Every day for the past four years I have gone for a run. No exceptions. No days off and no excuses. Running every day has become my strongest habit and one of the things I am most grateful for in my life.
Before you think that I’m some strange, super athletic, exercise loving phenomenon, I was not athletic growing up. In fact, I was quite clumsy and I’m still terrible at just about every sport. I faked asthma in fourth-grade gym class because I hated running so much. I didn’t grow up loving to run and move my body. My love for running has come on slowly and gradually as an adult.
Running every day is worth it, but not easy.
I love how running allows me to explore and experience the beauty of our world on my own two feet. I enjoy the satisfaction and pride I feel after completing a long, hard run. Running gives me a boost in energy, mental clarity, and helps me keep a positive outlook and attitude.
But running is still hard. There are many days when I just don’t feel like it. Just yesterday I was doing my usual lap around the neighborhood and I could not understand why my legs and lungs felt like they were on fire. I do this every day. I’ve run a marathon! But still, every mile takes work and effort.
And every single mile is completely and entirely worth it.
In the past four years, I’ve run thousands of miles and completed dozens of races. I’ve run in the frigid cold with blowing snow in Indiana, under the blistering hot Texas sun, and I’ve been drenched with buckets of rain, and every type of weather in between. I’ve gone for runs with fevers, upset stomachs, and a broken toe. I run when I’m busy, when I’m bored, when I’m stressed, when I’m happy, when people I love die, and when I’m celebrating great accomplishments.
Why You Should Consider Running Every Day
One of the most common questions I get is “why do you run every day?” The shortest and easiest answer is for consistency. Before I started my run streak I would create a training plan and try to run on a regular basis, but life would always get in the way. I was too busy and I always had an excuse for not going for a run. Completing races was a nightmare because I had never trained properly and was always miserable. I enjoyed running, I enjoyed the effects of running, but I just couldn’t get myself into a regular habit and routine.
When I decided to start running every day I just wanted to see how long I could do it. Running every day for two weeks sounded impossible all by itself, but I could see the potential of developing a habit so strong that you did it every single day without fail. So I decided to give it a try, and now four years later I will tell you that deciding to run every day was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
If you want to be a more consistent runner, run every day.
If you want to work out more often, get healthier, get stronger, gain more energy, develop motivation, lower your depression and anxiety, manage your stress, increase your confidence and self-acceptance, or even get better sleep, you should consider running every day.
I started running every day in an attempt to be a more consistent runner. I wanted to run more races but I didn’t want to keep showing up undertrained and miserable. But I keep running every day because the benefits have literally affected every area of my life.
I’m a calmer, happier mom. I’m more disciplined and focused at work. And I’m a nicer wife. Developing such a strong habit in this one area of my life has helped me to develop habits and self-discipline in other areas.
I don’t run every day to lose weight. I’m not trying to change my pant size or the way I look in the mirror. I run every day because it actually improves my life and makes me a better person.
It could do the same thing for you too.
Better Health (of course)
Also, there’s a lot of research about how running can improve the longevity of your life, increase your cardiovascular health, lower your risk of a heart attack or stroke, decrease your chances of getting cancer, improve your brain function and cognition, and help you age well. But I bet you’ve heard those types of reasons before.
How to Begin Running Every Day
When I decided to start running every day I didn’t put all that much thought into it. I honestly didn’t think it would last more than a couple of weeks, so I wasn’t worried about what a life-changing decision it could be. It sounded like a neat idea I wanted to try, so I just started going outside and moving my feet every single day. It really is that simple.
But it’s also extremely hard to run every day. You are busy. You will get sick. And at least some part of your body will hurt at some point. You’ll always have an excuse or reason not to run. You’re going to be too tired, often. Here are my best tips for how to get going and keep going if you decide to start running every day yourself:
The mental aspect and commitment is truly the hardest part of running every day. The good news is that the longer your running streak gets, the easier it will become to overcome your mental junk.
