Welcome to Coronarunning: Everyone is on a run streak because we may or may not be able to stomach another virtual race!
Okay — maybe not everyone is on a run streak. But a lot of people are, and that’s a little concerning as an RRCA run coach.
We had a discussion in our certified coaches group about how on one hand, we preach that rest days are “so important,” but on the other hand (and due to the pandemic), run streaks have become the new 5K (statistically, 5K is the most popular racing distance). So, what gives?
As both a distance runner and running coach, I have thought about this, and I really do think there are ways for every runner out there to complete a run streak. There are right and wrong ways to do it, though — and the following five tips will help you start and finish a run streak safely.
Honestly assess your current state of health level of fitness.
Your level of fitness will dictate the type of runstreak you should attempt. If you are at your peak level of running fitness and are clocking fifty mile weeks, your streak goals and stipulations will be different from a runner who is clocking ten mile weeks. You should also discuss any potential health concerns with your doctor. Remember that running can cause injuries, so before you jump into pounding the pavement every day, make sure you understand the risks! Do not subscribe to a standard runstreak plan; there are no standar runners. Discuss your goals with a certified running coach, and consider discussing them with a registered dietitian who can help you understand the fueling that goes into running daily.
Find your easy-run pace, and stick to that pace for most of your miles during your runstreak.
Easy miles are anything but junk miles. Not only do easy miles build aerobic endurance and fitness, but they can also help you prevent injuries. Running at a threshold pace each day is likely not good for your body, but running at an easy pace will definitely help you stay injury free.
So, how do you find your ideal “easy pace?” A good rule of thumb is to examine your pace from a recent race and add anywhere from 1.5-2.5 minutes onto it and stick to that. Another way is to use your fitness watch or tracker to assess your heart rate. The American Heart Association defines an aerobic heart rate as 50%-70% of your maximum heart rate. If you’re pushing yourself beyond 70%, you should slow it down.
Finally, if you don’t have a recent race result or a heart rate monitor to guide your easy run pace, use the “conversation” guideline: Run at a pace at which you can hold a conversation. You should be able to produce a sentence or two at a time while running. If you’re huffing and puffing for air, you’re running too fast!
Understand that runstreaking is a goal that is separate from goals related to pace and PRs; choose one or the other!
Attempting a run streak should register in your mind the same way attempting a race does: This is your focus; this is your goal. You can achieve all the goals, but you cannot achieve all the goals at once. If your current goal is to run your fastest 5K, save the runstreak for a different time. If your current goal is to complete a 180 day runstreak, don’t focus on your 5K time.
Setting a new PR typically involves at least 1-2 workouts per week. Workouts, in running, are typically define as speed/interval training, tempo miles, or threshold miles. Rest is essential during these types of training seasons, and a run streak does not allow for a day of total rest.
A run streak is a challenging goal, and if you’re up for attempting it, keep your focus solely on that.
Be flexible but resilient about your run streak goals.
Most of us have a standard idea of what our run streak should look like, and it’s usually at least one mile per day. This is not written in stone. In fact, running an entire mile is not written in stone, either.
This is your goal, and you can decide how to get there. Setting an unmanageable goal will make you hate the idea of a run streak, and you must remember that there’s a difference between a goal that is challenging vs. a goal that is simply unmanageable.
Here are some variations to help you complete a streak in a way that works for you:
- Set a daily mileage goal that you can actually attain even when your world goes berzerk. Consider .5 miles a day rather than the standard 1 mile per day.
- Break up your mileage if you’d like (it isn’t a contest against anyone but yourself; remember that). Run .5 miles in the morning and .5 miles in the evening if you’re set on running 1 mile per day.
- Use the run/walk/run method. No one said you need to run the entire mile (or half mile, or whatever) each day. Personally, I refuse to do that — I use the Galloway run/walk/run method and have been running six days per week injury and pain free.
- Consider a “mile a day” goal that isn’t solely running. Who says walking, cycling, or paddling doesn’t count? Okay, okay — the serious runners out there would say it’s no longer a “run streak.” Touche. Change the name if it makes you feel better (or don’t, because you do you and this doesn’t affect anyone else).
- Try a monthly/daily average goal. Perhaps you want to run enough so that the math works out to a mile a day. You can totally do that without running daily!
There are so many ways to get creative and be flexible but still achieve your goals! I run six days per week and kayak on the seventh. During those six days, I run at least 2 miles, and I do not run the whole time every time. Sometimes, I walk for one minute and run for one minute. Other times, I walk for one tenth of a mile and run for one tenth of a mile. It’s been fun, and it’s helped me build my fitness and feel accomplished.
Knowing my body as a runner and having education in the field has helped immensely. I know I will get hurt if I run seven days a week for several weeks, so I devised a plan that works perfect for me.
Set an end-date.
Setting an end-date doesn’t mean that you can’t keep going when said date gets here. It just helps you cross days and numbers off of a chart, and doing that can help you feel accomplished.
Popular end-dates are upcoming birthdays, holidays, and the start of a new training cycle. Whatever date you set, make sure you’re up for the challenge. Once you reach that date, decide if you want to extend it or if you’re ready for another challenge.
Are you going on a run streak? Let me know in the comments, and best of luck!
Courtney has been an RRCA certified running coach since 2016 and has coached athletes to a variety of PRs in a variety of distances. Are you interested in coaching? Please fill out the appointment form below and set up a free coaching call (be sure to include your timezone)!