I noticed that a lot of training plans have you running most every day with a day or 2 off at different intervals. Why is this?

I am currently training for a half marathon. If I run on Sunday (6.5) I take Monday and Tuesday off and then run the same distance on Wednesday. I would then take Thursday and Friday off and on Saturday I would run 7.8. I would then take 2 days off and continue this interval.

It has worked really well for me.

If I followed the marathon training plans out there I would be running more often at less distances.

I know there has to be a reason for training the way the marathon training programs suggest. I am curious as to why those are better than my 1 day on / 2 days off, upping by distance each week.

4 Answers 4


For good or bad, the authors of many training plans are or were serious runners. Elite athletes who take the approach that "any day I am not running is a day my competition just got faster than me". These training plans also assume that you recover quickly and that you are not prone to injury.

These programs are only better if you want to keep improving your performance. Presuming you can handle the workload and not get injured, you will become stronger and a better runner the more you run.

If your goals are more fitness-oriented or you run for pleasure or social reasons than it could be that your approach is better. I hope this answers your question.

  • Most of these programs are written for average runners looking to prepare for a marathon. They are designed to reduce injury risk. Running a marathon is a stress on your body, and many inexperienced runners are prone to injury. The plans are often written by coaches who have spent time working with beginners (like high school students who have never run before), and are well versed in injury prevention Commented Jun 11, 2018 at 0:48

It all really depends on what kind of running you are doing. I know that there are some who run distance workouts and take two days off in-between, but I also know some who do tempo interval workouts and take one day off a week. The long run can be the most beneficial, but also can cause the most damage if done too hard, too long, and too frequently. So you can continue doing your individual workout, especially if it seems to be working for you, but be careful with your body as to not overwhelm it. You only get one haha. Throwing some sporadic tempo interval runs may be beneficial for you, as training in only one area may decrease your abilities in another. Many believe there is only one way to run, but there are many different factors and abilities that are tested. Having tempo interval runs will allow you to work on running through tiredness towards the end of the race, and force you to focus on your running form, which one may not necessarily work on if they simply do distance runs and nothing else.


I have run 8 marathons and the first 4 I did using traditional programs that involved 5 or 6 days a week of running. But the last 4 I changed it up.

I am a huge fan of the FIRST program. Essentially it focuses on quality runs not quantity so you don't get burned out and you have a less chance of being injured. One day is track, one day tempo and the other a long run. You are supposed to cross train (bike, swim or row) 2 more days but I have not found it necessary. You have to really commit to the distances and times so the runs themselves are hard but you only have to do 3 a week. The program was detailed in the book Run Less, Run Faster by Bill Pierce, Scot Murr and Ray Moss.

  • runnersconnect.net/why-run-less-run-faster-doesnt-work this result explains why Run Less, Run Faster is what people want to work, but not what actually works. You may have adaptation after already training for 4 marathons, but working hard for 3 days a week exposes you to injury, even if it is convenient. Commented Jun 11, 2018 at 0:41

Key takeaway: Use Consistency to adapt

Some serious running books with relevant chapters:

  • The Science of Running by Steve Magness
  • Daniels' Running Formula by Jack Daniels
  • Build Your Running Body by Pete Magill et al
  • The Lore of Running by Tim Noakes

Standard training programs try to minimize injury using consistency and gradual changes. By training on a near daily basis, creates a much more regular routine for your body, and building up mileage slowly also helps your body adjust.


Muscle building is very adaptable. You may be sore in the days after you run, but if you drink and eat well, muscles should recover quickly. Building up mileage will help your muscles prepare for longer distance runs. If you strain a muscle (possible if you run while you are sore and/or take a bad step), you might need a few days of rest. 2 days off might be enough! Muscle recovery slows drops off quickly after your run, so recovery 2 days after a run will be significantly slower. A short run (just 1 or 2 miles will work) on a day off has been shown to improve recovery.

Tendons and Ligaments

These are not quite as adaptable as muscles, but providing muscle-bone and bone-bone connections, the running will add stress to them. They will slowly adapt over the course of months, and regular exercises and stretching can help loosen them. Common issues like achilles injuries crop up when training is adjusted too quickly. Tears are unlikely, but even soreness can hang around for weeks.


Bones can support a volume of stress over time (maybe 20 miles a week of running), but are gradually damaged by repeated use. If you overwhelm your bones, you can have a minor contusion or a fracture, with recovery times from 2 weeks-3 months. With a fracture it is likely you will not run in the marathon you are targeting. The best protection is to slowly build the volume you run each week. Running many days allows you to build high regular volume over the course of training. Many runners will run quite a bit farther (20 miles) in the weeks leading up to the marathon. If your running volume is 25 miles normally, and you run 35 or 40 miles 2 weeks before your marathon, you are much higher risk for a stress injury. By building large regular volume, you can avoid the big jump.

Conclusion: Reduced Injury Risk

In general, running more regularly reduces injury risk, even if some runs are short. This doesn't mean you will get injured if you run inconsistently. You are also not invincible just because you are consistent. Consistency doesn't protect you from a bad step. But consistency reduces risk.

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