What qualifies as a running streak, you ask? Running as little as a mile or more in a string of endless days. Some runners complete a streak for the challenge; some because it’s a disciplined habit; and some do it because they simply love running—every day.
Over the last month, I fell into all three of these categories. My longest running streak was for a duration of 33 consecutive days. I started innocently enough, not intending to “streak,” and then before I knew it, it was day 12. I decided to make it official and, upping the challenge, I signed up for a 21-day running challenge sponsored by the Hartford Marathon Foundation (HMF). Hence reaching my 33-day running streak.
Some questions you might be asking: Is a running streak healthy? Could it increase your risk of injury? Does it improve your running and motivation and enhance your training? Or does it trap you into running “out of obligation”? Here are some answers to consider.
Before I committed to a running streak, my normal schedule consisted of running an average of 4 – 5 days (out of 7), with at least 1 day for recovery and 1 day for strength/cross-training. Though I didn’t stick to a set amount of miles per day, I did have a set minimum of 3.1 miles to satisfy the HMF challenge. But there were plenty of days I did more miles—a lot more (229 miles total)!
From days 1 – 6, it was all-systems-go as I found a rhythm. Days 6 –12, my body began to feel slightly challenged, and my energy levels were crashing. By day 14, I faced a new kind of challenge, as a pang of obligation set in to get the miles done rather than for the joy of it. Thankfully, it didn’t last, and within a couple of days, I was pushing myself even harder than before, the challenge of it bringing on a new satisfaction.
At the end of my 33-day streak, I’d achieved something I hadn’t accomplished ever before and was excited. It had been a motivational factor and something I looked forward to, especially when I mixed up my daily runs in the early mornings on the treadmill, on evening runs under the moonlight with my headlamp and reflective gear, or on weekend long runs out in the sun, rain, or even the snow!
The more I ran, the more invincible I felt, as if nothing could stop me.
So, what about those injuries you hear about after running too hard or long? In the past, while training for the marathon, I have experienced Achilles tendonitis, calf cramping, minor knee pain, hamstring strain, and minor back issues. During my streak, nothing became an issue for concern except for my back. While my back never bothered me while I was running, at night, when I was attempting to sleep, I experienced hip pain that also referred down my leg. That’s when I knew it was time to do some damage control.
For a running streak to be successful, some key steps need to be taken:
- Stretching and foam rolling must be a high priority, at least 3 – 4 times a week. Stretching, foam rolling, and spine-specific stabilization exercises should be completed.
- Slow your pace. I had to adjust and vary my runs to include slow, steady paces. Make sure to include paces where you feel comfortable running so that you could hold a conversation; your heart rate should fall into zone 2 or 3.
- Run on a flat surface and leave the hills for another day—or at least not every day. Aim for different surfaces (e.g., soft dirt trails, roads, tracks, treadmills).
- Get plenty of sleep. Restful sleep allows the muscles to repair; so aim for 7 – 9 hours. It will also increase your energy levels when you do run the next day.
- (My secret weapon) Take supplements that support running. After consulting your doctor, try a combination of the following during your streak: magnesium supplement (for reducing muscle cramping); turmeric (a natural anti-inflammatory); and a runner’s formulated joint support. All three may help to reduce the risk of injury.
So why did my streak end after day 33 when I could have easily kept it going?
The simple fact is that when I have just one day off from running, I actually miss it. Absence truly does make the heart grow fonder. I wanted to miss running again, even for just a day. This way I could look forward to lacing up and heading out with a renewed bounce in my step.
I hope this inspires a running streak of your own.