On not running every day

Longtime readers know that, a few years ago, I decided to embark on a daily running streak. I ran at least a mile, every single day, from December 24, 2016 to December 28, 2019. My fifth child was, not coincidentally, born on the 29th.

I love the concept of streaks, and I do think it was good to show myself that I could choose to do something like that. I could make time to run while traveling. I could make time to run even when life was busy. I could run every single day of a pregnancy! (Not very fast at the end at all…but I did do it). The streak nudged me to take some runs I might not have, like a gorgeous Vancouver harbor sunrise run after some rough travel. I even felt pumped up for life during some ridiculous runs, like one I did at 4 a.m. or so in Oregon before a 6-ish flight (it felt more reasonable since I hadn’t adjusted from eastern time…on the other hand, that was in the first trimester!)

That said, I have not felt tempted to re-start the streak. I’m not sure what the official streak rules are, but I could have given myself a 6-week “streak freeze” (a la Duolingo) and gotten going again. I did not.

There are reasons. I know from my time diary study for I Know How She Does It that women with children under the age of 2 have significantly less time for major leisure categories (exercise, reading, TV) than those with older children. I started my streak when my fourth child was almost two. For the past 22 months, I have had a kid under age 2, with all that entails. I’m needing to find ways to fit a lot into each day, and not needing to find space for a run every single day dials the pressure down a bit. I am absolutely sure I could do it. I’m doing my “rituals” (chapter in W&P, write 100 words, some strength training) daily. But I don’t want to run daily anymore.

So instead I’m making sure running falls in my “three times a week is a habit” rubric. I definitely run at least 3 times per week every week. Usually it’s more like 4 times. (I also have a rule to “create a back-up slot” so if I want to run three times per week, I need to have at least four potential times). This allows me to be a bit more choosy about my runs. I avoid bad weather. I go when I can go run on the trails near my house, which I definitely prefer to the treadmill or even loops around the neighborhood. I ran on a hotel treadmill this morning (I’m traveling to give a speech) and it was fine, especially since I have quite a bit of time this morning (hello time change and mid-day speech). But it’s not exactly something to write home about. It’s nice not to automatically need to find hotel treadmills.

The one downside is that one of exercise’s best benefits is mood elevation. I definitely am in a better mood when I run than when I don’t. But to get at least some of the upsides of activity, I’m trying to “move by 3 p.m.” (another TBT rule!) every day in some way, shape, or form. It can be far easier to walk briskly for 10 minutes at some point in the day than to run for 10-12 minutes (my usual pace). Park a little farther from the store. Walk around the new house yard when I’m visiting for construction supervision. It’s not quite the same, but it is something. And right now, that’s fine.

Photo: From a sunrise, on-the-beach run in Cape May last week. That was a run worth doing! 

7 thoughts on “On not running every day

  1. Laura, you already know how much I love your 3x/week makes a habit rule! It’s how I finally launched the blog I’d been dreaming of for years.

    I’ve been feeling glum about how little I’ve been running lately. I ran exactly once in October. This is not enough to maintain any fitness in that area (I do walk about 5 km daily, so I’m staying fit, but walking and running are very different beasts).
    Just this week I determined that my goal for November will be to run three times a week. It feels doable (especially if I do two-weekend runs), and yet it also feels like enough to keep my running fitness at a level where I could push for more miles if I felt the sudden urge to do so. We are nearing winter in Eastern Canada, so many of these runs may have to be treadmill, but at only 3x/week, that also feels doable.

    I have a hard time with streaks because when I have even the slightest hiccup, I feel like the streak is over and there is no point in continuing at all. Here is where I can recognize it’s a goal (run every day) vs a value (I want to run because it boosts my mood and keeps me healthy). For the latter, missing one day is inconsequential. As much as I want to be value-driven, it’s a very big mental hurdle to get over.

    But three times a week…that feels just right. And having the habit of regular running has a nice ring to it.

    1. @Elisabeth – yep, if you run three times a week, you are a runner. That seems fairly doable! And I’m glad the blogging is going strong 🙂

  2. I loved following your running streak! The most consistent I tend to be in my running is if I’m training for a marathon (even a half marathon I can pull off with minimal training due to my long history of running and coaching). This is despite the fact that I also find I’m in a better mood when I run that day. I need to focus on the 3 days a week habit because that would give me more consistency for sure – plus I’d like to incorporate lifting/strength training 3 days a week because I’m also not consistent with that!

  3. You are working and doing major house project. When we were building our house the only “hobby” I made time for was drinking wine. I think you are doing well to be getting any exercise at all.

  4. I set a goal of biking 1000 miles this year during cycling season: 12 weeks in the spring and 10 in the fall (went on a high-altitude vacation for two weeks in fall, so no biking then). I’m at 860 miles so things are looking good, but I don’t think I’ll do this again. It has gotten me out more, but also pushes me to make a pleasant 20-mile ride a 26-mile ride, even though I feel done. Or an easy 10-miler has to be a 20-miler. Not right for me right now.

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