I have long been fascinated by streaks (you can read an article I wrote about the topic here). There are habits, and then there are extreme habits. How do people manage to stick with something daily for years? Or decades?
I have now tracked time daily for almost 2 years. So far so good. Then on Christmas Eve, I decided to add a new streak to the mix: running at least a mile daily. Actually, I don’t think I decided on Christmas Eve. I think I ran for several days straight over the holidays and then decided to keep going. Midway through March, I can see several benefits and drawbacks to setting this expectation for myself.
Upsides: I am running much more frequently than I was! Looking over past time logs, it was generally 4-5 times per week, but there were definitely some off weeks with 2-3 workouts. Maintaining the streak changes the workout question from “if” to “when.” In my self-employed, work-from-home, I-own-a-treadmill life, pretty much any day can accommodate a run. The streak reminds me that I can run even if I don’t feel like it, even if I don’t have childcare, even if I don’t have much time, etc. Lowering the expectation to one mile means I don’t have much resistance to the idea. I can get it done in 10 minutes. Even the slowest-possible-ever run wouldn’t take more than 15 minutes, but as any runner knows, the first mile is generally the toughest. Most days I want to keep going and I get a decent run in on a day that without the streak I would not have run.
Downsides: The streak taps a part of my personality I am not entirely comfortable with. I know the streak will end on some day (I have a day of very long travel coming up that will likely preclude it) and I do not want to feel like a failure if I don’t run some day because in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t matter if you run 100 days in a row and skip the 101st. Then there are more practical physical matters. A streak works now because I am not training for anything intense. If I were trying to get a half-marathon PR, I’d need to figure out rest days, and if nothing else the day before and after the race would need to be spent not running. I am not following any particular running plan right now and so I make my decision on how much to run on any given day based on how I feel about it. It’s quite possible I’m running fewer miles on days when I could run longer because I know I’ll be running again the next day. That said, it’s always hard to know on this. In past years I have tried running fewer days and longer each time, but sometimes I can’t run longer for various reasons, and then I just wind up running fewer miles over all than if I were running daily.
So I guess at the moment I am sticking with it because it keeps me running during winter, when I am not as motivated to continue. Sometimes deciding to not “break the chain” provides a good nudge. But likely by spring, when I do want to run longer, and outside, I will let it go. Have you ever decided to break the chain on a streak?
Photo: Footprints in the snow – but not to run. Yesterday was definitely a treadmill day.