I’m halfway through my 30 day running challenge and wanted to reflect on what this experience has brought to me, so far.
I’ll be honest that I was hesitant to start what is often called a running streak: consecutive days of running without rest. I had mixed opinions. I wasn't sure it would be the best option for my training (I’m currently training for my first marathon at the beginning of November). But also, I wasn’t sure how healthy it was to do something every single day. I’m a huge proponent of balance and moderation in almost all areas of life and really value rest and recovery. But, 30 days is not a lifetime and I'm always up for a challenge and something to push me outside of my comfort zone. Plus, how can you know if something is good if you’ve never tried it?
I decided that if I was going to sign myself up for this, I had to be really clear on my reasons for embarking on this challenge and what I was hoping to get out of it.
Motivation. Oh my dear friend motivation, how fickle you can be. There are two different types of motivation, intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic is the kind of motivation that comes from within. You do something because it genuinely makes you feel good, or you enjoy the process. Extrinsic motivation is the type that comes from outside you. You are motivated because of money or social status. Both types of motivation have their place but it’s well established that intrinsic motivation will lead to more long term engagement and is more closely correlated with signs of increased psychological wellbeing. I tend to rely mostly on intrinsic motivation with my running. I’m not a professional athlete, I’m not sponsored and don’t make a cent off my running, I do it purely because it brings me joy. I wanted to create a 'reward' for myself that would still be primarily intrinsic as there is evidence to suggest that adding in external rewards can undermine intrinsic motivation (hotly debated topic!). So, I used this challenge as a way to motivate myself to lace up and run everyday and then be able to feel that accomplishment of successfully completing 30 days of running! And maybe be able to brag a little bit about it as well. I was also hoping to use the community of #RUN30 challengers to help motivate me to make running a daily habit. This leads into the second reason…
Feeling accountable. I very purposefully made my 30 day running challenge a public challenge, posting either a photo or a video of my runs daily. This wasn’t because I was aiming to build a 50k follower empire on my little instagram account which, let’s be honest, is usually just adorable pictures of my niece. No, it was because I wanted to be accountable to actually go out each day, lace up my shoes and move. One day I forgot to post a photo on my story and I actually got a message from a friend asking if I had quit! Talk about being accountable! My STRAVA account starts each run with the day of the challenge, and I hash-tagged the shit outta each post. I’m still not really sure what hash-tagging does, but it's been fun. And it worked. There were definitely days when I’d left my run until the afternoon and got tired, or it was pouring rain outside, or quite simply I was just lazy but I felt a commitment to … the world, to get out there and run, and finish what I started.
Moving through fatigue - As I move into longer distance races and become curious as to how far I can push my body, one of the key elements of this type of training is learning how to move through fatigue. If you’re running a marathon or ultra, at some point in the race you’re going to become tired… that’s kind of the point of the race. It’s important to practice running in a state of fatigue and realizing you can push through more than you think. Taking a minute to acknowledge the fatigue, adjust your pace and effort accordingly, and working with it rather than against it. In a way, it’s still recovery, just through motion. #recoverythroughmotion. This idea first came to me while Luke and I were hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc (which you can read all about here). Day 1 was a long and exhausting day where we pushed our bodies to climb over 1400m of elevation and descend almost as much. When we woke up the next morning my legs were as sore as if I had run a race the day before, but we had another full day of walking to do so without much thought laced up our shoes and started again. Day 3 started similarly, hobbling to the washroom upon waking and feeling the muscles in my legs and feet each step for the first few km’s of the day. Everyday for the first week I woke up and my body was sore, but we still had a full day of mountain trekking. However eventually, my body started to adapt. I woke up less sore, my body could handle longer stretches of hiking, faster climbs and all this was without complete rest. We had some easier days, and we were very good about stretching and recovery tools but my body learned how to recover WHILE in motion. I loved that, and that is what I was hoping to get out of this streak.
Making sure my easy days are EASY - Oh yes. Probably the most important of all reasons. I hate easy runs. I know that for marathon + training, zone 2 runs are important if not essential to the training process. I’m a classic case of running my easy runs too fast, and my hard runs too easy. Basically what every coach warns against. I wanted to get out of this habit and I knew if I was going to be running for 30 days straight, I couldn’t fuck around with my recovery runs. If I was going to be running through recovery, I had to make damn sure I was doing a recovery pace run. Some of my runs have been the slowest runs I have ever done and that’s ok! in fact, it’s awesome!
Adding in mileage - The last reason was really quite simple, it was a way to add some miles to my feet in the build up to my first marathon. I decided to do this marathon upon coming back from our trip, less than 12 weeks from the marathon date. 12 weeks is not an ideal build for a marathon. 16-20 weeks is better, especially for a first marathon, so I had to make sure I was adequately building up my weekly km’s. Because this is my first marathon, and I haven’t really given myself the proper training block I’m going in with the intension of completing 42km’s not crushing the marathon. The most important part is therefore building up to that 42km distance. Time on feet is essential and thus a 30 day running challenge would give me the opportunity to do just that.
I chose to do the challenge slightly differently, instead of picking a distance to do each day, I chose a time. I committed to running 30 minutes (or more) for 30 days. #30for30. I just made that up. The reason for this was I wanted to practice running by feel, something I’ve become a huge fan of, especially after reading Matt Fitzgerald’s book RUN: The Mindbody method of running by feel. 30 minutes of easy running is very different than 30 minutes of tempo running and I knew if I just put a time goal for my run, rather than a distance, I would feel less pressure to run it at a certain pace.
And so how has the first half gone?
Well, for one I love it. I love it so much, I am almost considering keeping going after the 30 days are over (please don’t quote me on saying this!). I thought I would be pushing through much more fatigue and soreness but in reality I’ve found the opposite. By ensuring my body moves for 30 minutes every day I’ve actually reduced my fatigue and soreness and feel much more recovered, and much faster than I ever have before. I have found my days are much more structured and productive as I know I have to get my run in at some point. Even super busy packed days somehow feel less rushed because I’ve planned my runs around everything else.
So far, I’m a fan.
I’m interested to see what the next two weeks bring, as my marathon training continues and my mileage continues to increase.
I know that different strategies work for different people, but if you are feeling like you want a little motivation and inspiration to develop a new habit, I really encourage you to try a 30 day challenge. It may be hard at first (it probably WILL be hard at first) but this is the way to build a habit. Maybe it’s 30 days of walking, or 30 days of writing, or reading before bed, but try it out. And then when you succeed (because you will succeed, it’s all in the mind) you will feel amazing. It will bring a confidence to you that you can truly accomplish everything.
At least that’s what I’ve found.