One of the most recurrent questions that keeps surfacing is whether or not it’s safe to run every day. The answer isn’t cut-and-dry, so I wanted to spend a bit of time dissecting the topic in this post.
In fact, the question comes up so often that it is one of the top queries related to running on Google. I wrote a (subpar) article back in 2017 about running 10k consecutively for 31 days in January. Since then, the post was indexed as number one in Google across multiple countries.
It’s also been viewed over 73,000 times since its inception:
So is it safe to run every day? If you’re looking for the written short cut, then my answer is yes you can run every day. But this doesn’t come free of caveats.
This is an opinion piece, and many may disagree, but I wanted to write an article predicated upon my experience (and others too).
When I started running in 2008, I would do a 22-minute interval workout on the treadmill four times a week. I would adjust the level settings as I pleased based on my experience level and endurance progression. I still revisit this workout occasionally but have increased the length and pace considerably. I’ve shared this workout with many others who have also seen substantial improvements over time. Seeing progress is an instant motivator – propelling us to continue setting and achieving future goals. This was the interval cycle that I completed when I first started running (reflected on a US treadmill):
Minute 1 – level 5
Minute 2 – level 6
Minute 3 – level 5
Minute 4 – level 6
Minute 5 – level 7
Minute 6 – level 5
Minute 7 – level 6
Minute 8 – level 7
Minute 9 – level 8
Minute 10 – level 5
Minute 11 – level 6
Minute 12 – level 7
Minute 13 – level 8
Minute 14 – level 9
Minute 15 – level 5
Minute 16 – level 6
Minute 17 – level 7
Minute 18 – level 8
Minute 19 – level 9
Minute 20 – level 10
Minute 21 – level 5 (cooldown)
Minute 22 – level 5 (cooldown)
The unglamorous inspiration behind this workout? A random brochure from a supplement store that, for whatever reason, seemed to pique my interest. But in all honesty, I think this is an amazing workout for beginners. You can adjust the levels as you see fit. Build up your endurance for short sports then rest and build it up again. You can start at level 3 or 4. Over time, you’ll be able to start at a much higher level. This is an example of what the first 22 minutes look like for me now:
Minute 1 – level 7
Minute 2 – level 8
Minute 3 – level 8.5
Minute 4 – level 8.5
Minute 5 – level 9
Minute 6 – level 9
Minute 7 – level 9
Minute 8 – level 9
Minute 9 – level 9.5
Minute 10 – level 9.5
Minute 11 – level 9
Minute 12 – level 9
Minute 13 – level 9.5
Minute 14 – level 9.5
Minute 15 – level 9.5
Minute 16 – level 10
Minute 17 – level 9
Minute 18 – level 9
Minute 19 – level 10
Minute 20 – level 11
Minute 21 – level 8.5 (cooldown)
Minute 22 – level 8.5 (cooldown)
The only difference between the two workouts is the speed and the fact that it’s now 2020 and I’ve been doing intervals and treadmill workouts for 12 years.
Point being, we all have to start somewhere. I started my consecutive running streak in 2017 when I set a challenge for myself to run 10 kilometers every day for a month. I was terrified when I set that goal. Before that, I was running an average of 5-6 kilometers 6 days a week, with a rest day mixed in (usually on Sunday). My inner saboteur was telling me that it was unhealthy, I wouldn’t be able to do it, and so on and so forth. But I did it and guess what? I was injury-free. The challenge built up my confidence and left me hungry for more.
The next few months I went back to my regular routine, but now my mileage went up to 8-10 kilometers, 6 days a week. The other distances felt too short. I trained my body and brain to be able to run longer distances.
I was equipped with a newfound sense of confidence that pushed me into setting more ostentatious goals. To digress for a moment – for those that know me, there’s no denying that I’m a stubborn person. Once I get an idea in my head, I can’t seem to let it go. My parents hated this quality about me when I was a teenager; throwing a fit if I didn’t get what I wanted until they eventually relented due to exhaustion. Like most qualities, this is a blessing and a curse. A blessing because once I get an idea I really like, I force myself into action. My brain won’t let it go. The curse is the fact that once I get an idea, I put blinders on and block out all feedback from surrounding parties. Genuine concerns and worries deflect off me like common sense does with Donald Trump.