I can be exhausted and busy and grumpy and sore all I want, but there is no way I’m going to let that stop me from getting outside to run at this point. If I could do it for the past 1461 days I can surely briskly move my feet for 10 minutes today.
Take things one day and one step at a time. If you’re starting off with the goal of running every day for 50 years you’ll stop before you start. That sounds awful even to me! Don’t worry about 50 years or even tomorrow. Your job is to go out and run today. Lace up those shoes and start moving, then just keep moving until you’re done. You don’t actually have to put all that much thought into it. Make your body move before your brain has time to complain. Before you know it you’ll be done and can go back to Netflixing on the couch.
2. Build Mileage Slowly
If you’re going to run every single day with no rest days you are going to need to be smart about it. If you aren’t regularly running several times a week already, you will need to take things really slowly.
The most popular guideline for people who run every day is to run at least one mile each day. There are some people with run streaks who have a higher minimum number of miles. It’s your streak so you get to make whatever rules you want. Just be careful not to set your goal too high and cause injury or burnout. In my opinion, one mile every day is a completely doable goal for most people.
I’ve had weeks where I only run one mile each day and I once ran three miles or more each day for a month. There’s quite a bit of variety in the amount I run each day with a range from 1 to 26.2 miles. Typically though, I prefer to run 3-4 miles two or three times a week, get a long run of 5-10 miles on the weekend, and then just one mile all the other days of the week.
When creating a plan for yourself be honest about what you are currently doing and take things slowly. If you’re literally just rolling off the couch and getting started then you should stick with just a mile a day for a few weeks. If you’ve been running on and off for a while, you might be able to throw in some longer runs during the week, but be sure to have several days at the minimum (one mile) while you’re body adjusts to your new habit.
3. Change Your Shoes Often
The two most important rules for injury prevention and recovery when it comes to running are to wear good shoes and stretch. I’ll get to the stretching part in a minute.
Running doesn’t require a lot of fancy equipment, but you absolutely, positively need a good pair of running shoes, preferably two, if you’re going to run every day. Running is a high impact activity that can put a lot of stress on your bones, joints, and muscles. Do yourself a favor and get some good support and cushion for all that impact by wearing decent shoes.
Your running shoes should be replaced every 300-500 miles. It’s a good idea to log your runs in some form just so you can keep an eye on the number of miles you’re putting on your shoes. But even if you don’t log your miles very well or lose track, it’s fairly easy to know when you need new shoes.
I typically can tell when my shoes need to be replaced before my “gear tracker” tells me because I pay close attention to my body. If I start getting pains in my feet, shins, or knees it is almost always a sign that my shoes have reached their maximum mileage. Ignoring these little pains will lead to plantar fasciitis, shin splints, runners knee, or any other injury that could end my streak. Don’t ignore pain. Address it immediately and order yourself some new shoes.
Shop Online to Find the Best Deals on Running Shoes
You don’t have to spend a lot of money on running shoes. I typically find my running shoes on deal sites like Joe’s New Balance or by watching the deals on Amazon. If you’re first starting out with running then you should go to a good running store to have them watch your gait and give you some recommendations on which shoes are best for you. But once you know what works for you it’s pretty easy and much cheaper to search for deals online.
4. Stretch and Foam Roll. And You Should Probably Warm Up Too.
Dynamic Stretches to Warm Up
When I first started my run streak I was really good at warming up before each run. I had an entire routine of dynamic stretches I would do to warm up each area of my body. This is the right thing to do and I’d encourage you to always make sure that you warm up before each run with some dynamic movements. Don’t be like me and start skipping this part, it really only takes a couple of minutes to do.
You’ll notice that I mentioned doing dynamic stretches for your warm up. Dynamic stretching means that you are moving your muscles through the full range of motion rather than holding a static stretch of your muscle for a period of time. Dynamic stretching will help to increase the blood flow and joint mobility before you start running so that you aren’t putting stress on “cold” muscles.
Static Stretches to Cool Down
After you’re done running you want to practice more traditional static stretching where you stretch a particular muscle until you feel a pull and then hold it for a period of time. Static stretching will help to elongate and loosen your muscles, cool you down, and increase the blood flow needed for your muscles to recover from your run.
