Today marks my twentieth day in a row of running, at least, one mile per day as part of the annual Runner’s World Run Streak. It has quite literally been a journey of ups and downs. But, surprising to me, I’ve experienced more positives than negatives over the course of the last twenty days.
I want to share with you some of the things I’ve learned along the way in hopes that it will challenge and inspire you to push past the obstacles in front of you so you can still achieve those goals you have.
So here are twenty short lessons I’ve learned over the last 20 days on the road.
Adam’s note: Curious how this crazy streak got started? Check out the whole story here.
1. Perfect Days Don’t Make Perfect Runs
I used to think everything needed to be perfect for me to run. The conditions needed to be right before I would put forth any effort. I needed to be in the right mood. The weather needed to be right. It needed to be the right time of day, so there weren’t too many people around. This perfectionism isn’t just in my running life. It seems to be a tool I use to procrastinate on, well, everything.
Over the last twenty days, I’ve had a couple of close-to-perfect days that had pretty crappy runs. But I’ve had a lot of crappy days that ended up with some very awesome runs. The lesson here is that crappy days don’t mean crappy runs and great days don’t mean great runs. So forget what kind of day it is, and just go run. Same thing goes for your to-do list. Are you waiting for that perfect time to do something? There’s no such thing.
2. I don’t remember the bad days
I just mentioned how bad days didn’t necessarily mean I had bad runs. To prepare for this post, I looked back over all the photos I took on my last 20 runs. Here’s something interesting. Unless I read the captions, I can’t tell which days are the bad days. I can’t tell which runs are the sucky runs. I just see a body of work that I accomplished. If I had let the bad days determine whether or not I should run, I couldn’t look back and see all of this awesomeness now could I. So now I don’t remember those bad days but I have plenty of photos that remind me of the good runs I had.
3. Running Can Change My Day
Not only did a bad day have no bearing on whether or not I had a bad run, my run had the ability to alter the quality of my day. So I would sometimes have a sucky day, go for a run; and then the day would suck less. Some days my run was a punching bag that I took my anger out on. Other days it was a distraction from the depression that was weighing me down. Whatever it was, the run became a game changer that shifted the course of my day.
4. There’s No Bad Run
I used to focus on my time, my distance, how much pain I was in, everything but the run itself. With this streak, it’s very simple. Either you run, or you don’t. So there’s no bad run unless you don’t go for a run. That’s really helped me keep my priorities clear. It’s also allowed me to enjoy my runs more. Even on days where the time was slower, or the hills were steeper, I could still find some way to celebrate the run because I accomplished my goal. The only bad run is the run I don’t have.
5. The Importance of a Smile
I mentioned looking back over my run photos. The first week I wasn’t smiling much. I was cold, tired and not really sure how I was going to make this work. Even worse, I was going through a really tough wave of anxiety. My followers seemed to react with a little more concern than I was expecting. Here I was kicking my depression’s butt and running every day, and people were looking at me like I was getting hurt by my illness. To combat that, I started to smile in my photos when I could muster up the energy. Some days it was easier than others, but I kept trying to smile. A couple of things happened. First people started to perceive this as the positive adventure it is. Second, I started to find the smile in the middle of my day to be a forced break from my sadness. And third, looking back over the photos, I can’t help but smile again seeing all the work, but also seeing all my smiles. Wow, smiles are important, huh.
6. The Best Time to Run is Now
There’s no good time for me to run right now. It’s too cold in the morning, and there’re too many people around in the afternoon. So either I freeze my butt off in the morning or my anxiety punches me in the face in the afternoon. There’s no good time to run for me. Oh well, I still have to run. Whatever you want to do in your life, there’s no good time. So just freaking do it already.
7. You’re Tougher Than You Think
Every day I’m a bit sore. Every day I wonder if today is the day I’m not going to be able to get through my run. Then, I start running, and something cool happens. I get through it.
If I skipped every day that I thought I was too sore, too tired, too depressed, too busy, too embarrassed, too fat, too slow, or too afraid to run, I might have only run twice in the last twenty days. But I’m tougher than I ever thought I was, and now I’ve got twenty days worth of proof.
