So as January looms on the horizon after a period of celebration and indulgence, for many of us it’s a natural time to reset.
We may wish to review habits, set goals, change behaviours and start the New Year on the right foot. January challenges can be a great way to get into exercising more regularly, and a ‘run streak’ (and no, I don’t mean THAT kind of streak…) have become more and more popular in recent years. You may be feeling tempted to sign up to a challenge and commit to run daily for a month or longer.
But are they a good idea?
My general answer? No.
We are all individual of course, Ron Hill famously ran at least one mile per day for 52 years between 1964 and 2017!!!! Totally incredible.
Goals are a great way to motivate us and keep us accountable. Having the support of others doing a challenge, having invested some money and the reward of a medal can really help keep us on track when the initial enthusiasm wears off.
However, the majority of running (or exercise related) injuries I see are caused by too much, too quickly and not enough attention paid to recovery.
Stimulus + recovery = adaptation.
Recovery, as we say, is where the magic happens and if you don’t allow your body sufficient time to rest between workouts, you can soon find yourself plagued by injuries such as Achilles tendinopathy, plantar fasciopathy, shin splints or even a stress fracture. All of which can potentially take a long time to recover from.
If you already train consistently and your daily run is below your threshold then you may get away with it, but maybe not. Cumulative load without rest can cause problems. There are other factors of course that predispose or contribute to injury
but sharp rises in training volume is a big one. If you are a novice or new runner, you probably won’t as your tissues just won’t cope. They need time, just like you heart and lungs to get stronger and more efficient. Running is a high load sport with x5-8 your body weight in force EVERY time you impact the ground with each foot. Your body is amazing, it will adapt to deal with that, but it takes time, consistency and patience.
By mid-January my diary is usually full of folk who, with the best of intentions, increased too quickly full of New Year enthusiasm. This can not only cause physical pain, but also low mood, frustration and even put people off running for life as they feel like they have failed, or that they just “can’t run”, when in reality, if you build up slowly, with the right support, and listen to your body, most people can find a level of running that works for them.
Exercise should be sustainable in the long term. And is 1 month of running worth possibly several months after injured and doing little, dealing with the frustration and heartache that comes with it?
All runners get injured at times, we don’t always get it right. You mustn’t beat yourself up when you overdo things a bit as it is so easy to do. But planning your training schedule can help minimise your chances of injury. We have some great local clubs full of running oracles who can help you build up consistency safely.
So ABSOLUTELY sign up to a goal if it helps to keep you on track. But perhaps do one that is one that encourages a variety of movements through the month (a mix of running, strength, mobility for example), or a distance total/time that is realistic etc.
Reach out to local therapists and clubs who can signpost you to resources that can help to hopefully keep you off my couch!
For more information about my Physiotherapy, Sports Massage and Yoga, visit www.acphysio.co.uk