When someone asks me what to do about a particular injury, it doesn’t really matter what the injury is, my answer is always, always, buy new shoes and stretch as much as you can. I promise you, other than my broken toe, stretching has been the number one thing that has fixed every single running injury I have had.
The key with stretching, particularly when it comes to stretching to prevent or heal injuries, is to stretch every muscle that is near the injury. If you have plantar fasciitis, don’t just stretch the bottom of your foot, stretch your toes, your ankles, your calves, your shins, and even your quads and hamstrings, it’s all connected, and tightness in one area causes injury in another. If you are struggling with shin splints, stretch your calves for sure, but also your feet and ankles, quads, hamstrings, and your glutes.
All of this stretching should be done on warm muscles. It is not advised to do static stretches on cold muscles, so warm yourself up with a few dynamic stretches, go for your run, and then spend as much time as you can with static stretches when you’re done. If you are dealing with an injury it can be good to stretch multiple times a day. Do some dynamic stretches to warm things up and then you can move into your static stretches.
Foam Roll to Work Out Kinks and Tension
Foam rolling is also incredibly helpful for sore and tight muscles. You can get a foam roller pretty cheap online or at a running store (I have this one). The main thing to remember when foam rolling is to take it slow. Rolling your muscles with the speed that you’d roll out some pie dough isn’t going to do you much good. You want to go slow and pause when you feel tightness or a knot. If you’ve ever had a good massage and noticed the massage therapist pressing and holding on a certain spot for a while that is what you are aiming for. There are tons of YouTube videos with foam rolling demonstrations to help you make sure you are foam rolling correctly for each particular area of your body.
I will mention that foam rolling hurts. There’s no way around it, especially if you are tight and sore, you will grimace and cringe. That probably means you’re doing it right. The more you foam roll the less it will hurt because you won’t have as much tightness to overcome.
5. Do More Than Just Run.
This is probably the thing that has taken me the longest to work out. It’s not that I don’t enjoy other forms of exercise, it’s just that running is my priority. But to prevent both injury and burnout it’s important to do more than just go for a run every day.
For one thing, you should stretch as I mentioned above. But you should also work to build your strength. Running builds muscle endurance but strength training will actually make your muscles stronger.
Avoid and Fix Muscular Imbalances.
Injuries often occur due to muscular imbalances. It is common for some runners to use their “front of the leg muscles” (quads and hip flexors) more than they use their “back of the leg muscles” (hamstrings and glutes). If your front is stronger than your rear it can throw off your gait and balance and lead to injury. New runners, fast runners, long-distance runners, and treadmill runners are all likely victims of having this particular type of imbalance (which means just about all runners). Incorporating some strength training can help to fix these types of imbalances and avoid injury. Strength also adds power and power means speed when it comes to running, so it’s a win-win.
Try to set aside some time a couple of days a week to focus on strength training. It doesn’t really matter when you do your strength training exercises, it just matters that you actually do them. Figure out what works best for your body, personality, and schedule. Some people like to strength train before they run, some prefer after, and others, like me, prefer to stick strength training at a completely different time of the day.
Increase your Speed and Enjoy All that Your Body Can Do.
Don’t just focus on your leg muscles either. You want a strong core and a strong upper body not only to be healthy but also to increase your speed as a runner.
You might also enjoy doing other cardiovascular types of exercises once in a while just to shake things up and enjoy all the activities your body is capable of. Go for a bike ride with your kids, take a fitness class with your friends, or swim some laps in the neighborhood pool.
6. Notice Pain. Stop. And Rest When Needed.
Just because you’ve decided to run at least a mile every day doesn’t mean you need to try to kill yourself to make it happen. It is so important to constantly pay attention to your body. Know the difference between injury pain and muscle soreness.
Stop. Reset your gait. Restart.
