What I Learned from a Run Streak Challenge

The title of this post reminds me of the first day of school, when English teachers made you write about what you did over the summer. I’m sure this is an assignment to evaluate where the students are in terms of writing, but as an only child who spent the summer watching The Price is Right with my grandma, I always had writer’s block.

Writer’s block be gone! Today, I’m writing about run streaks, as I completed one earlier this month.

I’m also aware that the Runner’s World Memorial Day to Independence Day streak challenge is going on right now. Spoiler: I’m not participating.

About the Challenge

My run streak challenge was hosted by my Florence-area run club, Fitness World Run Club. I moved away from Florence four years ago but still participate in the FWRC Facebook group and occasionally run races there since my family lives there.

For the sake of the challenge, the streak began on May 5 and ended on June 4. Of course, some people are ongoing run streakers and their streaks started before this and didn’t end on this day. The challenge entailed running or walking at least one mile per day and posting it online, and those who completed the challenge earned a t-shirt and bragging rights.

IMG_20160608_163045_thumb.jpg

The Good

Running or walking a mile a day for 30 days is a challenge most people can do, even beginners and non-runners. Some of our challenge participants walked more miles than they ran. The streak challenge got people walking on their lunch breaks at work and getting their kids out for runs in the evening as a family. Being active is a good thing.

The streak also helped people run consistently. I credit my own running improvements to consistently training for years. It’s difficult to improve as a runner if you randomly take entire weeks off, or you run 30 miles one week followed by 8 miles the next week. During the challenge, no one had long periods of inactivity that would cause someone to lose fitness.

In my opinion, the best part of the streak challenge was the motivation from the group. Everyone knew that 100 or so other runners were out there logging miles each day for the challenge. People need motivation and encouragement with their goals.

Also, I’m not a high mileage runner. My highest weekly mileage during the streak was 50 miles, so I wasn’t treading into new territory with training volume. But in Charleston, 50 miles in May is a lot tougher than 50 miles in November.

13177323_852729566783_4997255579444341497_n_thumb.jpg

The Bad

I started the challenge optimistically. An easy 20 minutes on what was normally my rest day wouldn’t be too bad, as I always already training 6 days a week.

However, I was already training 6 days a week when the challenge started- and had been for awhile. With my training schedule, my streak started 5 days before everyone else’s. I had no chance for extra rest to prepare for the rigor of running every day for 30 days- and it was rigorous.

The first two weeks of the challenge weren’t bad. Weather wise, May was a very mild month in South Carolina. I ran my easy 20ish minute days very easy, running about 30 seconds per mile slower than my regular easy pace. Soon, the heat kicked up. My normal 5-7 mile easy runs were feeling harder and slower. I thought it was the heat, but looking back, my body did not adequately recover between runs.

13164278_10209495280207978_3455557544330217699_n_thumb.jpg

When you’re poorly recovered, one of the hardest things to do is to run workouts or race. May is one of the biggest racing months in Charleston, and I was signed up for a 5K series before the challenge was announced. I also run a track workout every Wednesday night in Summerville. Not only do I physically “run” the workout, but I also set the event up, so I need to be there.

With Race the Landing 5Ks on Thursday nights, I did easy runs on Wednesday and squeezed in interval workouts on Monday or Tuesday, trying to alternate hard and easy days. My “hard” days weren’t as hard as they were before the challenge- because I had to save enough energy to run the next day, even if it was an easy 20 minutes. For the duration of the challenge, I never could figure out the balance.

I know I could’ve taken a rest day at any time, but I wanted to give the streak a chance, unless I got sick or injured, of course.

13151654_852921482183_230255003673583647_n_thumb.jpg

The Ugly

The last week of the challenge was the worst. On Sunday, I experienced stomach issues during an easy treadmill run and felt off the rest of the day. I chalked it up as a bad run- we all have them sometimes. I didn’t want to quit with a few days left.

Later that week, I couldn’t sleep for more than 2-3 hours at a time. I also woke up hungry at night. One night I woke up hungry twice and ate peanut butter at 12 AM as well as a protein bar at 3:30 AM. When you run more miles, your body needs more calories. I track my food intake to make sure I eat enough, but my body was craving nutrients to recover from workouts and increased miles.

IMG_20160423_125028_thumb.jpg

Sleep deprived and under recovered, I ran Race the Landing #3 as a glorified tempo run. It was one of my more successful tempo runs, but successful runs need recovery.

