I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship. — Louisa May Alcott
I’ve been running every day for a year.
More than a year — I started at the end of last October. I don’t remember why I started. It seems like it was a strange decision for me to have made, since I wasn’t a runner and didn’t particularly like running. I just remember thinking, “I’ll run every day, first thing in the morning, no matter how short the run is.”
I’m so glad I did.
It wasn’t until a couple of months ago that I found out that running every day is in vogue. It’s called a “run streak” and for example, it was reported on in March of this by Runner’s World.
What I’m doing is different than the run streak in several important ways.
First, I’m not trying to improve my running. When I started, I hadn’t run outside in many years. Now and then I’d warm up on a treadmill before working out at the gym. I wasn’t looking to improve my time, run a race, or do anything else competitive.
Second, I run every day first thing in the morning. That means when I wake up, before I eat breakfast or shower or do anything else, I put on my running gear.
Third, I run an incredibly small amount each day. My guiding constraint was that I should not feel tired, sore, or in any way have a bad time while running. For me that meant I ran about five to eight minutes at first. Now, over a year later, I feel great if I run for about fifteen minutes most days. I can carry on a conversation while running, unless I’m going up hill.
I think these points are critical ones for anyone who is interested in trying this:
- You don’t need to be a runner and it doesn’t matter how good you are
- Run first each day before you have time to think of a reason why not
- Run the smallest amount needed so that it is fun and easy
Starting with the third point: no human will continue to do something they don’t enjoy. This is a daily meditative activity, not a streak. It’s not goal driven, as in “how many days can I do this?” It’s being-in-the-moment-driven, as in “my legs feel so great, the air is fresh, I love being outside, I feel good all over.” This third point is the major one that keeps me running every day — I know it won’t be hard. In fact, I love it and look forward to it. I don’t think that would be the case if I were pushing myself harder.
Better to run a little bit every day forever, than to run hard for a few days, weeks, or months and then quit.
If it’s so enjoyable, why do I need to run first each day? Like everyone else, I have work, and family commitments, commitments to friends, pets, and hobbies. All of these things will keep me from running until it’s time to go to bed. If you want to do this every day, do it first. It’s such a small amount of time that you can do it even if you are running late. No one will notice five, ten, or even fifteen minutes. Five, ten, or fifteen minutes more sleep isn’t too helpful either. And it’s more convenient — if you do it first, then you can put on your running gear immediately after getting out of bed, without thinking about it. You don’t have to carry a gym bag, or think about how to change clothes later.
Why doesn’t this make me a runner? This habit is too small and not at all goal driven. I don’t care about how fast or far I run. I don’t care how many days in a row I’ve run. I’m not looking to compete with anyone, not even with myself. This is about feeling good. I do still need to work out and go to the gym and yoga. I do those too. I don’t need to worry about scheduling a gym visit or a yoga class on a day I’m not running, because I run every day.
A few last points in case you are thinking of trying this: I don’t run if I’m sick or injured. And if there is no safe place to run outside, for example when I’m traveling, I find a treadmill. Please use good judgement about your own situation.
Run every day!