It's hard to describe the euphoria that comes after a really good run, but it's safe to say that it's easy to get hooked on it. You might find that you actually want to run every day to chase this runner's high. Or you might sign up for a race just as an excuse to log miles regularly. But while a daily jog might be what your mind needs, is running every day bad for your body?
"Running every day isn’t ideal, and it will not lead to the best path forward for realizing your greatest running potential," says David Siik, creator of Precision Running, a treadmill running program at Equinox. Rest and regeneration, the process during which muscle tissue repairs itself after a workout, are just as crucial for becoming a better, healthier runner, he says. If you try to run every day, then you might delay this and possibly set yourself up for failure, mentally and physically. That said, Siik often jokes with his runners that, "Not running a day in your life is also terrible for your knees." So, he gets it.
There's a big difference and fine line between "consistent running" and "constant running," Siik says. "Consistent running is great for your body, building a strong, stable framework of joints, bones, ligaments and muscles — not to mention [improving] your cardiovascular health," he says. But if you run hard constantly, meaning you don't take rest days, then you'll be more susceptible to overuse injuries and mental exhaustion, he says. As a general rule, the American Council On Exercise recommends that you run for 20-30 minutes three days a week, and take rest days on the other days. Any more than that is often difficult to sustain, especially for beginners.
That said, there is a safe way to run daily, but you have to "really appreciate balance," Siik says. That means figuring out a schedule of light, medium, and challenging runs throughout the week, he says. Exactly what that looks like is different for everyone, though: "It all comes down to how much activity, and what intensity of activity, you are doing every day," he says.
During the "light" days, you can go on a short run, follow it up with a good stretch, and make sure you're really recovering and resting the remainder of the day, Siik says. On more intense days, you might want to consider taking an ice bath to speed up the recovery process and reduce inflammation, he says. To that same point, if you're going to run every day, you have to prioritize sleep to allow your body to get the down time it needs to keep healthy, he says.
Equally important to taking care of your muscles is making sure you're staying mentally "in the game" as well, Siik says. To prevent boredom, it's smart to mix things up by adding interval speed work, longer outdoor runs, and a few track workouts to create different experiences for yourself, he says. And if you really aren't feeling it, definitely take a rest day: "If you love running, remind yourself that distance (or a day off) will always make the heart grow fonder," he says. "A lot of people mentally burn out before their body does, losing their drive, purpose and even sometimes their joy of running."