The day after the race was the next-to-last day of the challenge. I’ve never lacked motivation to run, but it was all I could do to muster that 20 minute streak keeper. A Fitness World Run Club friend and I messaged each other on Facebook to encourage each other to log those miles. I ran for 20 minutes, but I wasn’t happy or enjoying the process. I was going through the motions for the streak.

The next day, I ran the Floppin Flounder 5K, where I started too fast and positive split like a champ. My speed was zapped in Mile 3 and my legs would not go. It was my worst race since Race the Landing #2- which also occurred during this challenge.

June 5 was the end of the streak challenge, and I happily took a rest day. I slept, ate, and the only run I made was a Costco run with Clay. With the extra non-running time on my hands, I reevaluated my training and racing schedule for the rest of the summer. I did not miss running at all!

Any athlete can follow a training schedule and go through the motions each day. Successful athletes think long-term, listen to their bodies, back off, and reevaluate. The decision to pull the plug on a workout or training is often the hardest.

IMG_20160604_100048_thumb.jpg

The Final Verdict

Did I complete the running streak challenge? Yes.

Do I plan to complete another running streak challenge? No.

Some successful runners train 7 days a week. Some successful runners train 3 days a week. I’ve learned that I am neither and my best races and runs come from 6 days a week of training. I believe I lost fitness during this streak.

With that said, I am glad I “streaked” for 35 days. I learned a lot about myself, my training, and what works for me. Thirty days is long enough to know if something works for you or not. Different training styles and workouts work for different people, and you never know if something will work unless you try.

Run streaking didn’t work for me, but I loved encouraging others and seeing people who were not as active become more active. I hope those who did the challenge continue running and walking, whether they run every day or not, and that they learned something about themselves through the whole process, too.

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Running tips and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to What I Learned from a Run Streak Challenge

  1. Theresa says:

    I can’t do run streaks. My body needs at least one full rest day. I seem to train best for running 4-5 days a week and triathlons at 6 mostly because there isn’t enough time to squeeze in more rest. Lol. I don’t get the point of streaks honestly. It seems like a potential recipe for injury or burn out

  2. Very interesting post! I haven’t ever specifically done a streak, although I do typically run 6 to 7 days a week. I don’t have a planned rest day, but there are just some days that my body needs a break and I try to take those days off. You seem to have figured out what works best for you and I totally agree on taking the long-term approach to training. Consistency is so important!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      One thing I have changed recently in my training is planning out the rest days. I used to take every single Friday off, and now I’m making a point to use my rest day better by taking it between two workouts. It didn’t make much since to run easy on Thursday, feeling crummy from Wednesday’s speedwork, then take Friday off.

  3. I feel the same way you do about running streaks. I think they can be a *great* idea if you are struggling to stay consistent in your training. Part of getting to the point where you are training consistently is just making running a habit! But it really seems pointless for many people who already run/exercise 3-6 days a week and have for a while because they’ve clearly got the consistency part down.

    Personally, I love my rest days, and my rest days are mental as much as they are physical. While I’d probably still get most of the physical benefits of recovery if I ran one slow mile on my rest days, I would lose the mental benefit of just being able to take a day off and think about something else.

  4. Christine says:

    Maybe I’ll try a run streak at some point, but right now there’s just no way. With the constant stress I’ve been under causing exhaustion and illness (I have nasty cold as I type this), streaking would be terribly ill advised. The good new is…it appears I’ve finally turned a corner and the stress of the first half of 2016 should be behind me. Now I just need to recover from it all and get back on the training horse.

    But congrats on finishing your streak and for knowing your limits!

    • Christine says:

      *That said, I am generally consistent about running or cross training 5-6 days a week. So streaking would also get in the way of my cross training efforts, which I don’t want to stop.

      • Amy Lauren says:

        Agreed. Even on days when runners don’t run, you’re still a runner. It’s not like a rest day means you sit around being a sloth. I took a “zero day” last Tuesday when I didn’t run, but I still did some squats, donkey kicks, and bridges, and general stuff to stay healthy and injury-free. And it seems like you really enjoy the barre classes and it is working for you, so keep it up! Better to do what works for you!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      That’s a GREAT point. If someone has been injured, sick, exhausted, etc… then even starting a challenge like this is probably not for them. Overall, being healthy comes before any exercise, workouts, or “extras”. If someone’s healing from something, their body needs that energy to heal rather than expending it on a workout that might set them back in recovery.

  5. Sairo Santos says:

    ‘I track my food intake to make sure I eat enough’. I will never, ever not do a double take when I read this. I’d track my food to make sure I don’t eat more than a horse and a bear put together. I wish I was the kind of person who struggles to get enough calories. That’d be one less thing to worry about in my book. Then again, the grass is always greener on the other side, right?

