So, the big news regarding all this of course is that I am still at it. When last I posted about it I was only a few months into it after taking on and completing a 39-day, 3-miles-a-day running challenge. If you want to know why I did that at all, I think I summed it up nicely here: "When the answer is always "run more," what's the question?"
Well, here it is Day 469, and theoretically I am still at it. I say "theoretically," because I haven't actually run today. Maybe today's the day I don't run, but unlikely. Since starting this streak, I have knocked down my must run distance to one mile, which is what Streak Runners International, Inc., and the United States Running Streak Association, Inc., deem as the minimum required mileage to accomplish per calendar day to be considered a streak runner. And, no, I am not a member of either of these organizations and have no intention of joining, but if they say a mile, who am I to argue?
Mostly I don't think about this running streak anymore. I don't really consider it a streak. That, in my mind, would imply that I am trying to obtain some sort of goal, when in reality I am not consciously really doing that anymore. I just run. It's just something that I do.
A few months ago, I had a conversation with another runner (who also has runs daily) about whether or not what I do is an addiction. He argued vociferously that it was. Whereas, that didn't feel quite right to me.
Streak running doesn't feel like an addiction or even a compulsion.
According to www.dictionary.com, an addiction is "the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma." Running isn't like that. There are days when indeed I look at it and think - meh - I really don't want to do it today. But, then I think, I only need run a mile and that is only about 10 (or 12) minutes of my day. I guess I can manage that. I make myself get it done.
So, then is it a compulsion? According to www.dictionary.com, a compulsion is "a strong, usually irresistible impulse to perform an act, especially one that is irrational or contrary to one's will." So, that sounds like it fits. But, if it is a compulsion, then I would say it's more like a compulsion in the sense that brushing your teeth is a compulsion. Sure, I could stop brushing my teeth anytime, but ewwww, why would I want to? That's how running feels. Yes, I could stop anytime, but why would I want to?
Running brings me joy and happiness. Literally, when I run, I am happy. Even if it is just a mile. Don't I want to be happy? So, why would I stop. And, seriously, we're talking 10-12 minutes a day. It's really a no-brainer.
So, why do it at all then? If it is just 10-12 minutes, what could I possibly still be getting from that? Well, first of all, the one-milers are not frequent. I try to limit them to once a week - my official "rest day." If I am feeling excessively tired, hurt, or time-crunched, then the mile it is. I don't overthink it. While my husband and I were on vacation recently, we spent a week hiking in the Sedona area - 38 miles to be exact. I ran a lot more one-milers during that week than normal because of the hikes. So, in some sense the one-miler is indeed a place holder. So, why do them?
- Mental consistency. I really feel better NOT thinking about running, and I have to think a lot less about it if I am doing it every day. I know that sounds counter-intuitive, but trust me on this one.
- Physical consistency. My body gets running now and I am in no hurry for it to forget what it's like.
- Keep things going. I truly believe it keeps things limber. As someone who has suffered from tendon injuries a LOT over the years, I think running every day helps to keep things greased and oiled, so to speak. I could be wrong but running that mile just feels right - like I am keeping the gears running smoothly.
Since I don't really think about the running every day thing - or discuss it for that matter - I was surprised recently when four different people I knew, separately, told me they were starting to streak run. My first thought was why would you want to do that? But, I don't own the idea, for sure, so I think it's cool that others are jumping on board. But, it got me thinking about what advice I would give to someone trying this and I came up with the following. It's not much, but here it is:
- Running every day is not going to fix everything that ails your running. What it will do for you is create consistency so that you have something to build on to get stronger. And, it will probably make you a more efficient runner. But if you have muscle imbalances, running form problems, or whatever other issues, running every day won't necessarily fix those. It won't replace strength training if you are weak or yoga if you need help with flexibility, for example. And, it won't replace a good training plan if you have an upcoming race you're keen on running.
- Easy-Hard days. This is one that I cannot stress enough. In fact, this probably should have been the first point. Running every day you STILL have to follow a pattern of easy-hard, easy-hard with your running. If you kill a workout today, tomorrow you had better take it nice and easy. (And maybe it's not day for day with you, but whatever cycle works for you...two hard days, easy, two hard, easy....whatever works.) Currently, I am training for a half marathon, so I am aiming for one good quality speed workout a week, one longer run a week, and one hilly run a week. The rest are EASY. They are slow or flat or short, short - or a combination of all three. I really like the 80-20 rule....the idea that about 80 percent of your runs are actually pretty easy during the week...only 20 percent are hard.
- Listen to your body. This is stellar advice regardless what you do, but especially important if you want to run every day. Running every day I have found that I really can ignore 90 percent of the little aches and pains I feel on any given day, but I do make note of them. If they seem to be persistent, or getting worse, I proactively intercede. It's better to cut back mileage and get help sooner than to bully through something and have it develop into a much more difficult situation.
- Be flexible - time. Not just in your week and what mileage you run, or whether you run easy or hard, but also time of day. Some days you just need a bit more rest, so if you ran yesterday morning, maybe it's best to wait until this evening to run. Even that extra eight hours could make a difference.
- Be flexible - what you do. Unless you are someone who absolutely thrives on unwavering routine (I am not such a person), then you might need to be willing to mix things up a bit. I run roads, trails, hills, flat, with people, without, morning, afternoon, night, treadmill, track (inside and out), with TV on, without, short, long, tempo, interval....etc., etc. Without the ability to change it up a LOT, this would have died a quick death long ago.
- Give it time. If you are new to this, then give it time. For me, it took 17 days for my body to really just get used to the idea of daily runs. (I logged it.) The first week I think my legs were amused. The second week, they were mad. The third week, they got it. And, it's been fine ever since. Now, if my body's tired, it's because of the type of running I've done, or the mileage. Not because it's day 469.
- Ease in to your mileage. If you are running 25 miles a week over four days, then your first weeks of streak running probably should not jump to 40 miles a week because you're adding three days. Take the mileage you're at and divvy it up over seven days. Then, build from there.
- Be gentle with your loved ones. Just because you love running every day doesn't mean anyone else will. But, with a bit of finesse and education (after all, one mile is just 10-12 minutes - give or take depending on your speed), you'll get them on board. Or, at least figure out how to get the run in before they notice. As one friend said, you could be in the bathroom for 10 minutes and your family wouldn't even notice.
Seriously. If you are stressing about not fitting your run in each day, then why are you doing this? Running every day is meant to be joyful, not drudgery. Are there going to be days you really don't want to do it? Sure. Just like there are mornings when you're running around and chaos is erupting and you'd rather not take the time to brush your teeth. (Or is that just me?) A day or two of "meh" - or even longer - is fine, but if changing up your routine or cutting back on mileage doesn't help, then maybe you really don't want to be doing a streak. And. That. Is. Fine. It really doesn't matter. The bottom line is running - or any activity you spend a lot of time on - should be joyful. If it's not, then it's time to reassess.