Wednesday, 28 August 2013

The habit and benefits of running everyday

Just as we runners should have periods of rest, I believe getting into the habit of daily running can have some real benefits.  Here's a few thoughts:

Relevant for new and established runners alike 
If you're a new runner take care not to over-do-it and have some very short runs or power walks mixed in.  For those who are well established and seasoned runners, this can be an opportunity for some serious training.

Sense of achievement, no matter what
If you set yourself a target of running everyday for, say, two weeks, you can achieve that.  It is do-able.  Reminds me of those corporate-speak SMART objectives (specific, time limited, achievable and so on).  Once you have made your target there is a real sense of achievement: "I did this, even thought it was....." and you will have that memory to look back on.

Everyone can find time
Not having the time is an easy excuse to make and I sometimes do this myself.  But just stop and think, how long does it actually take?  In a week there are 7 days made up of 168 hours: surely you can find 15 minutes each day somehow?  If you are determined enough, you will.  Again this is where getting into the habit is useful, it becomes a part of your daily routine and you will miss it if you skip a day in an unplanned way.

Mix it up
This is important, really important.  Don't run exactly the same route, for the same length of time, at the same pace each day.  While that probably won't do you much harm if it is a modest distance, you can really benefit from mixing it up.  Having shorter, more intense runs will help your cardiovascular system while longer slow runs will help you build up endurance.

As an example, this is what I might typically do for a period of two weeks before easing back to just a couple of runs each week:
  • Monday - 2 miles, easy pace
  • Tuesday - 6 miles, hilly run
  • Wednesday - 3 miles, easy pace
  • Thursday - 7 miles, hilly run with some fast bursts
  • Friday - 3 miles, moderate pace
  • Saturday - 10 miles, hilly run, easy pace
  • Sunday - 1 mile, easy pace

Having a schedule like this will also give your body a chance to recover after the longer or more demanding runs.  Please remember, this is just an example (of what I am going) but some will need to be considering much shorter distances and, likewise, some runners will be doubling those distances.

You will really strengthen your body
During this two week cycle, you will feel your legs ache a little from time to time.  Take care not to push yourself too hard or too far - if you do, you risk picking up an injury.  So listen to your body: pushing yourself a little makes your body stronger.  Each time you run and push yourself, you will put strain on your joints, muscles and tendons.  As the body repairs itself, these will become stronger.  Remember that if you push yourself too hard, 24 hours between runs won't be enough for those repairs to take place, so do bear this in mind - this is important.

The accumulative effect, however, of pushing yourself a little bit every day will be significant once the two weeks are completed.

You will sleep well
Well, this is a personal thing and based on my experience but I guess you might identify with it.  There is something special about being tired from having had a good run and just sliding into bed and dropping off to sleep instantly.  Also sometimes it's as if I know I'm sleeping well and finding it a true blessing.

Remember (and I know this is stating the obvious) to ensure you get adequate sleep.  You might need to have a little more sleep than normal, so please allow for this.

It can become addictive
You can take this either as an encouragement, or perhaps a warning.  I do believe running can be addictive and I have experienced some episodes like that, especially if I am prevented from having a run for some reason and then I really do miss it.  Maybe it's to do with the Runner's High which I love so much?

It can be nice to do for a specific reason
You might want to have a go at running everyday for two weeks for a variety of reasons, which could include:
  • dealing with a stressful situation
  • being on holiday and having new surroundings to enjoy
  • weight loss goal
  • coping through a difficult time
  • simply because it's a good thing to do
  • meeting the need to be outside

On that last point, I do value being able to run outside in the middle of the winter in a period of short daylight.  Last Christmas, for example, I ran everyday - click here for a day-by-day account of running for 12 days over the last Christmas holiday.

And afterwards
Give your body a chance to recover and rejuvenate.  Running for two weeks is brilliant and so too is having a rest afterwards.  You won't go losing that new level of fitness by missing a few runs - give your body an opportunity to consolidate and thoroughly heal itself.

Also, you can then reflect back on all those runs, reflect on the miles you have clocked up and revel in the progress and benefits you have gained.

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