If you experience a stabbing injury pain at any time, immediately stop. Don’t try to muscle through and hope that it will work itself out. The moment you feel pain, slow way down or stop. There have been many times that I’ve felt a surge of pain while out on a run and all I had to do was stop and restart. It could be that you’ve tensed up and need to slow down to release it or that your gait is off just a bit and you’re causing strain somewhere. Momentarily stopping and restarting may be all it takes to reset and relieve the pain.
Shake It Off or Stretch It Out.
If stopping and restarting doesn’t relieve the pain you can try to shake it out or stretch it out. If you can’t get the pain to go away entirely run slowly until you get to your minimum mileage for the day and call it good.
By immediately addressing pain as soon as it starts you can avoid most major injuries. Our bodies have a great way of giving us warning signals when something isn’t quite right. If we pay attention and do something when we get those signals we can often remain injury free.
Take Injuries Seriously.
If you do experience an injury, take it seriously. Depending on the injury, you may be able to get by with going for your minimum mileage for a week or two to give your body a chance to heal. Go slowly and carefully on your runs to avoid aggravating things further, stretch a lot immediately after, and use heat, ice, compression, and elevation as much as possible.
If you can’t seem to get things to heal on your own don’t be afraid to go to the doctor. My run streaking friends and I have had injuries that we couldn’t get to go away on our own. We worried that a doctor would tell us to stop our streak. But in many cases, the doctor was able to encourage us to continue our running streak while giving us the support and counsel we needed to heal from our injuries.
7. Figure Out a Routine That Works.
You’re busy. I’m busy. Everybody is busy. And yet, no one can use busy as an excuse to not work out. You are a grown person. You get to make grown person decisions about how you use your time and how you live your life. If you decide that working out is not important to you, then it’s fine if you don’t schedule any time in your schedule to workout.
Be a Grown Up. It’s Your Life. You Will Make Time for What’s Important To You.
However, if you want to work out. If you claim that it is important to you. If you desire to make your health and wellness a priority, then you get to make some hard grownup decisions about how to best utilize your time to do the things that matter to you. Nobody can make those decisions for you and nobody can work out for you. Time will also not magically fall into your lap. Everybody gets the same amount of time. It’s up to you to decide how you use your time.
If you’re going to run every day you will need to figure out how to fit your runs into your schedule. Maybe you’ll wake up earlier and get it done first thing. You could run on your lunch hour like I usually do. Perhaps you could run right after work or just after getting your kids to bed. There are 1,440 minutes in your day. It shouldn’t really be all that hard to find 10-15 of them to go for a jog around the block.
Try Different Times Until You Discover a Routine That Works.
There will be some trial and error in the beginning. You’ll get busy and forget and have to squeeze it in when you’d rather be in bed already. You might be out and about and realize you need to run without the proper clothes or shoes (one day won’t kill you). But eventually, you’ll settle into a routine that works for you and your family.
Everyone who spends any time with me knows that I run every day and they’ve learned to live with it. Sometimes that means my kids have to come run (or ride their bikes) with me, sometimes that means I need to step away from a conference or business trip to get my run in. I wake up early and run on family vacations. I’ll sneak off during a cookout to get my run in.
No one has told me they’re upset or offended yet, and even if they did, I’m not living their life, I’m living mine. I get to decide what I spend my time on and I’ve decided that running every day is one of the things I will spend my time on. If you’re worried about offending people I promise that you will inspire, encourage, and motivate far more people than you offend. And someone who takes offense when you prioritize your health and well-being is probably someone who is just jealous that they don’t have the courage to do that for themselves.
Best Reason to Run Every Day.
You should run every day because you are worth it.
Your health, your joy, your peace, your self-love, your strength, your self-discipline, your courage, your determination, your focus, your passion, your drive, your energy, your relationships all depend on how well you take care of yourself. You get one life, one mind, and one body. What are you doing today to take care of them well?
If you don’t want to run then don’t run. But find some way to move your body every single day to experience the abundance and good life that can only come when you prioritize your own health and wellness. If you’re not living your best life, that’s on you. Make the choice today to stop making excuses and get out there and do something to help you bring your best self to life. You deserve it and the world needs it.