How Much Running Is Too Much
How Much Running Is Too Much? There are few things more satisfying (or exhausting) than running. Whether you’re training for a marathon, trying to lose weight, get in shape, or simply have an active lifestyle, the benefits of regular physical exercise — from improving cardiovascular and respiratory health to lowering blood pressure — are well-documented, but so is the downside: the risk of overdoing it.
While there’s no official threshold where “too much” becomes true, experts say that if you’ve been running consistently for several weeks or months without experiencing any significant injury, then your body may not yet be ready to take on the rigors of longer distances or speedier paces. The sweet spot appears to be five to 19 miles per week at a pace of six to seven miles per hour, spread throughout three or four sessions per week.
But if you’re new to running, keep in mind these guidelines for how much running is too much:
Start small. If you haven’t run before, begin with short walks around the block, gradually increasing the distance until you can comfortably jog for 10 minutes. Then add another five minutes every two days until you reach 20 minutes. When I first started out, my walk turned into a jog, which became a light jog, and eventually, a fast jog.
Slow down when you feel pain. It’s possible to hurt yourself while running; it just takes some getting used to. Injuries like shin splints, stress fractures, muscle pulls, and sprains happen most often among beginners because they lack the strength and flexibility needed to absorb the shock of impact. To avoid this issue, slow down whenever you start feeling sharp pains as you move through your workout routine. That means don’t try to power up hills or surge ahead during hill repeats. And unless you’re competing in a specific race, don’t go faster than what feels comfortable.
Listen to your body. You’ll know when you need to stop because you won’t want to continue anymore. Don’t push yourself beyond what you think you can handle. If you’re feeling fatigue, dizziness, nausea, or other symptoms, back off. If you’re having trouble deciding whether to head outside for your next session, ask someone else about going. Never ignore warning signs; listen to them and protect yourself.
Take care of your feet. Runners sometimes neglect their feet because they focus on form and technique rather than comfort. Take extra care not only to warm up properly, but also to cool down after workouts, especially those longer than 45 minutes. Pay attention to soreness, blisters, and calluses, all of which could indicate problems with corns, bunions, nails, and even bone alignment.
Wear proper shoes and clothing. While I’m sure many runners would argue that barefoot running is better, it’s not always the best option. Shoes should help cushion your foot strike and reduce impact forces by distributing the force of each step across multiple points. They also provide stability and support, helping to prevent excessive pronation (rolling inward toward the midline of the foot), which increases shear stresses on the arch. As far as clothes go, wear lightweight fabrics made from breathable synthetic fibers like nylon or polypropylene. Cotton absorbs sweat, making your skin wetter and potentially creating friction against your undergarments, causing chafing.
Use common sense. There are lots of myths surrounding running safety, including the idea that running is dangerous for pregnant women and people who have pacemakers. The truth is that running has never killed anyone, but injuries do occur.
Always use good judgment and follow basic precautions: stay hydrated, maintain proper posture, stretch before and after your runs, and avoid overexertion.
In general, experts recommend taking a break of 48 hours between hard workouts, followed by one day of rest. This allows muscles to recover and rebuild themselves, plus gives tendons and ligaments time to stabilize. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t run once in awhile. Just make sure you give yourself enough time between harder efforts.
And if you’re looking to improve your overall fitness, consider combining aerobic exercises like walking, cycling, swimming, hiking, and yoga with resistance training like lifting weights or using resistance bands. Studies show that doing both types of activities together improves results faster than focusing solely on one type.
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