How to Run Every Single Day For One Year

Note: I got this question from one of my readers not too long ago, and thought I’d post the response as a Q+A for you here.

There was a time in my life when I ran six days a week, and almost every single run pushed me right to my limit. I ran myself so hard for so long that I developed debilitating injuries that ultimately took years of rehabilitation before I could even run again. Yes, I was dumb, and needless to say, I’m a little wiser for the wear. If I was going to start running that much again, my approach would be completely different from what it used to be – light-years different actually. So, if you are at all interested in high-frequency or high-volume running, then here is a laundry list of tips for you – tips I gave to a man who has a goal of running every single day for a year.

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lorensztajer/QUESTION:

My challenge for myself this year is to run 365 days this year. I’m a runner. I love running. I am not perfect and I’m still overweight, even after all the running that I do. Do you have any tips for an [relatively] extreme challenge like this? – Joshua

ANSWER:

Hi Joshua,

There’s so much I could say. So, I’ll just point you to a handful of resources to help you get started…

1) First, definitely read Joe Henderson’s short book Long Slow Distance, which is available for free online. I wrote an article highlighting some of its lessons on my site and you’ll see a link to the book in this article: The Little-Known Philosophy of Gentle Running

2) Second, I would HIGHLY recommend beginning a daily pre and post run practice involving some joint mobility and yoga compensatory routines that are specific to running. This is especially important since you’re a little overweight. Your body has more stress on the joints and soft tissues and you’ll want to go above and beyond on this prehabilitative work. For perspective, if you were my personal training client, this would be required. It’s that important.

The DVD called RMAX Powered Running by Joseph Wilson is a perfect program for this and will cover almost all of your bases. There’s some more info about the program in this article:

How to Run Better for the Perfect Run: 5 Things That I Do Differently Now That I Know Better

If you want to go deeper into this to help you maximize your performance and minimize the risk of injuries, then I’d look into the Intu-Flow, Ageless Mobility, and Prasara Yoga resources that are available from Scott Sonnon. Again, this is highly recommended! Mobility, yoga, and prehabilitative work is a hard sell, and most people don’t give it the time of day. But unless you’re a genetic freak, I seriously doubt you could accomplish your goal without taking this stuff seriously. I know I couldn’t, nor could many of the runners who are injured every year. There’s a nice introductory package available at an incredibly discounted rate here:

Mobility Quick-Start Package
http://physicalliving.com/heal-your-aches-and-pains-and-prevent-injuries-with-this-joint-mobility-super-package-3-days-only/

3) Third, from personal experience, I can only run daily if my technique is spot-on every single run. If I can’t do that, then little aches and pains emerge, and if I press on, they develop into debilitating injuries. The only way that I’ve been able to run with optimal technique consistently for long periods of time is when I run barefoot. That is, completely barefoot. I can’t even make it work in minimalist shoes (that’s just me). So, if you haven’t already looked into it, I would definitely recommend looking into making a slow and incremental transition to barefoot running (a one year goal might not be a bad idea – starting with very short distance walks barefoot). My story of how I transitioned is on Damien Tougas Minimalist Footwear site here: How Going Barefoot Made Me Stronger

Start here for some basic info on going barefoot (there’s a lot more on the internet if you search for it):

The Definitive Guide to Going Barefoot

Interview with Barefoot Ken Bob (his new book is also highly recommended)

Learn the Skill of Barefoot Running

There’s a ton more info about barefoot running on my site if you search the archives, too.

4) Lastly, take a look at this article, which will shed some light on some of the tips (and philosophy) of sustainable running:

Persistence Hunting and Endurance Running: 5 Tips to Run Effortlessly

All five of those tips will be of utmost importance to you if you really want to have a chance at achieving this goal, but don’t overlook the last one: “rest when needed.” Having a goal of running every single day for a year is certainly noteworthy, but it’s also an arbitrary standard that isn’t based on your day-to-day needs. You can’t predict how you’ll be feeling every day this year, or what life may throw at you. In fact, it’s quite likely that you’ll encounter a day when it would be best NOT to run at all.

And so, I would caution you against getting your hopes up of running every single day this year, for fear of allowing yourself to become obsessive over something that could do more harm than good. I presume one of the reasons you’re taking on such a challenge is to improve something about yourself by accomplishing such a large feat. That’s all well and good, but realistically, you should let your body be your guide. Personal growth will come if you use your intuition and do what’s best instead of adhering to a program that cannot possibly be perfectly suited for your day-to-day needs.

Good luck, and let me know if you have any questions.

Best regards,

John

PS – one last tip: start small, like “I can’t believe I’m even doing this – it’s so easy – small.”

PPS – and do your runs first thing in the morning to make sure you actually get them in every day :-)

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CST Coach, CST-KS
Health-First Fitness Coach

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P.P.S. Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lorensztajer/

9 Responses

  1. 2 things:

    1) I bought the ageless mobility package at John’s recommendation. Doing Intuflo (nearly every day) and Ageless Mobility (once per week) literally completely changed how my body feels in a little over a month. It’s amazing. Nice side effect is I’m flexible by any standard now, and I’ve never been flexible or thought of myself as flexible before. This happened in a little over a month. It’s literally changing my life. I’m only 27 but my joints felt more like 50, and now they’re gradually feeling much younger again.

