How I was able to run almost every day in 2021

In the year 2021, I completed 342 runs for a total of 1,826 km, and 175 hrs. I had a daily run streak from Jan 22 to Dec 26, for a total of 339 days.

When I started my daily run streak on January 22nd, my goal was to keep the daily streak alive for as long as I can, but unfortunately, COVID had other plans when I tested positive on the evening of Dec 26th.

When I tested positive for COVID, it was a very scary moment knowing that I had potentially exposed a lot of close contacts, which could have led to even more exposures if any of them contracted the virus from me. My initial thoughts were initially directed towards handling the situation. But sometime afterwards, I had realized that I would be ending my run streak and became really disappointed.

During my run streak, I had run through many challenging situations. So I had no reason to believe that I would ever miss a run. Having gotten 3 of the COVID vaccine shots and avoiding infection for almost 2 years into the pandemic, it never crossed my mind that a COVID infection would be the reason for my run streak to end.

As I reflect back on my running journey, I wanted to share some advice on how I was able to run every day:

Keep it simple

As with learning anything new or developing a new habit, the key is to start off simple and easy. For me, it meant running 5 km a day which usually lasted less than 30 minutes (full disclosure: I used to run a lot in 2017 when I participated in both a half and full marathon the same year). As I progressed during my journey, I would sometimes go for longer runs once a week ranging from 10 km to 27 km because I had improved over time.

Make it a daily habit

Some people might run once a week or 2–3 times a week. I had a daily practice. I found it easier to start and keep it going that way. When you don’t have a daily practice, more effort is involved in thinking about it and trying to keep it up in the beginning. You start to make excuses (e.g. “The weather is miserable today,” “I’m busy today”, etc). When it’s every day, you don’t think about it. Similar to how you don’t think about if you should brush your teeth — you just do it. So when you’ve developed a daily habit of running, you don’t really think about if you should go or not.

Don’t skip a run, instead scale back

The beauty of maintaining a daily habit is that you feel really guilty about not doing it. If you’re really busy (of course life happens), then consider scaling back your run that day. I think this is a better strategy than taking a rest day. One rest day could lead to even more rest days in the future, and ultimately leading you to breaking your habit. For me, I never had a good excuse for missing a 30-min run so I found it really easy to keep up. But if that is a challenge for whatever reason, do a run for even 5 minutes. That helps in maintaining your habit for the long term.

Run in the mornings

I always run in the morning unless I was really busy on that particular day (in which case I run in the evening). It’s a great way to start your day. Most people can find time in the morning. In the Winters, when daylight is limited, it’s a great way to get some vitamin D. For those of you who work from home, it’s a great way to ensure you’re getting some fresh air each day. And for me, I haven’t had the need for any caffeine before I start my day. Running will give you a natural energy boost to wake you up. Lastly, it gives you a huge sense of accomplishment to start your day. You can accomplish nothing else in your day, but knowing that you’ve accomplished your daily run is a huge boost in feeling productive.

Learn resiliency

You’re more resilient than you think. When there’s terrible weather conditions like extreme cold, rain, or snow, you automatically think that it would be super challenging. To my surprise, it wasn’t that bad (and I live in Toronto Canada where the Winter weather can be quite harsh sometimes). It’s a great lesson I learned that applies to life in general — sometimes the deep end is not as bad as it seems once you dive in. Over the course of my journey, I can only count a handful of really difficult situations to run in, and I’ve only slipped once in snowy conditions.

Be adaptable

You will learn to adapt. The simple solution for running in poor weather is to have the proper running attire, none of which I had when I started my journey. Once I had the proper attire, I found it really easy to run in almost any weather conditions.

Build mental toughness

I was in New York City for a work trip where I slept very little, and did not feel well one morning. Thanks to having formed this daily habit, it was still easy to convince myself go out for a run in a city that I was unfamiliar with, and even though I did not feel that great. I had built mental toughness to run no matter what.

Learn more about running

I had watched YouTube videos about how to run in the winters. I saw a physiotherapist that specialized in running so I could improve my form. I talked to many others who were also interested in running. There are countless running clubs and communities out there. When you talk to others and learn more about your practice, your interest will grow even more. I highly recommend the book “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall to build a greater appreciation for running.

Final thoughts

I’m grateful for not developing any serious injuries during my journey that allowed me to keep going for so long. When I started running this year, I didn’t think I would be running this long and would have developed such a strong interest. I’ve lost weight and toned my core without any other exercises or diet changes. When I reach the flow state of running, it feels almost meditative and I can see my thoughts more clearly. Once my isolation period ends and I completely recover from COVID, I can’t wait to continue my goal of running every day.

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Albert Lam

Albert Lam

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