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How many rest days should a runner take?

Running is a popular and effective form of exercise, but it can take a toll on the body if not done properly. One of the most important aspects of an effective running routine is taking enough rest days between runs to allow the body to recover and repair itself.

How often should you run?

There is no single definitive answer, as the optimal running frequency depends on many factors like your fitness level, training goals, race schedule, and risk for injury. However, most runners benefit from running 3-5 days per week, with 1-2 rest days in between each run.

For beginners, it’s often recommended to start with 3 runs per week and have at least 1 day of rest between each run. As you build your fitness, you can gradually increase to 4-5 runs per week if desired, but the rest days become even more important at higher training volumes.

Runners training for a marathon or other race may run more frequently, up to 6-7 days per week. But the intensity and mileage are carefully managed to avoid overtraining, with easy runs, cross-training, and recovery techniques used on some of those days.

Why rest days are critical

Rest days serve several important functions for runners:

  • Allow the body to adapt to the stress of running and get stronger – Running causes microscopic tears in muscle fibers and other tissues. Rest days give these tissues time to fully regenerate and adapt so you can come back stronger for the next run.
  • Prevent overuse injuries – Tendons, bones, and joints need recovery time to avoid overuse injuries like stress fractures, plantar fasciitis, IT band syndrome, etc. Rest days help reduce the cumulative stress.
  • Replenish muscle glycogen – Glycogen is the muscles’ key energy source. Running depletes glycogen stores, so rest days allow muscles to refuel.
  • Support mental recovery – Running daily can take a mental toll. Rest days provide a physical and mental break that runners look forward to.

Signs you need more rest days

If you notice any of the following, it’s a sign you should add more rest days or easy days into your running routine:

  • Increased muscle soreness and tightness
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Decreased motivation
  • Elevated resting heart rate
  • Frequent colds or illnesses
  • Poor sleep quality
  • Decline in running performance
  • New, persistent aches and pains

Making the most of rest days

To optimize recovery on rest days:

  • Do light cross-training like walking, cycling, swimming, or yoga
  • Prioritize sleep and nutrition
  • Use foam rolling, massage, and stretching to aid muscle recovery
  • Take relaxing baths or do other low-key activities you enjoy
  • Avoid strenuous activities that cause deep muscle fatigue

Considerations for different runners


Beginner runners often need more rest days as their bodies adapt to the new stress of running. Start with running just 3 days per week, with at least 1 rest day between each run. Gradually build up distance and add a 4th weekly run if desired, but keep the rest days. Avoid increasing total weekly mileage by more than 10% each week.

Intermediate runners

Intermediate runners can typically handle 4-5 runs per week at moderate distance and intensity. Make sure to take at least 1 full rest day where no running is done, along with 1-2 additional “recovery run” days per week at an easy, comfortable pace.

Advanced runners

Well-trained runners can usually manage higher running frequency and volume, like 5-6 days per week. But listen to your body and take rest days anytime you feel overly fatigued. Use cross-training and low intensity running on some days to reduce stress. Build up volume slowly and take recovery weeks every few months to allow the body to recharge.

Marathon and distance trainers

When training for long races like a marathon, your running frequency may get as high as 6-7 days per week. Avoid long or hard efforts on consecutive days. Mix in easy jogs, cross-training, walk breaks, and low-impact activities so you’re not hammering every day. Don’t hesitate to take an extra rest day if your body needs it.

Masters runners

As runners age, the recovery process slows down. Regular rest days become even more vital for continued running health and performance. For runners over 40 or 50, aim for at least 2 full rest days per week in addition to cross-training and easy run days. Prioritize strength work, nutrition and sleep as well.

Sample running plans

Here are some example running plans at different volumes showing how to appropriately incorporate rest and recovery days:

Running Plan Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Beginner 30 min run Rest 30 min run Rest 30 min run Rest or cross-train Rest
Intermediate 45 min run 30 min recovery run 45 min run Rest 45 min run 60 min run Rest or cross-train
Advanced 60 min run 45 min recovery run 60 min run 45 min recovery run 90 min run 60 min run Rest or cross-train
Marathon Plan 30 min recovery run 60 min run 45 min recovery run 90 min run 45 min recovery run 2 hour run 45 min recovery run


The optimal number of rest days for a runner varies based on factors like fitness level, training volume and race goals. But most runners benefit from 1-3 rest days per week to allow their bodies to recover and adapt.

Beginners should start with just 3 runs per week and rest in between. As you advance, you can add days but intersperse easier efforts. Watch for signs you may need more rest like chronic fatigue and declining motivation or performance.

Rest days are vital to prevent injury, restore muscle glycogen, recharge mentally and allow your body to get stronger. Treat rest as part of your training plan, not an afterthought, and you’ll be on your way to improved fitness and performance.