Can you run every day without injury? And should you?
New targets and goals certainly help keep runners motivated. In an age where getting sponsored to complete epic events for charity is more common than ever, it’s easy to find yourself saying yes to the next big challenge before asking yourself how you are going to achieve it. Marathons are no longer unusual, even ultras are now a staple part of many a runner’s diary, so what are we seeing a rise in now? You guessed it the “run streak”.
For those who are unfamiliar with this term you will be pleased to know that it doesn’t involve tackling that familiar five-mile route with no clothes on. Phew.It simply means running every day for a set period of time. The challenge can be devised by yourself. Here are the rules: simply choose a target time frame and then run every single day. Without fail. No excuses. Simple right? (I hear nervous coughs.)
Now as a coach who is constantly preaching the importance of rest days, easy days and recovery in order to aid performance you will understand that the run streak concept fills me with dread. I can also understand its attraction; if you struggle with motivation to run regularly, committing to this challenge will certainly give you the incentive to favor trainers over sofa. Not forgetting of course that it is an impressive and challenging task when seeking the next fundraising challenge.
Physically running every day is a huge demand and one that requires utter respect for your body. Indeed the majority of elite athletes will always factor in one complete rest day at least every ten days, as training i well planned cycles, peaking for and recovering from key sessions is vital to your race performance. So I would argue that a run streak is treated as an event in itself as opposed to being used as training for another race event.
Back to basics
” THE BODY NEVER LIES — Always think long term. It’s not how you are feeling now but the accumulative affect of running every day and where you will be in a few weeks’ time (or indeed months if you have dreamt big for this challenge!) and how you will feel then. The body never lies and you will not “get away with it”. So remember every choice you make regarding stretching, choosing the right surfaces, the durations of your runs and listening to your body’s warning signs are made in order to prevent injury. Don’t wait for something to happen that forces you to ditch your challenge – try to stay one step ahead and your run streak will be a success!If in doubt err on the side of caution as greediness never wins! “
It’s important to remember that where you are now, as a runner, is integral to choosing this challenge or not. if you have never done any running before then going form zero to hero will be slightly too great a leap so I would advise that you are someone who already runs regularly so that the progression isn’t a shock to your body. It’s not fitness levels as much as the body having become strong enough to endure the impact of running.
I would strongly advise seeing a running specific physio pre challenge or in the early stages. Someone who can watch your running style and advise on key exercises to improve your current weaknesses so that they won’t turn into niggles or injuries further down the line.
Having a strong core and lower limb stability is essential in order for the body to be strong enough to absorb the daily impact of running. Having a running specific strength and conditioning plan completed two to three times per week is imperative; squats, one leg squats, lunges, bridging and plank work are some suggestions for a generic starting point.
Every time you run your muscle fibres actually bleed at a microscopic level creating adhesions, knots and scar tissue which eventually will lead to the muscle shortening and minor tears developing, leading to injury. Stretching must be your best friend if you’re to complete your streak.
Ensure you invest in a pair of supportive, cushioned and correctly fitting shoes that have been fitted.
How should you train for a run streak?
Duration/effort/pace. These are key to success! Most commonly the run streak “rule” is a minimum of one mile per day. Clearly, as with any training schedule, it’s important to have the correct volume and intensity.
Easy hard easy
For any long period of training or regular running, the golden rule is always follow a “hard” training day by
an easy one. This refers to distance and pace/ effort. This means if you have done a speed session, threshold session or long run you must have an easier shorter “recovery paced run day” the following day. You may even feel, in order to complete the challenge that having two or three easier days post harder days to really promote recovery is best. Remember always think long term. You may feel okay today but it’s recovering from the accumulative build up of training and micro damage at a cellular level before pushing hard again that dictates success.
If you are not someone intending on including structured interval sessions within your training and your intention is to simply cover distance or time each day then varying the effort and pace from day to day is essential. Trying to go harder, faster or further each day will result in fatigue and breakdown. Running at an easy “conversational” effort everyday will be more maintainable. A mixture of the two throughout the week is optimal.
The terrain upon which you run will also aid success. Try choosing some softer trails, running on grass and avoiding always running on harder surfaces.
Remember ten minutes at an easy conversational pace still counts as a run during a run streak so if tired, back off and be sensible!
Get even sneakier
Running early in the morning one day and not until the evening the next actually means you have had 24 hours rest yet have still run every day.
Listen to your body
No amount of planning will allow you to predict how your body feels so please be prepared to adapt and
listen to any warning signs.
Regular sports massage
Regular massage once a week will flush out the legs. Also invest in a foam roller to loosen muscles at home – glutes, 1TB, hamstrings, quads and calf muscles.
Daily nutrition when training is always of the upmost importance but as with your running, the compete lack of rest days means there is not time for the body to recover or play catch up if you have two or three consecutively “bad” nutrition days. Fuelling and recovering is key in order to maintain a healthy immune system and to make sure you aid recovery at a cellular level.
Ensure your daily diet is replacing the vitamins and minerals lost through sweating.
Also, ensure you are eating a balanced diet consisting of complex carbohydrates to fuel those runs and carbohydrates plus protein to aid recovery as quickly as possible post run.
You may wish to consider sport products such as recovery drinks containing both carbohydrate and protein if you need something that is quick and digestible if you are lacking in time.
Eating regularly throughout the day and spreading your food intake rather than leaving huge gaps of hunger in between meals is a good habit in order to aid consistency of fuelling and recovery.
A run streak could be the very thing you need to aid motivation … but be sensible – there is no point in running through excessive tiredness or niggles and as with any of these extreme challenges, your health and wellbeing should always come first.