Here are 10 lessons I learned from doing a run every day challenge during lockdown. This improved my speed and lowered my times whilst remaining injury-free. But more importantly, in a year where training facilities were not accessible, running outdoors has kept me positive and strong.
Running every day challenge during locakdown? Why?
Questions like ‘Should I run every day?’, ‘Should I be running every other day?’, and perhaps ‘What if I run every day for a month?’ often spring to mind. Some of us set personal challenges or goals, such as running 5K every other day or running three miles a day. And all of these are possible, providing you are sensible and listen to your body. The key thing is to listen to your body. It is the best indicator of health.
What is a running streak?
A streak is when a person runs every day for a certain distance. The most famous running streak is the legendary runner, Ron Hill, who ran daily for 52 years and 39 years, equating to 19,032 days. Logging the streak is possible by registering with the United States Running Streak Association. The entry criterion is the streak must be a minimum of a year.
Currently, I am 1 year and 10 days, which equates to 375 days. But, I never intended to run for a year. As the days progressed, I felt better, and it just happened.
March 2020 – March 2021 – UK lockdown
My 5K run time in March 2020 at the start of the UK lockdown was 19 minutes and 30 seconds, with a VO2 max of 51, which is average for a male runner but nothing spectacular. Running anywhere close to this pace, 6 minutes 17 secs per mile, proved extremely difficult to sustain for more than 5K.
However, at the end of 2020, after nearly nine months of running daily, I lowered my predicted race time to 14 minutes and 33 seconds with a VO2 max of 72 for 5K. This equates to 4 minutes 41 seconds per mile pace, or 2 minutes 55 seconds per kilometre, close to the world record pace for my age group. The times were logical because running at 6 minutes per mile felt comfortable, even on an incline. During the latter months, running fast felt effortless.
How was this possible with no coaching, no training facilities and running solo for an entire year? Well, follow my 10 lessons to help improve your running, health and general wellbeing.
10 lessons learned from the run every day challenge
- Run consistently
- Stay patient
- Believe in yourself
- Mix it up
- Listen to your body
- Sleep well
- Eat well
- Think positively
- Follow your plan
- Enjoy it
1. Run consistently
So the first question is ‘How do you start running every day?’. The answer is quite simply to run consistently. You have to do something regularly to progress. Running once a week will not bring the same fitness benefit as running daily. And the most consistent you are, the easier the running becomes. In the first month, my legs felt heavy, and admittedly, I did struggle. But after about 6sixweeks, things become easier. The chart above shows a significant improvement in my VO2 max from weeks 16 to 20, after 115 days of running every day. Things started to feel good at this point.
2. Stay patient
Patience is key, especially with longer distances. There is a temptation with any running schedule to force the pace, leading to injury, frustration, and eventually boredom. Runners complain of staleness, lethargy and fatigue. An intense running schedule is like altitude acclimatisation – little and often is the rule.
As one of my former training partners used to tell me, ‘Don’t force it, let the pace come to you’. When we ran 400-metre track repetitions at full speed, 16 times with just 60 seconds for recovery, this is easier said than done.
Don’t force it, let the pace come to you.
3. Believe in yourself
You have to believe that you have the confidence to go out and do it. Regardless of whether it is a marathon or a 100 metres sprint, the same principle applies. And confidence breeds confidence. As I got fitter and faster, my confidence improved, encouraging me to train harder and smarter.
4. Mix it up
Running the same route or session becomes tiresome very quickly. Vary your running routes and terrain, such as uphill, downhill or flat, because they work the different muscle groups for maximum benefit. As you strengthen, throw in a fartlek session, running faster on the inclines and recovering on the declines.
5. Listen to your body
The best way to tell you if anything is wrong is by listening to your body. It is the most effective tool that you have. There is a difference between tenderness and pain. If you experience pain, then you should stop and seek proper advice. If you have acute pain, then stop immediately. There is a tendency for more experienced runners to run through pain. This is not advisable. Always rest and fully recover.
