It’s almost summer, the season of bathing suits, barbecues, baseball, and berries! With Memorial Day comes the unofficial start of summer and Runner’s World’s annual Summer Run Streak!
I’ve done the run streak (I’m currently in a run-every-day-in-may streak) and as a running coach and personal trainer who has made all the mistakes first hand, I can help you get the best results from your running streak. There a few questions you need to ask yourself before jumping in.
First of all…
WHAT’S A RUN STREAK?
A run streak is a commitment to run at least a mile every day. The Runner’s World summer run streak starts on Memorial Day May 28 and runs (pun intended) through Independence day in the US, July 4— 38 days of streaking. The goal is to run at least a mile each day, some days you may run more, but never less than a mile.
You can follow Runner’s World streak and join thousands of runners on social media this summer with the hashtag #RWrunstreak or do your own thing. There are no hard and fast rules, except to run one mile a day. Try it for a week, try it for a year, or any time frame in between; whatever works for you.
There are few things to consider before deciding:
HOW MUCH REST AND RECOVERY DO I NEED?
I am a big proponent of proper rest and recovery; rest is more critical than most runners give credit. Your body adapts to exercise (gets stronger, builds muscle, gets faster) during the rest period after the workouts, not during the workout itself. That means if you keep pushing your body to the limits and don’t allow proper recovery, your performance and results will suffer. More is not always better.
How much rest and recovery you need depends on the individual. Newer runners need more rest than seasoned ones. Older runners likely need more rest than younger. People who have a high-stress lifestyle, poor nutrition habits, or lack of quality sleep need more rest and recovery than someone who does not.
Arguably, for an experienced runner, one mile a day at a slow pace, could be considered a recovery day. It’s not very taxing on the system and would likely take less than 10 minutes a day.
On the other hand, a new runner whose heart rate spikes to the sky after ten steps, who is huffing and puffing through the mile, may not get adequate recovery if they continue the high-intensity activity day after day without rest.
WHAT’S MY REASON FOR RUNNING THE STREAK?
Having a reason for wanting to complete the summer streak will be important when it’s two and half weeks in and it’s raining, and you have to work late, and you haven’t had time to even think about what you’ll make for dinner…and you still haven’t run your mile. Having a strong why will keep you going when the going gets tough.
It doesn’t have to an earth-shattering reason, only something that is means something to you. Maybe it’s to compete with online friends, or prove to yourself that you can do it. It may be to show your kids what it’s like to persevere through a challenge or to bring you closer to friends by achieving the goal together. It may be to build consistency into your running plan or to make running a habit.
Make sure your why is reasonable and achievable. If your reason for the running the streak is to lose 20 pounds or gain a minute per mile on your pace, you may be disappointed because the expectation doesn’t match the effort. Significant changes in body composition or performance take commitment and consistency over time, not 38 days.
Write it down on a piece of paper and read it every day of the challenge. When you want to quit, it will be a reminder of why you started.
Once the excitement of a new challenge wears off, you’ll need to remember why you started. Identifying your reasons for starting will be helpful when you feel like throwing in the towel on the challenge.
WHAT COULD GO WRONG ON THE RUN STREAK?
Think about all obstacles you may have to overcome to complete the streak. What could go wrong?
You have to work late.
It’s raining outside.
Your kid gets sick.
You feel new aches and pains.
You get injured
Your treadmill breaks
Your gym temporarily closes for repairs
Now consider how you will deal with each obstacle and have a backup plan in place. If you know you may run into an obstacle, it’s easier to overcome if you’ve already accepted the potential for adversity and thought a bit about what you will do. You don’t need to make detailed plans, just think about your past experiences and try to anticipate what may not go as planned. Expecting the unexpected is half the battle.
WHAT’S MY PLAN WHEN THE RUN STREAK IS OVER?
There was a time I had a strong aversion to 30-day challenges because most people don’t consider what happens on day 31. If you were to white-knuckle your way through a difficult challenge, it’s easy to let the pendulum swing too far in the other direction once the challenge is over.
For example, on day 31 after a 30-day no sugar challenge, you may be tempted to overindulge and eat ALL the sugar. A 30-day extreme diet may lead to weight loss, but a rebound occurs when you return to normal eating. After running every day for 38 days, you may plan to take a day or two off but inadvertently take a month off from running. (What? just me?)
Have a plan for July 5 or whenever you choose to end your streak. Plan to take a few days off from running, then make a new commitment to run at least three miles a day three times a week for four weeks.
I’ve changed my opinion on 30-day challenges; they can be effective in establishing new behaviors and habits as long as we have a sound and sustainable exit strategy for when the challenge is over.
The summer run streak can be a fun and motivating challenge if your body can handle it, if you understand your reason why, have reasonable expectations and have a plan for when it’s over.
BONUS TIPS FOR A SUCCESSFUL RUN STREAK
At least two days a week only run one mile at a slow pace. Low-intensity is the key to allow your body to recover while still participating in the streak.
If you have any doubts or health concerns, talk to your doctor about your plan to complete the streak.
Abandon the streak at any sign of over-training or injury including extended muscle or joint aches and pains, persistent low energy, trouble focusing, poor sleep quality, sickness, increased resting heart-rate or prolonged irritability. While it’s admirable to want to complete a challenge, don’t do it at the risk of your overall health and well being. Always listen to your body.
The Runner’s World rules state that only running miles count toward the streak, not walking miles, but let me remind you that a Runner’s World representative is not going to jump out from the bushes to issue you a citation for walking if that’s what your body needs. It’s OK to adapt the streak to work for you. If you want to walk your mile on rest days, that’s great. The running streak is just for fun, don’t get too caught up in perfection.
I once ran 288 days straight on a run streak. Read more about why I stopped and what I learned on the streak in this blog post about my run streaking experience.
Are you planning on running the Runner’s World summer run streak? I’d love to hear about how it goes! I’ve been streaking every day in May so I am undecided if I will continue into the summer. It depends on how I feel at the end of May.
Maybe when it’s over we can start a strength training for runners streak? Would you like that? 15 minutes a day of day of alternating body part exercises to improve your running by strength training, running drills, mobility, and foam rolling over 30 days? Let me know what you think!
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Questions? I’d love to help.