Avoiding Back-to-Back Days

Hal explains how running back-to-back days is important and often unavoidable when training at a high level.

Got a question about running? You’re in the right place. Every Tuesday, world-renowned coach, author and athlete Hal Higdon posts and answers athlete questions here. You can submit your question by joining the discussions on Hal Higdon’s Virtual Training Bulletin Boards


I’m training for my fourth marathon using your Novice 2 plan. This plan has me running three days in a row: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, with a long run on the weekend. How important is that? I’m an every-other-day runner, and running back-to-back days, not to mention a third day in a row, worries me since I’m prone to injuries. I also swim and bike twice a week.


Novice 2 does feature four running days, plus two rest days and one cross-training day. If you want to run every other day, there’s no way you can fit four running days in a week without doing at least two of those runs back-to-back. Or, you could fit seven run days into a 14-day period by modifying the program slightly. Are three consecutive days of running important? Yes, or I would not have designed the program that way. Marathon training programs usually alternate stress and rest. So you might say that the third consecutive day provides a “stress” similar to the final miles of your weekend long run. In considering that stress, note that the three-day segment is book-ended by Monday and Friday rest days, just as the weekend long run and cross-training segment is similarly book-ended with those same rest days, Friday and Monday.

That doesn’t mean you can’t achieve success by doing it differently. You certainly could substitute swimming or biking for either the Tuesday or Thursday easy workouts. Or substitute for both those days, an intelligent choice for someone prone to injuries. Have you checked out my Marathon 3 program, which does feature three days running a week?