At the beginning of lockdown I really wanted to get back into running as I haven’t been active for years. I hoped that it would help me to start the day on a positive note and burn some calories too.
Full of optimism, I set out on a test 5k run which is a distance that I used to do quite regularly. It was horrendous! I was so disheartened that I couldn’t face doing it again.
Then I had an idea for a challenge that I thought might help me build up my stamina:
My idea was: Why not cut the distance that I ran to just 1 mile per day, but set a challenge to do it every single day for a whole month?
My reasoning was that the total distance run would average out to about the same as doing a 5k a couple of times a week, but running a shorter distance felt much more achievable.
To begin with I was full of aches and pains, my lungs wanted to explode and my legs felt like heavy weights. A mile seemed a very long distance. However on the plus side it only took about 12 minutes (not including showering afterwards). Then I was back home and could forget about it for the rest of the day.
I learned that no matter what the weather was like and however my body felt, I could endure it for those 12 minutes!
Gradually my stamina increased. The aches and pains wore off and I started to look forward to my daily run. Once I was comfortable with 1 mile I began to increase the distance little by little.
I now run 4 miles almost every single day. I don’t run because I feel like I have to anymore, I run because I want to and it makes me feel good.
Here are the things I’ve learned about running over the past six months:
There have been many times that I’ve hated my daily run. Usually it happens when it’s really windy and I have to battle the elements. At the time I do wonder why I put myself through it. However it’s also on these days that I feel the biggest sense of achievement when I finish. That feeling is addictive!
It’s easy to justify eating more by the logic that you’re burning calories during your run and so need the extra energy. If you’re running endurance distances then this is justified. However if you’re only running for 30 minutes a day then what you’re already eating is most probably still sufficient for your body’s needs.
If your goal is to lose a bit of weight and tone up, don’t cancel out all your hard work!
In the past six months through a combination of healthy eating and running I’ve lost about a stone and a half. However the first few months were frustrating.
My body burned fat from the easiest places that it could to begin with, namely my arms and boobs. This made my pear shape more pronounced if anything which I hadn’t counted on. Even though I knew I was making good progress it didn’t feel like it when I looked in the mirror.
It was only once my body had exhausted those reserves that my legs, bottom and stomach started to noticeably change.
This taught me that you have to trust the process and be consistent for a long time in order to achieve the results you want.
When I started running I was so focused on keeping my breathing at a normal rate that I always ended up feeling like I was hyperventilating.
After a while I’ve learned that allowing myself to take shorter breaths when my body wants to and leaving my mouth relaxed and slightly open is what works for me.
I listen to podcasts or audiobooks and try to focus on the story so that I forget about my breathing altogether. This really has helped me to get it under control.
Drivers that don’t allow you to cross at junctions always feel like a personal affront! There are also the drivers that slow down but don’t give you any indication that they’re doing it for you.
In either scenario you end up jogging on the spot feeling like an idiot and lamenting the extra seconds it will add to your lap time.
I once got halfway through a run, veered off the tarmac path onto grass to maintain social distancing and trod straight in dog poo. It’s by far the worst thing that’s happened to me out running – the shame!
Remember to look down as well as ahead!
I’ll be writing a separate post on my essential Winter running gear. For the meantime I’d say that it doesn’t have to be expensive as long as it functions well. I’d recommend a snug fitting belt to hold your essentials, a pair of bluetooth headphones, sweat wicking materials and cushioned running socks.
If you have to choose one thing to spend a bit more money on, make it your running shoes.
I had my gait analysis measured and was matched to trainers that provided the right level of support for how my feet land. This will help me to minimise the risk of injury occurring due to my over pronation.
I have the Garmin Forerunner 235. The first thing I do after every run is sync my watch to my phone and view those sweet stats. I can see how much distance I’ve covered in a set time, measure my progress and record personal bests.
When the Garmin app was brought down a few months back it trended for days. It’s good to know I’m not alone in my need to see all my runs on record!
Giving myself the challenge of running every day come rain or shine has been a game changer. Some of my favourite runs have been on days where it looked dreadful outside and I didn’t want to go.
I’m not saying that my preferred weather conditions are wet or windy, but it’s actually often on bad weather days that I’ve had my most notable achievements both mentally and physically.
There’s something incredibly silly and freeing about running in the rain and slowly getting absolutely drenched!
Now I don’t even both to check the weather before I leave the house. I just dress for the season and face whatever is there when I open the front door.
Running every day in that first month presented me with all sorts of weather conditions. Going against a headwind is a whole body workout as well as an exercise in mental endurance. The resistance can help to build muscle and your resilience, but at the same time there’s a greater risk that you might strain yourself.
I once ran at speed in gale force winds because I was so determined to keep to my normal routine. I had to take two days off afterwards to recover. My ankle felt strained and it wasn’t a ‘normal’ running pain.
I now do a more sedate and sometimes also a shorter run on very gusty days.
Rest days are designed to give the bits of your body that you’ve been working on time to repair. That doesn’t mean that you have to stop moving completely. Often you just need to switch things up.
I learned from running everyday that every so often it’s good to have a run at a different pace and distance. I’ll sometimes do a really light run where I don’t worry about the time or the distance. I feel better to have still moved my body but I do believe it has reduced the risk of any long term injuries occurring.
If I actually liked swimming or cycling or felt confident enough doing yoga without a guide I’d probably do one of those every so often. Running every day works for me but for some, variety might help keep things interesting.
This is especially true when you first start running. After your initial session your legs will feel like they’re made of marble and you’ll probably have muscle aches in your neck, shoulders, back and stomach. It might be tempting to rest until this fully subsides but this could take up to 4 days.
I found that continuing to move (for me, that was running every day) actually helped me through those aches. It loosened my muscles and my body learned how to adapt and get stronger.
Running every day can be very fulfilling. However you do have to know when to stop too.
As I said above, if you have normal aches and pains from exercise then I find it best to keep active in some way. However if it feels anything more serious than this you don’t want to risk causing yourself further injury. Rest up and if you need to, seek professional advice.
I used to jokingly say that I run so that I can eat cake. I’ve realised that is an unhealthy way to look at it.
I don’t run because I will burn ‘x’ amount of calories. I run because of how good it makes me feel.
Running every day isn’t for everyone. But even if it doesn’t float your boat, keep trying out different forms of exercise. If they seem daunting, start small. Build up. There will be one that ‘clicks’ and makes you want to keep coming back for more, whatever the weather!