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Is it worth running just once a week?

Feb 13, 2024

If you are running a lot less in than you might have hoped for this month, you are not the only one. January starts with great intentions but we can easily get distracted. Life has got too busy for some people while others have simply lost motivation along the way. Maybe the new year goal was too ambitious? Whatever your excuse, it is very easy to get frustrated at your lack of progress and you might even feel like giving up. But please don’t quit just like that. Just one run per week offers a multitude of positive benefits for your body, both physically and mentally.

Why should I persevere?

Your weekly date with your running shoes gets you into nature and away from your desk, phone and other responsibilities. In fact it might be one of the only times of the week you are away from a screen. Every single step you take has a positive impact on your bones, joints, heart and lungs. Running builds muscle strength, improves circulation and reduces stress. Running invigorates our body and mind while building fitness, resilience and self-belief. It really is quite the wonder drug. Of course, if you were to run a few more times each week you would reap even more rewards. But if your weekly run gets your heart pumping, clears your head and makes you feel alive, wouldn’t it be a shame to give up on all of that just because you feel you are not running enough to make it worthwhile?

It never gets easier

The biggest downside of running once per week is that your body takes longer to adapt to the training. Put simply, each time you go out the door can still feel like hard work as the body tries to remember what to do after a week of not running. You may feel like you are not getting any faster or comfortable at running. That can be demoralising if your running goal is performance based. Unless you are doing other strength and cardio based training during the week you realistically won’t get much faster on just one run per week. You have to work harder for that. But once you accept that you won’t see huge progress on the clock, you can focus instead on making that weekly training session so rewarding that you will want to go out the door the following week. You might even inspire yourself to build a more consistent routine into the future.

How to measure your progress

The reason that most people give up on running is that they either don’t enjoy it or they get injured. They set expectations too high and demoralised when everything doesn’t go to plan. If you are running once per week, don’t try to make up for missing other training sessions and overdo it. Accept that you will have a slower pace of progression and leave speed work until you have a more solid base. If it is not possible for you to fit in more training sessions each week, make endurance your goal. Run at a conversational pace to allow for the most health benefits. Doing so you will reduce the risk of injury too. Remember that you are training in one month the same number of times as other runners are in one week. It is not fair to compare your progress, so don’t even try.

Should I try to run more?

If it is a motivational boost that you need, you probably already know that no amount of nagging from me will get you out the door long-term. You have got to have a reason to go, a person to meet, a club to belong to or a goal that excites you to really help you maintain a consistent running practice. If that’s what your body needs, the start of this new month of February this week is a great chance for a new beginning. But if you are already overloaded and know that fitting an extra run or two into your week is physically not possible, then accept that you are a ‘once a week’ runner for now and let all guilt go for a while. Just whatever you do, don’t give up.  

What happens when we stop

If told you that you couldn’t run for the next 6 months what would you miss most? That is probably the best health benefit of running for you. We can look at all the science to see the perks of running but we can also look at how running makes us feel. Remember why you love it so much. You have a routine now, albeit weekly, but it is a great start not something to knock. However hard it may be to keep enthusiastic when you moving slowly, it is a lot harder to go back to zero and build up again in the future. Picture yourself running later this spring knowing you have stuck with it right through these dark winter days. Imagine how much lighter and free running will feel after a few month months of weekly runs.

One foot out the door

Don’t let this gradual start to your running year hold you back. You might not be reaping all the health benefits from running right now but believe that you will in the future. Until then commit to never letting a week go by without going for a run this spring. Easing into this year of running might just be what your body needed and as the spring warms up, you might just too. For now, keep building your solid base and don’t get distracted or disillusioned by what others are doing. When the time is right for you, an opportunity will appear that will make you want to run more. In the meantime, tick off your weekly run as a success and be proud that you are on the right path.

This article was written by Mary Jennings is the founder and running coach at and first published in The Irish Times on 29th January 2024. 


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