More than 200 days ago, on 1st September 2014, I began a journey into the mystery world of run streaking, setting a goal of running at least 1 mile every day for an entire year, regardless of weather, work, injuries or holidays. In fact, not realising quite how challenging this would be on its own, I set myself the further challenges of covering 1500 miles in the year (at an average of over 4 miles per day) and completing an organised race every month, gradually increasing race distance from 5k to an ultra-marathon!
Many people told me I was crazy, or even that it was impossible. I must admit to having doubts about it myself! I’ve always kept myself in reasonable shape, mainly through playing sport and hitting the gym, but as a 36 year old father of two and full time teacher, I’ve not been spending as much time as I used to in the gym and had not really done much running before other than that required when playing football or cricket!
It has certainly been an enlightening experience so far, and I’m sure there are many more lessons to learn as my mileage increases and I venture into marathon and, finally, ultra-marathon territory. However, there are three important lessons I’ve learnt so far, lessons that can be applied to your own training regardless of your goal:
- You can train every day but you must vary your intensity and activities. Allowing time for your body to recover from training is important, but recovery doesn’t necessarily mean inactivity. I alternate between high intensity interval runs and moderate intensity endurance runs during the week, with longer but less intense runs at the weekend and at least two ‘rest’ days per week consisting of lots of foam rolling, stretching, bodyweight exercises for my core & upper body and a low intensity run at around 60% max heart rate.
- Without quality nutrition you will fail. For me, the most important aspect of training is nutrition. Running every day increases my daily calorie requirements to adequately fuel my running and recovery and allow me to continue my run streak injury free. I try to eat a balanced diet of fresh meat, nuts/seeds, fruits and vegetables supplemented with protein shakes, BCAA’s, greens and Ultiman. This provides all the nutrients required to rebuild, repair and recover between runs and minimise any soreness that could, over time, result in overuse tears or strains. Whilst I am certainly not strict with my diet, if I do stray too far from this routine with junk food and take-aways, the lethargy and lengthened post-run recovery I experience are noticeable reminders to eat clean and sensibly!
- Plan ahead but be prepared to change. Knowing I need to run every day, and eat appropriately to fuel and recover, means that I need to carefully plan how, when and where I’m going to run and what, where and when I’m going to eat. This might mean getting up early to run before work and preparing a number of meals at weekends ready for the week ahead. Unfortunately, however well planned I am, the demands of work & family can sometimes mean plans need to change so it is important to have strategies in-place to deal with the unexpected rather than getting frustrated and losing focus. I always have a bag packed in the car with all my running gear and emergency food supplies e.g. protein shakes, flapjacks and water bottles. My drawers at work are always stocked full of healthy snacks to grab as and when necessary and if pushed for time I’ll fit my run in around other commitments e.g. run to pick children up from school or do my core work in the kitchen whilst cooking!