I was out for a run one day when an idea magically popped into my head to run consecutive half marathons. If I could run 10k for 30 days, then why wouldn’t I be able to run double the distance? The mere thought excited and terrified me. The perfect recipe for self-growth. This sounded challenging enough to become a world record – so I searched the Guinness World Records for “consecutive half marathons run by a female” and saw that the current record was 61. 61 days of running a half marathon in a row. It seemed crazy, but attainable all at the same time. So I thought about it for a few days and decided that I wanted to break it by running 70. My family HATED the idea and thought I would literally fall over dead from the trauma I’d inflict on my body. I then did what I do best, my stubbornness kicked into high gear and their concern went right in one ear and out the other (sorry fam).
A few weeks later, I was off to the races. Coining the challenge “The #RUN70 Half Marathon Challenge”, sharing it on social media to keep me accountable, and also deciding to set a fundraising goal of $10,000 to donate to the Canadian Cancer Society; a cause that I hold dear to my heart.
I won’t go into detail about the experience, because I’ve written about it multiple times, but long story short, I completed the challenge and ended on day 74.
The challenge was rewarding in so many ways, but I took away a lesson that will stick with me for the rest of my life. A key that was given to me by experience and experience alone; the knowingness that I could run every day without a break. Not only run every day, but run increased mileage and push my body in new ways.
Both our bodies and minds are highly adaptive. If you’ve never run before and you set a goal to run 10k every day for 30 days, you’ll most likely fail. Why? Because you haven’t built up the mental or physical endurance. Diving headfirst into the shallow end will end poorly, start by dipping your toe in the waters and slowly work your way into it. You’ll find that taking smaller steps is more doable – like going from no kilometers to one kilometer per day (for 30 days) is sustainable. Perhaps once you’ve completed the 30 days, you’ll feel that your next goal is tackling 3-4 kilometers a day.
I overcame the fear of injury by learning to intently listen to my body and to not push too hard beyond its capability. Akin to pushing too hard at the beginning of a marathon then bonking way too soon into the race, pushing too hard at the beginning of any challenge can be the cause of early failures.
As I write this, I’ve been running for over 1,060 days and within that time, I’ve run multiple marathons and ultra-marathons while still keeping up my streak. I’m not telling you this to brag, but to tell you that with consistency, the right attitude, and listening to your body, you too can keep up a streak. So que the thesis statement. Granted there are not any underlying health conditions, I do think it’s okay to run every day. I know I’ve stymied the progress I could make in my pace and marathon times by not taking rest days, but to me, it’s worth it. I genuinely think it’s okay to run every day as long as you’re really listening to your body and not pushing yourself continuously beyond your limits.
Running brings so much purpose into my life. I get to experience the quotidian runner’s high every single day. Some days I hate the actual act of running. It’s hard and all I want to do is sit around and watch Ru Paul. Yet every day I still show up and get it done whether I feel like it or not. If my body is sore and tired, I simply go slower or do less distance. This strategy has worked for me for the past 3 years of consecutive running.
I shared my experience in 2018 by creating the #RUN30 Consecutive Running Challenge which other runners from across the world have done. It’s a challenge that builds confidence not just in your running, but also in your life.
To conclude this long-winded rant, if you want to run every day then do it. My only advice is to listen to your body and build up your mileage. Give your body and mind the time it needs to adapt. If you’re planning on running a marathon for 30 days, great. Just start with a half first if you’ve never run more than 10k in your entire life. I plan on running every day until I physically can’t. I’m 31 and have a long way to go, but based on my experience and others that have been running consecutively for YEARS, I think it’s doable and plan on doing it for the rest of my life.