When I first started to run, I used a couple of different Couch-to-5K programs. For the most part, they were awesome. Outside of a few quibbles I have about those programs’ initial difficulty, I think C25K and its ilk are amazing and fantastic tools to get people running.
One of the biggest lessons I learned from using them, though, is that runners need days where they don’t run. C25K uses a 3-day/week cycle, and eventually, I moved into a 4-day cycle when I was training for my half-marathon last year.
I guarded my non-running fiercely, and I made sure that I did not overtax my precious legs on cross-training days.
Unfortunately, I hurt my foot after my half, and I spent the better part of November, December, and January recovering and using my FitDesk 7 days a week. I loved exercising each and every day, and I had absolutely no need for full-on no-exercise days like I did when I was running. My legs were strong and didn’t get tired.
But using the exercise bike wasn’t like running. I wasn’t getting the absurd mood-enhancement that I got from running. So I figured I needed to run more often. I decided that once I had healed up, I would try my very first #RunStreak–seven days in a row, just to see how it went.
Hooked On A Feeling
When I was training for my half, I was running a decent bit–four days a week. I’d run 10k three days a week and a long-run (between 8 and 13 miles) on the weekend. That kept me entertained and my mood elevated.
But since had I hurt my foot, I was starting back from square one. Over the course of a few weeks, I went from a mile to a mile and a half all the way up to 4.1 miles again a couple of weeks ago.
But it was still just running once a week. There was no #RunStreak possible there. And it was for no other reason than because I was lazy.
Riding the bike was so much easier than running, so the six days a week I wasn’t running, I was riding my FitDesk, playing video games and writing blogs while I did it.
This wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing, but I wasn’t getting the rush I got from constant training like I was used to. I was getting the physical benefits of constant exercise, but not the emotional ones. My mood was paying for it–just ask my wife.
When my emotional well-being essentially hit rock bottom a few weeks ago, I had to do something. As a kind of stop-gap measure to going and speaking with a counselor (which still may happen, mind you), I decided that I needed to run as often as I could to see if that helped anything.
I figured that since I always feel better when I run more often, if I ran at least a single mile every single day, then I would have to feel better than I did at that moment, that my mood would have to improve.
So my very first #RunStreak got underway. And after 7 days of it, I learned a a few things about running–and about myself.
The Hardest Part of my #RunStreak: Running Every Day
Running every day is hard.
My schedule is both really relaxed and really crappy at the same time. I don’t have to be at work until 10am (which is awesome!), but I have an hour-and-ten-minute commute both ways each day (which sucks!). So a good portion of my day gets nixed right there.
Since I’m an early riser (5:30-5:45 most days), I tend to be in bed by 9:30pm. That limits my available amount of time for family, meals, games, side-projects, exercise, etc. The way I saw it, though, even with my limited free time, running a single mile wouldn’t take long–no more than ten minutes a day. Especially if I expedite the process of getting ready and lacing up (plus I’m lucky enough to have a treadmill in my house).
I figured I could dedicate 10-15 minutes a day to running.
And boy was it hard. Years and years of running only on certain days a week had conditioned me to see running as something I either did or did not do on a given day.
Making time for it was literally a force of will. I had to make myself lace up and do it before or after work because I had set this goal for myself. On days where I was tired after work, I didn’t want to run. I’m on my feet at work most of the day, running this way and that, and after a long commute, the last thing I wanted to do some days was lace up and stare at the wall for ten minutes.
Heck, early on in the week, I had drafted a version of this post in my head that was titled Why #RunStreaks Are Not For Me.
But by the end of the week, I had changed my mind. Because even when I didn’t want to run, I did.
And I always–always!–felt better afterward. I felt good about myself for doing something I had committed to.
The Best Part About my #RunStreak: My Mood
I don’t think seven days is long enough for me to say whether the #RunStreak was something that made my mood improve, or if it was something else entirely. Maybe it was because I upped my caloric intake, too. I don’t know.
What I do know is that I’ve been happier and a little more content lately. I feel more accomplished, and I learned that running is something I legitimately enjoy for its own sake. Sure it’s good for me, and sure, it let’s me eat like I’m Pac-Man, but I learned that I honestly just love the act of running.
When I started running every single day, I started looking forward to it more anything else, looking forward to those few minutes that were mine and mine alone.
I had missed that over the past few months. Even on the FitDesk, I found myself on social media or involved with a game of some kind. I wasn’t alone with my thoughts. Running for me is meditative, and even short runs let me get myself together.
My mood has improved dramatically, and that was really the core issue for me. So I consider my experiment a success.
Now, I am not the kind of person who thinks that running is a cure-all for mental issues. I know that emotional stability is a lot more tenuous than can be fixed by simply exercising more often or intensely, but for the moment, it’s working for me. When and if it stops, then I’ll seek out other help.
Breaking the #RunStreak
I broke my streak after seven days. Sure, there are people who’ve run for years without breaking their streak, and I lasted a week. I broke my streak on Saturday because I had a commitment to sell my books at the Birmingham Public Library’s Local Author Expo.
I knew I was going to be in the car for hours and hours, and that after that, I’d be on my feet all day. So I planned my streak with the express point of having last Saturday as a breaking point. I did not run that day, but I still managed to get my 10k steps in on my JawboneUP.
So what did I learn from breaking my very first running streak?
Well, first of all, as long as it was purposeful, it was fine. I didn’t let something break it against my will. I broke it, and that made the difference. I didn’t feel bad about it. I didn’t beat myself up about it. I broke it because I wanted to break it, and you know what?
Breaking my streak made me realize that I missed it. I had come to like running every day.
I wanted to run when I got home from Birmingham, but I was entirely too exhausted to put forth that kind of energy. I walked circles around my kitchen and living room to finish out my 10k steps, collapsed immediately afterward, and was in bed well before my old-man 9:30 bedtime.
Even with all the issues I had of making myself do it, I liked running every day. I liked being active. I liked being accountable to myself. I liked the way running every day made me feel. Even if it was just a single mile, I felt accomplished when I ran every day.
It took maybe three days of pushing through before it wasn’t just “I have to run because I said I would.” Sometime around Day 4, it was…”It’s time for my run…yay!”
I had not expected that on such a short experiment, but the #RunStreak easily became habit and the behavior became so ingrained so quickly.
But it did.
And I liked it. A lot.
So I ran 4.2 miles yesterday, restarting my streak and testing the longest distance yet on my new Altra running shoes, and I am going to run today. And tomorrow. And probably the next day. And the next.
Not because I have to. Not because I set some arbitrary goal of running X days in a row.
But because I am a runner. And runners run. Whether it’s every day, every other day, or once a week.
Runners run when they feel like running.
And you know what? I feel like running every day. At least for a while.
Have you ever tried a #RunStreak? If so, how did it go? If not, what’s keeping you from trying?