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How often should I take a rest day from running?

Running is a great way to stay fit and healthy. However, it’s important to balance your running with adequate rest to allow your body to recover and get stronger. Here is some guidance on how often you should take a rest day based on your running frequency and intensity.

For beginning runners

If you are just starting out with running, it is generally recommended to have at least 1-2 rest days between each run. When you first begin running, your muscles, joints, bones, and ligaments need time to adapt to the new stress being placed on them. Taking regular rest days will allow your body to strengthen and help prevent overuse injuries.

Here is a sample beginning running schedule with 2 rest days per week:

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Run Rest Run Rest Run Rest Rest

Aim to run about 3 days per week as a beginner, with at least 1-2 rest days between each running day. This allows your body adequate recovery time while still stressing it enough to gradually build fitness.

Tips for beginner runners

  • Focus on duration rather than speed or distance at first
  • Aim to run for 20-30 minutes per session
  • Run at an easy, conversational pace
  • Take walking breaks as needed
  • Listen to your body and take extra rest days if needed, such as if you feel pain or excessive fatigue

For intermediate runners

Once you have built up a base level of running fitness, you can increase your running frequency to 4-5 days per week. However, it’s still important to build in recovery days, especially after longer or more intense runs.

Here is a sample intermediate running schedule with 2 rest days per week:

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Easy run Rest Tempo run Easy run Long run Rest Easy run

Aim for a mix of easy runs, tempo runs, and a weekly long run. Take at least 1 full rest day after your long run or hard workout days. You may also consider taking an extra rest day if you feel particularly fatigued.

Tips for intermediate runners

  • Begin to incorporate speedwork like tempo runs and intervals 1-2x per week
  • Schedule rest days and easy runs after long runs or intense workouts
  • Take easy recovery runs at a conversational pace
  • Listen to your body and take extra rest as needed
  • Focus on running duration before increasing distance

For advanced runners

When running higher mileages and intensity, recovery becomes even more critical. Aim for at least 1-2 rest days per week when running 5-6 days per week.

Here is a sample advanced running schedule with 2 rest days:

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Speedwork Easy run Tempo run Easy run Long run Rest Rest

Advanced runners should take at least 1 full rest day after intense workouts or long runs. You may also consider taking 2 full rest days per week, especially if training for a marathon or running high mileage.

Tips for advanced runners

  • Carefully plan your training schedule and insert rest days strategically
  • Take easy shakeout runs the day before races or hard workouts
  • Consider extra rest days or reduced mileage during intense training periods
  • Listen to your body closely for signs of overtraining
  • Don’t increase mileage and intensity simultaneously
  • Use crosstraining and strength training to complement your running

How to determine if you need extra rest days

Besides your running frequency and level, there are some key signs to look out for that may indicate you need extra rest days:

  • Muscle soreness: Excessive and prolonged muscle soreness after runs likely indicates your body needs more recovery time.
  • Elevated resting heart rate: If your resting heart rate is higher than normal in the morning, your body may be fatigued.
  • Trouble sleeping: Difficulty sleeping and restlessness can be symptoms of overtraining.
  • Lack of motivation: If you are finding reasons to skip or cut runs short, you may be overloaded and need a break.
  • Frequent headaches: Increased frequency of headaches can signal dehydration and fatigue.
  • Upper respiratory infections: Getting frequent colds can indicate a weakened immune system from hard training.

Pay attention to these signs from your body. Don’t try to push through if you are exhibiting multiple symptoms of overtraining. Take extra rest days or consider a week-long recovery break if needed.


Incorporating crosstraining activities like cycling, swimming, yoga, or strength training on some rest days can help you maintain fitness while giving your running muscles and joints a break. Here are some crosstraining options to consider on rest days:

  • Yoga: Gentle yoga helps improve flexibility, muscle recovery, and mental rest.
  • Cycling: Low-impact cycling gives your legs a break from the impact of running.
  • Swimming: Allows you to maintain cardio fitness without impact on the legs and feet.
  • Strength training: Strengthens connective tissues and prevents muscle imbalances.
  • Elliptical trainer: Provides a no-impact cardio option to stay active.

Aim to crosstrain 1-2 times per week as your schedule allows. Even gentle crosstraining for 30-60 minutes can help facilitate recovery on rest days.


Rest days are critical to allow your body to recover, prevent injury, and facilitate fitness gains from your hard running workouts. In general:

  • Beginner runners should schedule 2 rest days per week
  • Intermediate runners should have at least 1 dedicated rest day, and 2 is ideal
  • Advanced runners should aim for at least 1-2 rest days even when running high mileage
  • Take extra rest when feeling overly fatigued or showing other signs of overtraining
  • Strategically schedule rest days around intense workouts or long runs
  • Crosstrain on some rest days to maintain overall fitness

Rest and recovery is just as important as your running workouts. Treat rest days with the same focus as your running training for optimal performance and health.