    2) I started a slow controlled regimen of fully barefoot running last summer and was doing really well for about 2 months, then got cocky and stupid (a recurring theme for me), did 2 days in a row at a longer distance and faster pace than I’d been working at, and hurt myself. I believe it was a stress fracture on the top of the foot. 2 most important pieces of advice above (IMHO): 1) Make it a 1 year plan to go barefoot, and start at 0, ie walking down the street and back. 2) LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. When I do, I’m good. When I don’t, I hurt myself…

  2. John, I read in one of your articles that you suffered from patella tendinitis in the past.

    In your experience, what would be the best protocol to heal chronic patella tendinitis?

    I’d love to start running again but anything I do without healing that is on a shaky foundation.

  3. I posted my question over 30 days ago and still no reply.

    • Sorry about that, Greg. I get a lot of questions every day, and sometimes one will slip through the cracks every now and then.

      I cannot tell you how to heal chronic patella tendinitis. You’ll have to speak with your doctor about that, and I know that talking to doctor’s can be like talking to a brick wall sometimes. Or, they just want to prescribe pain meds, etc. In that case, my advice is to keep looking for a doctor who actually cares about helping you cure yourself – not just treating the symptoms. They’re out there!

      What I CAN tell you is what I did to heal MY case of tendinitis. It may or may not help you at all – and depending on your condition, some of my suggestions could actually make things worse. So, I suggest taking these ideas to your medical team. Also, I cannot point to anything specific that I did that have a definite impact on the patella tendinitis itself, but I did cure the condition in a roundabout way. Here’s what I did…

      First, I started a daily joint mobility training session, and I did it thoroughly – every single day – often for 20-30 minutes at a time. And this wasn’t just going through the motions to complete the program, either. It was intuitive, and I was constantly working on my own mobility issues to address the tension, limited ROM, muscle adhesions, etc. Secondly, I followed a regimented strength and conditioning program to relearn how to move through very basic exercises: squats, deadlifts, lunges, etc. I also got into Circular Strength Training, which gave me a much more holistic system to work with and learn from. Third, I started running again, but extremely gradually and slowly at first – and totally differently from before. I actually spent a whole year relearning how to run (after relearning how to walk). Oh, and I did it barefoot – completely barefoot – because that’s the only way I’m able to run pain and injury-free for the long-term. I also began a regular yoga practice – usually doing it a few times per week, sometimes for a couple hours. The yoga has been HUGE for helping me keep old injuries at bay.

      That was the primary means of dealing with the injuries, but there were other indirect reasons why my tendinitis probably healed. My diet improved substantially, and thus, the overall inflammation in my body decreased. My life became much less stressful. I stopped training in extreme ways. I no longer had a manual labor job (landscaping and construction). There may have been other things, too, that just aren’t coming to mind. Basically, I did everything in my power to succeed, and stopped at nothing – and if you’ve had chronic issues, then you’ll have to do the same – and it probably won’t be easy (it wasn’t easy for me).

      Apart from that, I’d suggest going through all the links provided in the Q+A above and see if you can glean any more ideas, and go deeper into the areas I’ve shared about. It’s ALL important.

      Good luck!

  4. John,

    Thank you so much for the detailed reply. I wouldn’t have been so persistent, but I had the feeling you had some insight for me. I’m doing several of the things you suggested, but can certainly do some of them at a higher level. One thing I’m testing is eccentric squats as a way to rehab the patella “tendinosis”. I’ll read through the Q&A links thoroughly.

    At some point I think I’ll follow your example and begin barefoot running – informed by CST and POSE. There is nothing like being able to run freely and it would be a dream to be able to do it again.

    Thank you!

    • And why not start the transition to going barefoot right away – even if it’s just in your home? That’s how I started, and I think it’s wise to err on the cautious side when transitioning because there are many things that can go wrong. See the link above “How Going Barefoot Made Me Stronger” for more details about how I began the transition.

  5. John,

    Good advice.

    I started walking barefoot 2 summers ago after reading Born to Run. I’m not nearly as studly as you – no barefoot mountain climbing or running yet. I just started going barefoot on walks with my dog on a local dirt and gravel road. 1 minute the first day and over the summer built to 30-40 minutes.

    Ironically, the most damaging surface for my feet is the cement sidewalk. I think it may be because it doesn’t hurt my soles, so I am less mindful and walk heel to toe or something. I avoid that for now.

    “How Going Barefoot Made Me Stronger” – great article.

    • And THAT is usually the problem when it comes to walking/running injuries: poor movement technique. It’s rarely the surfaace to blame, but a lack of mindfulness in your practice. So, I’d encourage you to try the concrete, but be mindful of how you’re walking – a lesson that was reinforced for me at a MovNat training retreat.

      PS – very smart to start the barefoot transition with walking. Next time you go out, try a short trot – slow, easy, relaxed pace – and just go for a couple hundred meters the first time, and see how your feet hold up.

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