What I learned about discipline in 36 days of running

The finish line of Roanoke's Drumstick Dash and Day 1 of the streak.

The finish line of Roanoke’s Drumstick Dash and Day 1 of the streak.

Happy New Year!  Now that you’ve cleaned up from the holiday parties, you’re probably giving some thought to a New Year’s resolution or two.  I kind of jumped the gun on this one.

I decided that I was tired of trying to shed my standard Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year’s weight gain and did something to keep my waistline in check.  It was a holiday run streak.  I pledged to run every day (at least one mile) from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day.  You might think, “What’s the big deal Mike?  You’re always running, right?” It’s true, I do like to run, but I’ve never been a streaker.  In all my time as a runner, even when I was logging 30-40 mile weeks training for marathons, I never ran more than a couple days in a row.  The span between Thanksgiving to New Year’s was 36 days.  That’s a lot more than a couple of days.

Well, it’s now the first day of 2014 and I’m happy to report I did it.  I strung 36 running days together and logged 98.2 miles doing it.  It’s an accomplishment that I’m pretty proud of, and I feel better about myself for doing it, but on many days the process was pure and utter discipline.  The truth is, I had a goal that I was shooting for and in order to reach that goal, there were a couple days I had to gut things out.  Kind of what you might need to do when keeping the resolution you’re going to make.  Here’s what I discovered about keeping resolutions through the process:

  1. Go with the flow.  Let me explain this one. It’s far easier to move in a direction you’re already going (or at least interested in going in) than changing directions all together.  Many times resolutions are focused on stopping or starting a habit or behavior—really difficult to do.  Before I started my streak, I was already running and I really wanted to run more.  This was a huge advantage and almost guaranteed my success.  The funny thing is that while I was doing something I liked, running, I found myself more productive, better able to manage my stress and better able to tackle the things I didn’t like along with it.
  2. Just do it.  There’s always a great excuse to keep you from sticking with a commitment.  I’ve been dealing with lower back problems since June.  A week into the run streak, my back started getting sore.  It would have been so easy to decide I needed to stop.  Now I wasn’t crazy, I did cut the mileage back, but I kept running.  What I found was that my back was far less sore when I was running.  And when I finished a short run and stretched, it actually helped me feel better for the rest of the day.
  3. Go all in.  For me, running every day was so much easier than running 3 or 4 days a week.  If it’s too occasional, I just forget about it.  I think this is the real reason most of our resolutions fail—they just don’t become routine.  This year, I’d encourage you to pick a resolution you can do every day or at least be mindful of every day.  The more you engage in it the more successful you will be.
  4. Find some accountability.  If you’re reading this, you’ve probably found the link on Facebook or Twitter so you’ve already seen a couple of the 36 routes I shared over the last month.  It was probably a little annoying to some of you, but knowing I needed to put something out in public kept me going.  Notice, I was the one initiating the accountability. If it’s your goal, don’t expect others to ask the right question to make sure you’re on track.
  5. Make it fun. Another reason resolutions fail is because it’s all work and no play.  During my run streak, I was given a Pebble smartwatch as an early Christmas gift (the reason it came early is the subject of a blog for another day).  I love gadgets! This watch kept track of my distance, pace, and time and helped me share the results with all of you.  Trying it out gave me another fun reason to lace up my shoes and keep up my commitment.
  6. Have a real target.  My streak had a start and end date.  Seeing the finish line in the distance was a huge motivator.  Knowing when I could stop actually kept me going. My recommendation for you, don’t make your resolution for the year—make it for the month or if you need to, for the week.  When you’re successful, you’ll probably find the motivation you need for your next challenge.
  7. Involve others.  (I was going to stop @ 6, but Jen reminded me of this one.) Jen and I both decided to commit to running over the holiday season.  I think we only ran together once, but seeing her getting ready to head out the door reminded me of my commitment and I think I may have encouraged her a little bit too.  Find a friend or two to join you on your resolution—you’ll be far more successful and you might even deepen a relationship in the process.

If you’ve got any resolution tips or tricks, feel free to share them. Just hit the comment button below and thanks for helping us all to have more successful 2014!

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