Train Smarter: 5 Ways to PR Running Three Days a Week

Personal Record. PR. It has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? For many runners, setting a personal best time in a race is their ultimate goal. It also may seem unattainable, requiring hours and days of training that just aren’t possible for some athletes. While running five or six days a week may seem the ideal way to train hard enough to set a PR, there are many reasons why that may not be possible or even desirable.

Race Finish


There never seems to be enough, does there? Whether you work full time, raise children, go to school, or do all three, time is always at a premium.  We’re so busy getting the important things done that there is rarely enough time to devote to less vital projects.

Even if you have made fitness a priority and found the time to fit it in, it may be difficult to devote as much time as you like to improving your performance. If you’re a runner, this lack of time might make you feel like you are destined to “just finish” the events in which you participate. That you can’t run faster, place higher, or set a personal record, because, well, you don’t have time to train.


Injuries, or being injury-prone, is another factor that can limit your training time. Obviously, you should not be training for a PR while you’re injured, but as you recover, training smarter, on fewer days a week, can help you avoid further injury.


Unfortunately, it happens eventually to all of us, no matter how fast, no matter how strong: we all get older. Suddenly, the body that allowed us to run five, six, or even seven days a week starts to break down at that level. It doesn’t have to mean the end of our training though. We just need to learn to train smarter.

Train Smarter, Not Harder

Race PR

Whether it is time, injury, or getting older that seems to be interfering with your racing goals, there is some hope out there.  Training smarter means making the most of the time that you have. And don’t think that you won’t be training hard, despite the title. You just won’t be wasting time with training that will not help you reach your goal. Yes, you will be working hard, but it will be focused and deliberate, not random and excessive, and will help you make the most of your time, and stay healthy and injury free.

1. Key Workouts Any race training program has several key workouts each week. These are the workouts that will adapt your body to running faster and longer. Generally speaking, the other runs during the week are not essential. These recovery runs are just that, designed for recovery, which can easily be switched out for training that fits better into your schedule or that will cause less trauma to your body. These key workouts are:

  1. VO2 Max training, usually faster intervals on a track or road.
  2. Lactate Threshold training, also called Tempo training, frequently done on the road.
  3. Long run. Depending on your race goal, one day a week should be focused on gradually increasing the distance that you run.

Here are three workouts that will help you reach your goal.

2. Build a Base Even a three day a week program needs a solid base. Before you begin the training described above, spend four to six weeks building your endurance. Each run is completed at an easy to moderate pace, and the distance increased by about 10% per day/week. This is important, a building block on which to create your training plan.

3. Coordinated Cross Training In order to replace running days, coordinated cross training will provide the benefits of a recovery run without the pounding and training time required. An easy bike ride, walk, or a swim is a good replacement, and will allow your body to rest and prepare for the next running workout. A strength workout is also helpful to strengthen and balance your muscles and that, along with flexibility training, will help you avoid injury.

4. Rest Well Rest not only means taking your recovery time, but also sleeping well. Sleep is vital to improving your performance, enhancing recovery, and boosting your mental outlook.

5. If you can, add a fourth day Yes, you can reach your goals on three days a week. But, if you’re training for longer distances, like a half or full marathon, you will benefit from an extra day on the road. It can be an easy day, but should increase to medium long length as your training progresses. Running longer distances requires your body to adapt to more mileage, so that fourth day will really help.

Race Start

While the ideal scenario for training is a schedule and body that allows you to train five or six days a week, it is possible to train smarter and achieve your goal of setting a new personal record by running three days a week.

How many days a week do your run? Do you make the best use of your training time? Do you include cross training?


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  1. says

    Great post! I’ve only been running three days a week ever since I started running a little over a year ago. On occasion I have tried to run back to back days, but I felt that was putting me on the verge of injury, so I’ve backed off and gone to every other day. Though I at least have cycling on the alternate days. Yet I still keep getting faster on the run!
    BikingBrian recently posted..Another 5K PR!My Profile

  2. says

    Great tips Debbie, you know I am all about being smart and resting. I am still enjoying my time now! I actually know a friend who ran at the international level (he medalled at the commonwealth games recently actually), and he used to only run 3 days a week. I am not sure if he still does not, but for a while he was only running those 3 days, and cross training the others as he was so injury prone. He was still representing great britain! It can be done, and you show how 🙂
    Tina Muir recently posted..Meatless Monday- Butternut Squash Lasagna 2.0My Profile

  3. says

    I definitely think it can be done with smarter training, as you say, although I think it pushes the limits for a marathon. All that said, I would hate to only run 3x/week simply b/c I love it so much. But if that’s the only way I could train…
    misszippy recently posted..Fitness Magazine #FitblognycMy Profile

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