week.

Running 5 Days A Week: A Typical Training Schedule

So after considering the benefits and analyzing the factors above, you strongly believe that running 5 days a week is suitable for you. Therefore, let’s look at how best you can structure your training week.

An important point to make is that you should always be considering the 80%/20% rule.

That is that 80% of your running should be easy aerobic pace, and the other 20% can be running at high-intensity levels such as intervals, tempos, and hill sessions.

Your weekly schedule will include the following key elements:

A person running outside.

Intervals

As you have time to space out your hard or key sessions, it allows you the flexibility to choose from a range of interval sessions.

I recommend you incorporate shorter intervals if your primary focus is running and racing shorter distances like the 5km or 10km.

On the other hand, tempos and longer intervals are recommended for those racing over half-marathon and marathon distances.

Long Run

I recommend that you always have a long run in your weekly plan.

It should be a staple in any runner’s schedule and it offers many benefits. They increase your ability to cope with muscle fatigue and increase your endurance and aerobic capacity.

The distance of the long run will depend on the races you are targeting, but generally, they are usually between 60-90 minutes for a seasoned runner.

A person swimming laps.

Cross-Training & Rest

You have two days of non-running where you can choose either cross-training (cycling, swimming, hiking), strength training (weights or plyometrics), light activity for flexibility and core stability (yoga or Pilates), or indeed to choose a complete day of rest and recovery.

Easy Runs

You have two days where you will be able to run at an easy to moderate pace, covering anything between 30-60 minutes. These runs will help you recover from the interval sessions and allow you the chance to just run and not worry too much about your paces.

For illustrative purposes, let’s take an example of a runner with a goal of running 40 mins in the 10km distance.

The week will include:

  • 1 interval session (1 km repetitions or shorter like 800s or 400s)
  • 1 long run (between 60-90 minutes depending on fitness and experience)
  • 1 other harder session (hills or tempo runs)
  • 2 foundation (keeping the legs ticking over) runs of between 40-60 minutes.
A person running outside.

Let’s take a look at an example weekly schedule:

Monday: 45 minutes of easy running. This allows the body to recover from the big training gains from the previous weekend and helps the athlete feel like they have got the week off to a great start!

Tuesday: Intervals – 5 x 1km @ 5km pace, with a 2-minute recovery. This will test the athlete’s ability to hold the faster 5km pace (3.50 min/km) so that he or she will then feel confident of the 10km pace goal of 4 min/km.

Wednesday: Cross training – a swim or 45 minutes on a static bike in the gym.

Thursday: Easy run – 45 minutes of easy running. Like Monday, however, if the athlete feels good after the previous day of cross-training, then can increase the pace slightly.

Friday: Rest Day. Complete rest. The athlete will try to stay off their feet as much as possible, knowing that a big weekend of training awaits.

Saturday: Intervals – 20 minutes tempo pace (4.10 min/km), followed by 5 x 30 seconds on a steep hill.

Sunday: Long run – 70 minutes easy conversational pace.

A group of people smiling and running.

Final Thoughts

If you go ahead and make running 5 days weekly your new consistent routine, it’s important to listen to your body in the initial stages. We’d recommend you test it out for a number of weeks and assess how you adapt to the workload.

As discussed earlier, taking at least one complete rest day per week will reduce the chance of any common overuse injuries, allow your body to replenish its glycogen stores, and crucially help you avoid the feelings of staleness that fatigue and mental burnout provide.

That said, keep an eye on anything that suggests that you´re overtraining and scale back when needed.

In the long run, your 5 days a week running habit will pay dividends!

If you are concerned you may be overtraining, check out the common symptoms, here!

An exhausted runner lying down on a track.

References

  • 1
    Olympian Ron Hill ends 52-year running streak. (2017, January 31). BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-lancashire-38810882
  • 2
    Ron Hill. (2023, June 3). Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ron_Hill
Photo of author
Cathal Logue is an avid runner and coach. After competing against Sir Mo Farah aged 16, he suffered several injuries throughout his 20s. Despite not reaching the same heights as some of his contemporaries, he still holds impressive PBs of 9.09 for 3k, 15.36 for 5k, and 33.36 for 10k. His goal now is to help runners of all abilities reach their potential and likes exploring the mountains north of his current home, Madrid, Spain.

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