As I’ve learned is the norm with running, or indeed any exercise program you set yourself; nothing ever goes to plan.
My latest effort to get back into running involved walking barefoot or in minimalist shoes for 5k every day for a month. Two weeks into this I started running a 1 mile route, leaving a whole week of rest in between, and reducing that rest period by a day each time. The original goal being to be able to run the 5k route I was walking; which actually morphed in being able to run the 1k route every day, but more on that later. The general aim of trying to achieve an overall distance per week in smaller, more frequent runs. I figured should be better for my feet, and most importantly, should make it easier for my feet to adapt. I wasn’t convinced running 2-3 times a week was enough to trigger the foot adaptations needed, as the activity wasn’t happening enough. But doing this every day must surely flick the appropriate switch in the body to start making my feet stronger in anticipation of this daily mile.
So what went wrong? I think my plan was the problem; it allowed for too much flexibility. I easily reduced the gap between runs to a single day and then kept it there for a while, wondering how to gradually step this up. I couldn’t just jump to running every day in one go. This would double the effort and be an easy route to injury; I’ve been here before and it never ends well. The trouble is, as I’ve proved to myself countless times: there’s a balance to strike between not overdoing it, and not doing enough through fear of overdoing it. If you don’t push yourself, you’ll never progress; push too far and injury sets you back.
What actually happened was I was running in the evening after getting home from work every other day. If I found I wasn’t going home straight from work on one of my run days, no problem, I’d just run the following day. It would probably do my body good to have the occasional two rest days I thought. However it only took a couple of days missing my run and I’d soon lost the habit. Combine that with a bout of illness and being away with work, and before I knew it, I’d not run for three weeks.
Then last Saturday I got up and went for a run first thing in the morning. The following day I did the same. I’ve now ran this 1 mile circuit every day for the past 8 days. The advantage of running first thing is I can pretty much always do this everyday. There aren’t excuses like working late, after work drinks, etc, to stop me. So far I’ve found it easy to motivate myself to get up and run. Each day I noticed my soles get progressively sore. By the Thursday – the 6th run in a row – my feet were really complaining. That was the sorest they’d been, and on that run they felt delicate. I persisted regardless. The following day wasn’t as bad. My feet felt tougher. This morning’s run seems to have told the same tale; my feet felt tougher still. I think I may have passed the tenderness barrier on Thursday, which I’d never have reached running every other day.
Also my calves have been okay. Three and half months ago when I started on this latest running streak, my calves complained afterwards for 6 days. It wasn’t anything silly like the first time I ever ran in barefoot shoes – that time I couldn’t walk properly for a week, having ran just 2 miles. But it was noticeable when I walked and wasn’t exactly comfortable. The next run, 2 days later my calve stiffness subsided, resulted in just two days of noticeable tightness. The next three runs after this it was only the next day, and the one following that I noticed no calve tightness at all. I’ve not done since, until I started going out each day. Although there I could feel it in my calves the day after the first run (don’t forget I’d had a break of three weeks beforehand), and the first few subsequent days. I realise now 8 days in, that I’ve forgotten I’d been monitoring it, which actually meant that it had gone away. I had by then become more interested about my soles and their soreness rating. So no problems with my calves at all. I’m convinced this has been helped by the little and often approach. Submitting the body to the same stresses everyday will activate the body to grown stronger in those regions to protect against and counteract the forces.
I’m going to attempt to keep this everyday thing up for as long as I can. I’ll let you know how I get on.