6. Sleep well
Perhaps one of the most important things you can do is sleep well. Many people have difficulty sleeping for one reason or another. But maximise your chances of a good night’s sleep by going to bed at a reasonable time and investing in a good mattress. Also, avoid technology in the hour before sleeping. When you are running every day, recovery is more important than training.
7. Eat well
It is not surprising that eating healthily is a must. A treat is acceptable but avoid fast food. At the other end of the spectrum, weighing every gram of food is excessive. Everything should be in moderation. I eat a balanced diet covering all food groups but less red meat. The same applies to alcohol. Doing a long run on a wintery Sunday morning with sub-zero temperatures is not fun with a hangover.
8. Think positively
Running is a great way to clear your mind. When training intensifies, free the mind of negativity or distractions, apart from the task at hand. This explains why top-class athletes focus so much on the mental side of things. Think positively and reinforce those thoughts regularly.
9. Follow your plan
It is easy to get carried away when your running improves. A lot of people spend time comparing themselves to others. This can have a negative effect, both on your state of mind and performance. The most important thing with running is to follow your plan and not somebody else’s. If you stick to your schedule, you are a winner on your plan and terms.
The most important thing with running is to follow your plan, and not somebody else’s.
10. Enjoy it
Enjoy the running. If a session does not go well, still take the positives. With improvements, there is a tendency to enjoy things more. Even training on those cold and dark winter nights, I knew I was getting into decent shape and conditioned, which spurred me to continue training.
My key sessions from the run every day challenge
These sessions helped me get a lot quicker. They are the same as when I was at my peak, but now the intensity is less.
- 6 miles easy with 10 bursts of 20 seconds at 4.35 per mile pace.
- 8 x 300 metres hill sprints 60 seconds recovery.
- 8 miles getting progressively quicker to build strength endurance.
- 3 miles steady and 8 x 30 secs on grass at 4.15 per mile pace.
- 5 miles fast with the last half a mile in 2 minutes 15 seconds at 4.30 per mile pace.
- 1-hour slow run.
These 20-second bursts at sub 5 minute per mile pace will ensure you cover a lot of ground. In other words, you should feel fresh after any of the sessions. If you feel exhausted, the session is too intense.
Statistics from the run every day challenge
Period of consecutive days running: 365 (18/03/2021 – 17/03/2020)
Highest VO2 max recorded: 72
Minimum distance per run: 5km (3.1 mile)
Number of injuries: 0
Number of dog bites: 0 (on average I am bitten about twice a year)
Number of sports massages: 0
Pair of trainers used: Five – including the current pair.
Equipment for the run every day challenge
In terms of running gear, I keep it simple.
Watch and heart rate monitor: Garmin Forerunner 735XT. Lightweight with a ton of features. My display settings are timer, distance, pace and average pace. I do not use the other features.
Trainers: Adizero Boston Series. A great, lightweight, neutral shoe somewhere between a racer and a full training shoe. As my gait is neutral, I do not require custom orthotics, so I can run with these shoes straight out of the box. In light of this, I would recommend undergoing a professional gait analysis.
Running top, shorts, socks, and wristband are all Adidas. In the cooler months, I run in a Gore cycling gilet which is lightweight, breathable and durable. I have been using this gilet for many years.
Outwear for use in colder months consists of a beanie hat, gloves and Paclite jacket and all from Gore. Even in sub-zero temperatures, I wear shorts for running, as I find running tights and tracksters too warm.
Again it is personal preference, but I choose not to run with a mobile phone, listen to music, carry water or use gels.
The verdict from the run every day challenge
How did I feel? How did I cope? Honestly, it felt amazing. Would I do it all again? Yes, without any hesitation or reservation. I can count on one hand the number of days in the year where I had to force myself out of the door to go running.
Running and indeed any exercise should never become a chore. Above all, think of it as a privilege. I learned a lot about myself over the year. Whether you run every, every other day, or every few days, always remember running is for everyone. Enjoy the experience, run clean, and take up a run every day challenge.
Disclaimer: Cabin Bags Only takes no responsibility for any training on this page. If you feel any pain or discomfort at any point, then stop immediately and seek professional or medical advice.