You’re tougher than you think. What lies are keeping you on the couch and away from your goals? Prove them wrong.
8. You Can Be Your Source of Strength
When I started this streak, a bunch of people said they wanted to support me. They wanted to be there and encourage me daily and come along for the ride. I’m twenty days in and there aren’t that many people left. That’s life. I’m not mad about it.
They didn’t get me through the last 20 days. They weren’t my source of strength. Sure some were there for accountability at times. But those miles are mine. I’m the one bundled up in the cold, and I’m the one who has to keep the streak going. So I have to dig in and find that strength within me. Some days I find strength in my anger or the frustration I have with my illness. A lot of time times I’m leaning on God to get me through it. And, most days, I’m already leaning on him to get me out the door.
Often we need our friends to join us on the adventure. We need a spouse to be on that diet with us, or friend to start a business with us. Don’t forget, you’re stronger than you think. Don’t give people too much power over you. Find that power within yourself and get going.
9. Recovery is Overrated
I used to think every run needed ample recovery time. I would run and then take a few days off to allow my body to bounce back. When I decided to attempt this streak I thought I would for sure end up too sore and injured to make it past the first week. No days off would certainly lead to disaster, right? Turns out, my body bounces back pretty good. Granted, I’m not doing 50k every day but still, I was surprised how frequently I could run with little need for time off. This realization will come in handy when I train for my next race.
10. Slow and Flat is the New Time-Off
I was shocked to learn that if I just ran slower and on a flatter course, I could achieve the same amount of rest as if I took the day off. I’m sure if I dove into the sports science of it that wouldn’t be the case but going off of my experience I’m finding that a couple of days of slow flat running are just like a couple of days off.
So, for example, if I took a longer or faster run one day. That would be the run I wanted to achieve some training goal with like distance or time. Where I used to follow that up with two or three days off, I now run slower and flatter courses for a couple of days.
Without trying, I found that within a few days of “taking it easy” I would be ready for another longer or faster run. This realization is huge for me. When you’re training for long-distance, the more time on your feet the better prepared you are. If I can recover while still logging miles under my feet who knows what I can achieve!
11. Recovery is Underutilized
Yes, I know I just wrote that recovery is overrated. Well, that’s true and so is this. The more I do to aid my recovery the better my runs are. That means foam rolling, stretching, visits to my chiropractor, and, of course, sleep. (Heck, I’m now even experimenting with tart cherry juice.) So, while a lack of recovery should not be a reason for me to avoid a run, recovery should be something to take seriously. I can’t deny the benefits.
12. Stretching Ain’t a Joke
I trained for a marathon and stretched the whole time. Even then, I had no idea how awesome stretching is. If you think of your muscles as rubber bands, imagine the crappy ones that don’t get used. Those cracked ones that can’t stretch and ultimately snap? Yeah, those are your old dude muscles if you don’t stretch them regularly while you’re young. Stretch now and you won’t be that busted up old guy later.
Between working full-time at a standing desk and now this running streak, my legs are sore a lot. When I stretch at night, I can feel the pain and tension ease away. It’s now becoming a feeling I look forward to every day like a good massage. Further, my joints hurt less during my run when I’ve stretched well the night before.
13. Food Can Make or Break You
Since starting this running streak, my cheat days are starting to get less and less epic. Why? Well, crappy food just isn’t as fun when I have to carry it with me on a run the next day. Heartburn and overfull stomachs aren’t acceptable when you need to log some miles. Food is fuel. It can either build you up or break you down. Are your food choices making your depression worse? Is it making it harder to do the things you want to do? It may be time to rethink your menu.
14. Priorities Dictate Progress
Running is the number one item on my to-do list every day. That means, it better get done or else. I’m shocked how many people don’t make their dreams a priority. What, watching football or that reality show is worth more than your dreams? Set some goals and then prioritize it like you mean it, man!
15. Keep Things Interesting
Twenty days of running could get boring. To overcome that, I need to keep it interesting. I need something to be excited about every day. Some days, like today, it’s the number of days I’ve run. Other days it’s the new gear I’m trying out, or it’s the type of photo I’m going to take. Another day, it’s a particular trail I get to run. My point is to keep it interesting. Find something to get pumped about each day so that you stick to your goal.