    I once tried to do a 100-day streak ’cause I wanted the SmashRun badge, but I totally overdid it and ended up getting injured. I still want the badge (’cause of course it matters and totally isn’t a pointless childish thing), but have yet to muster the courage to try again. Streaking does take it out of you if you’re not very, very careful about it.

    • Amy Lauren says:

      I do love to eat- like most runners! I probably should phrase it better, that I don’t want to just get enough calories but also a good breakdown of foods.

      I totally understand doing a challenge for a badge; I mean, I did it for a shirt and people do races just for the medal all the time.

  6. There are so many great things about this post I don’t know where to start. First of all, you tried something new. You stepped out of your comfort zone and tried something and there was a community aspect to it. So, yay. Second, you didn’t just go through the motions, you learned from it. You now, more than ever, see the importance of rest and recoveries and this will make you a smarter runner. Finally: “successful athletes think long-term, listen to their bodies, back off, and reevaluate.” Long-term is really the key here. What good will a 30-day streak do if it’s not ultimately meeting your goals? I would argue that a long-term goal is more rewarding than bragging rights for a streak. I don’t participate in streaks, but my training plan for Boston ended up having me run 53 days in a row, which was new territory. Great, great GREAT post.

    • Amy Lauren says:

      53 days is a long time to run with no days off! I have speedier friends and those training for marathons who train 7 days a week and end up on long streaks without a zero day, but they are doing it for training and not streaking. I don’t think I could run 53 days in a row but you have a coach and training plan and if you were having issues, both of you would’ve made adjustments.

      And really, your whole Boston training was new territory and that’s not always a bad thing. As runners, we get stuck doing the same old things and sometimes, if you try something different you find a better way.

  7. ksquared says:

    For me, I need that day off running to stay mentally involved with the sport. When I did a streak I found it so exhausting to have to mentally get myself ready to run every day.

  8. I’ve tried two streaks now. I lasted about a month on both of them. I enjoyed them while I was doing them, but I ended up running myself into the ground, because I kept the streak days too hard. I either tried to up the distance on them; it wasn’t just one mile at a recovery pace, but two or three at a recovery-ish pace.

    I see streaking incredibly helpful if you’re in a period of training where you’re finding it hard to get out the door or if you’re just at a volume where your easy runs are getting too long and you need to add that seventh day in. At 30 mpw, though, I’m just fine with two rest days a week.

    • Amy Lauren says:

      You’re doing a great job so far, so keep it up. 30 mpw and 5 days is excellent and if you’re consistent with that, you can make a lot of improvements :).

  9. Sounds like a good idea in theory but I can see where you would run into problems. I’m not sure if I would compete in a run streak but may think about it in the future. At least you have the experience now!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      I’m still glad I did it. Who knows? It might have worked. Plenty of people do run every day so clearly they’ve found ways to work it into their training goals and make it work for them.

      Maybe one day I’ll try another, but as for right now, I am pretty happy with my current training that includes a couple complete days off each month!

  10. supereli23 says:

    It sounds like your running streak nearly mentally and physically burnt you out! I’m sure you’re glad to be back to typical training. Those rest days are so important to our bodies recovering and continuing to make gains with training.

  11. “Any athlete can follow a training schedule and go through the motions each day. Successful athletes think long-term, listen to their bodies, back off, and reevaluate.” <—- this. You are so wise! I've never participated in a run streak. I've attempted it but always ended up needing a break. I'm a firm believer in listening to your body. I tend to so best with 6 days of training with one total rest day. And I totally cracked up at the opening paragraph because that's exactly how I spent my summers! No joke. My grandmother loved that show. 😉

  12. I too am not a streaker. 5 or 6 days a week is perfect for me. My body likes, and needs, those recovery days especially with all my joint issues.

  13. I love how honest you were about the run streak! Running 7 days a week sounds rough. When I was going to switch colleges to run cross country, the couch sent our training plan and it called for running 7x a week. I didn’t follow it because I thought it was too hard, haha. So, I totally understand!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Yeah, a lot of collegiate athletes run 7 days a week. Sadly, burnout and comparison is very real at that level because some coaches figure they have athletes for 4 years and want to get as much out of them as possible, whereas adults who run want to run into their older years and just do it because we love it. There’s a big difference in an 18-21 year old running for scholarship money, a school, and a coach, vs a 30-year-old runner with a job and career. College students recover much quicker!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s