How frequently should you engage in running sessions each week to make noticeable progress? 

This is a common inquiry we receive from runners aiming to improve their running performance. Whether you’re gearing up for a marathon or contemplating training for an ultra trail event, understanding the ideal training frequency is crucial. Are you new to running and wondering if daily runs are the way to go for maximum improvement? In this article, we’ll endeavor to address these questions comprehensively and offer valuable guidance.

The constraint of your schedule

The first and foremost consideration is your schedule constraints. Are you juggling a demanding professional life and family responsibilities? If your days tend to unpredictably extend, you might want to prioritize morning or midday training sessions. However, not everyone is inclined to be active in the morning, and you may also have commitments during the midday hours.

If finding convenient time slots for training is relatively easy for you, that’s ideal. However, if it’s more challenging, start by assessing how many days you can realistically allocate to running. For instance, if you can only commit to three sessions per week, such as on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday, then make the most of those available days.

Avoid the temptation to squeeze in additional sessions during weeks when your schedule is already packed, as this could lead to increased fatigue.

The number of training sessions per week based on your experience

When it comes to determining the number of training sessions per week based on your experience, consider the following guidelines:

  • If you’re accustomed to training three times a week and wish to increase your frequency, start with four sessions. This represents a one-third increase in your training load, assuming a similar intensity level. Initially, the additional session should be relatively easy, like a slow jog or short hill sprints. Ensure you fully adapt to this training load before contemplating further increases.
  • For those already training six times a week and looking to add more sessions, I recommend preserving at least one rest day in your schedule. You can incorporate a morning fasted jog once a week, for instance, in addition to your evening training session. Alternatively, use this rest day for physical conditioning while maintaining an easy endurance run.

Remember, this rest day is vital for proper body recovery and optimization. It allows you to relax and enhance your overall recovery process.

The number of training sessions per week based on your objective

How many training sessions when you start running?

When embarking on your running journey, I recommend a minimum of two running sessions per week. Fewer sessions may result in slower progress, potentially diminishing your enjoyment of the activity. By starting with at least two sessions, you can expect to witness noticeable improvements. Ensure you space these running days apart for optimal results.

For those who are highly motivated, consider incorporating additional activities such as walking or biking. These low-impact exercises can enhance your cardiovascular fitness without exerting excessive strain on your joints. Alternatively, you might allocate a day to activities like stretching, yoga, or relaxation techniques such as sophrology to support your overall well-being.

How many training sessions per week for a marathon?

In my opinion, the absolute minimum for marathon training is 3 sessions per week. To simplify, this should include a long run, a marathon pace interval session, and a mix of easy-paced runs and sessions like hill repeats. This would allow you to achieve a weekly volume of approximately 40 kilometers, which is roughly the distance of a marathon.

If you truly want to make progress and feel comfortable during a marathon, you should aim for at least 4 to 5 training sessions per week. In terms of weekly mileage, aiming for between 60 and 80 kilometers is a good target.

Beyond that, it’s for very experienced runners. For reference, elite marathoners often run between 100 and 200 kilometers per week. For a non-expert runner, the risk of injury becomes too high beyond 80 kilometers per week.

How many training sessions per week for an ultra trail?

If you want to run an ultra trail, which is typically a trail race longer than 80 kilometers, you should aim for at least 4 training sessions per week. These sessions don’t have to be exclusively running; you can include a cycling session to work on your strength or endurance. Additionally, it’s important to incorporate strength and conditioning exercises, which can be done after a run, for example.

If the trail race you are preparing for has significant elevation gain, you should prioritize training on steep terrain. If you live in an urban area, you can focus on muscle strengthening exercises and short hill or stair sessions during the week and try to head to the mountains on weekends. Alternatively, you can find longer hills with at least a 10-minute climb (or make do with shorter hill repeats).

If, in a given week, you can’t manage these 4 sessions, it’s not a catastrophe. Even if you have to stick to 3 sessions most of the time, you may not optimize your potential, but you can still finish most races. In such cases, consider doing intensive weekend workouts where you complete 2 or even 3 training sessions, including a long run.

How many training sessions to make progress in running?

To be as precise as possible, we should focus on training load. It should be increased progressively and milestones should be validated. When you increase your training load, pay attention to your sensations. Are you not feeling more tired? Is your resting heart rate remaining the same as usual (or your heart rate variability to be more precise)? Are you not experiencing any pain or discomfort? If everything seems fine, then you can consider adding a bit more training.

There’s also a mental aspect to consider. If you have a strong desire deep down to run an extra day per week, then give it a try. However, if you feel like you’re pushing your limits, it’s okay to stick to your current weekly routine.

Taking all these factors into account and adjusting every week

If you use the RunMotion Coach app, you know that these parameters are considered by our algorithms to create your training plan. There are certain key sessions to complete, regardless of the number of workouts you do. Of course, the more days you indicate, the more varied and complementary your workouts will be.

In the Premium version, you can change your training days each week and specify the days when you want to do your long run, for example. It’s rare to be able to maintain a consistent schedule of 5 workouts per week, for instance. Sometimes you may run 3 times, 4 times, 5 times, or 6 times depending on your professional, family, and social commitments.

In this Premium version, you can also specify days for strength training or cycling. This is perfect for adapting your training to your busy schedule!

You can even sync your sessions to your Google calendar and send them to your GPS watch.

Happy training!