16. The Power of Milestones
After Day Ten, I had a really hard time. I crossed a week. I hit double digits. Now what? If my only view were the finish line (Day 37), then I would get discouraged. As it is, days ten through twenty were a tough stretch with no milestone in between. How can I do the whole streak without breaking it into little mini-goals?
Take your biggest goal and break it into mini-goals or milestones. Then, focus on the next milestone on the list. Keep driving hard until you hit that one. Celebrate it, and then move on to the next one. For example, I was focused on getting to 7 days first. I wanted a week. Right after I celebrated hitting that milestone, I shifted my focus to hitting double digits. Break the goal into many milestones and you won’t get as discouraged when your goal takes awhile to achieve.
17. Vanity is a Real B%$&#
This one shocked me. I’m a 32-year-old, married fat guy who doesn’t look like a runner. But my wife thinks I’m attractive, so I don’t give a crap about your opinion on the matter. That really should be the end of it.
But, post pictures of yourself for 20 days, count all the likes, and you start to pay attention to things you didn’t care about. Did I already wear this shirt this week? Man, I need to get my haircut. My beard looks stupid. Wow, I’m fat. What happens when so-and-so from my past finds my page, and I’m not balling it on a private jet, and instead I’m shuffling my fat butt across a dirt trail proclaiming to have overcome my depression for the day? What will that guy think of me?
I found myself second guessing my decisions and getting caught up in how I looked. And I’m not even followed by many people. I can’t imagine what it would be if this site took off.
Vanity is sneaky, and you have to watch out for it. Our social media focused world isn’t making it easier. I’m glad I learned this lesson now. Be real, your transparency carries so much more weight in this world.
18. Don’t Undervalue Your Influence
I’m getting messages from many people I never expected to hear from who are inspired by this streak. People are overcoming their own struggles with depression and anxiety. They are getting out there trying to achieve their goals. I never thought I would have this kind of impact. I drastically undervalued the influence I have on the lives of those around me. I’m sure you’re doing the same thing. Your friends and family are all watching you and how you handle your life has the potential to impact theirs positively. You don’t need to be a motivational speaker to be that rock star who changes lives. You just have to be yourself and be open to sharing yourself with those around you.
19. Consistency is King
I preach this more than anything in my life. Nothing makes a bigger impact on your success than consistency. You can create momentum out of thin air, just by being consistent. Bad runs, good runs, fun runs, sad runs, I’ll take them all. Because at least, I’m consistently running, and that is what drives me toward this goal.
In my professional life, I preach to my CEO’s almost daily how doing the little things, consistently, can impact the bottom line more than anything else. On one of my projects, we’re finally starting to see revenue and it is exciting. But that came after years of consistent sales and marketing, grinding it out through those milestones each week.
Just like you need to break your goal into milestones to keep you motivated, you need to break your goal down into those little things you can do each day, week or month that drive you toward those milestones. What can you do to get you closer to your goal? Start doing it a little at a time, but do it consistently, and you’ll get there soon enough.
20. Accountability is Queen
Behind all greatness, you’ll find someone, often a significant other, who supports and encourages them in a way that nobody else can. If consistency is king, then it’s supported by a strong, encouraging queen and that’s accountability. I’ve managed to accomplish a lot in my life without much accountability. I’m highly self-motivated, and that’s something that I’m grateful for. But I will say that every time accountability is involved, the goal is easier to achieve. There is less second guessing or wavering in my attempt. I just keep grinding it out because of the accountability.
I would have bailed on this streak multiple times, but I knew people were expecting to see a post on Instagram. I knew someone would text me and ask me about it. I knew someone in my small group would ask my wife about it. That has made it a lot easier to keep going. Quitting isn’t an option when you’re on display and held accountable by your friends.
The last twenty days have been an awesome experience. I’ve already achieved the things I hoped I would. I’ve gotten out of the house more in the last twenty days than I did in the previous six months. I’ve smiled more, and I’ve started to get excited about running again. By all counts, this is already a huge success. Finishing is a technicality at this point. I’ve already gained everything I wanted to. So now every day is just icing on the cake.
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