I’m not a runner. In high school I transferred from regular gym class to the weights class for physical education because in the regular gym class they made us run 1.5 miles once a quarter. Then the weights teacher made us run a mile each week. It was like running karma.
That said, I run. I run because, if I can really get into a zone, it gives my head a break from everything else. I run because it helps to work off nervous energy. I run because it helps me maintain my weight. I run because it helps the flabbier parts of my body stay somewhat toned. And I run because I want to be a good example to my children when it comes to showing them how to live an active lifestyle.
Today when I run I often let my mind drift to old cheerleading routines from high school. Something about it feels very closed circle.
This past November I started a run streak, which is something I’ve done before, and I always end up enjoying. A run streak is essentially a bargain you make with yourself to run at least one mile every day for a set period of time.
A friend of mine had been doing this for more than 600 days. She was really my inspiration to do it again.
Many people go on run streaks from Thanksgiving to New Year’s to help them maintain their weight during the holidays. Each time I’ve done it that’s been my goal. However, I started in early November this time around with the goal of making it to Christmas.
I made it passed Christmas. In fact, when I reached 40 days I decided I would try to make it to 100 days. Then the flu smacked me down, ending my streak at just 44 days.
I was extremely disappointed, but I was also very ill. I ran a mile the first day I was sick, determined to power through. Though, if you’ve had the awful flu this season you know there was no way I would make it.
However, even when my journey on that streak ended, I had learned a lot.
What I Learned From A Run Streak
It’s not about how fast you go
A lot of people are obsessed with their running time. Honestly, it’s hard not to be. When I started my run streak mile time was around 10:45. I sort of felt like a wannabe runner at that point. Other people I knew, who I actually considered to be real runners, all had mile times under 10 minutes.
However, I learned that sometimes it’s not about how fast you go during a run streak. Sometimes it’s just about doing it. Doing it every day is a challenge but it starts to feel worth it. It might take two weeks to feel worth it but you get there.
Alternate run types for greater impact
In an ideal world, I like to alternate running longer one day with doing a shorter run the next day. For me a short run meant 1.25 miles and a long run meant anything over 2.25. I run on a treadmill in the basement so it helps that I have the ability to control speed with the push of a button versus trying to determine how fast I’m going outside.
On my short runs I would try to push it to go faster. On my long runs I would have to slow down to make them happen. The short runs would help to increase my pace while the long runs would help to increase my endurance. For me they were both equally important and both made me a better runner.
In fact, by the time the flu hit and ended my run streak, I had shaved about 30 seconds off my mile time to 10:15.
I’m not the best stretcher. I’m one of those people who like to just go. But, stretching will help to prevent injuries and it will help with sore muscles after your run. Additionally, using a muscle roller will help massage and lengthen/stretch those muscles.
Use braces or tape if you need to
When I started my run streak, I had braces on both knees. My right knee has been a problem since having my daughter and seems to act up every now and then. My left knee has torn cartilage in it thanks to a C-section, breastfeeding and needing to get up to put the baby back in his bed. (I know that doesn’t make sense. Just trust I hurt myself in the dumbest ways.)
I had been wearing both braces for almost a year before I started weaning off of them during the streak. And, when I say “weaning” I mean I totally forgot them and didn’t noticed until the treadmill had already started.
Before I used the braces though, I was running so poorly on my left knee that my leg was compensating by turning my lower leg out to compensate for the injury. You could actually see my foot turned out.
Some people will say that braces impact their stride. That’s totally true. They do. But wouldn’t you rather have it impact your stride and help to heal the injury and/or rebuild the muscles versus exasperating it?
Always convince yourself to do another 30 seconds or another minute
Running is a mind game for me. When I’m tired I tell myself it’s just one mile. It’s just 10ish minutes.
Once I reach the mile I always convince myself to do another minutes and I’ve constantly surprised myself at how that’s helped me continue to go further.
Sometimes, I just do that next minute. Sometimes, I convince myself to do yet another one. Sometimes I get caught up in it and do another five.
That mental game I play with myself has always helped me take my distance just a bit further. If you follow me on Instagram and watch my stories then you will notice that I almost never end at 10, 15, 20 or 30 minutes. I always end at 12, 23, 32 or 36 minutes. It’s because I mess with my mind.
Listen to your body
This is one tip I’m honestly still learning and trying to get better at during my current run streak. Some days, I feel like I can run forever (although those days I almost never have the time to do so), and other days I’m breathing hard after a few minutes.
During the first streak I worked on understanding those energy levels within me so I knew how to prepare mentally. This time around I’m still working to listen to my body and the speed it feels it can go on any given day.
Don’t forget water
If you’re running a lot hydrating properly will help you. I can always tell when I haven’t been drinking enough water versus the days when I have had 50 oz. or more of water.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends replenishing 150 percent of your sweat loss after a run and a study from the University of North Alabama presented at the American College of Sports Medicine’s annual meeting found that run times were reduce by 1 minute on a 10K run when hydrated this way.
Find a support group
This may sound odd but if you have a group of people who are on this journey together it will be much easier for you to stick with it. Similar to people who are in weight loss group, when you have people who push you to get off your bootie each day you’re more likely to stick with it.
Make the promise to yourself
It’s easy to give up at any point on a physical fitness journey. God knows there are days that I have wanted to. However, I’ve found that in those moments, I try to remember that I’ve made a promise to myself and a commitment to push myself to do something that not everyone will do. No, I’m not the fastest runner. No, I don’t normally run more than 3 miles per run. But for me that doesn’t matter. For me, what matters is the promise I made to me to try to achieve something for myself. I’m not doing this to impress other people with my skills. I’m doing it for my own health – physical and mental. At the end of the mile, that’s what’s most important anyways.
Remember that you’re only human
You need to do what is healthy for you. When I tried to run with the flu, that was not healthy for me nor would it be for anyone. If you get injured, if you get really sick give yourself permission to let go. I was really upset when I had to stop my first streak because I was sick. However, it was best for my body and overall health. Trying to run the first day, even though I just did a mile, was too much for me. As long as you’re healthy, be superwoman. If your health takes a dive, don’t strap on the shoes until you’re better.
With those learning under my (flip)belt, I have set off and running on a new streak. Today is Day 12 and I’m hoping to go until at least day 50. Fingers crossed I don’t get the flu again. Toes crossed that good running karma sticks with me. Either way, my high school weights teacher would be impressed.