While landing back to Amsterdam after a winter in Indonesia, I knew that I had to invent something to keep myself busy and avoid the post-travel blues.
That idea took shape as a personal challenge: run every day for a month. No matter what.
Why? Why Not.
I’m certainly not new to running. Running is an activity that you either love or hate. I love it. Running ever day for a month is a nonsensical exciting challenge. Like driving a motorbike, climbing a mountain or eating meat.
It’s not even a recommended training technique.
For 2016 I set myself a running goal of 1,000km, because my problem has always been to stay consistent across the 12 months of the year. Normally I alternate months of regular training with months (usually when I’m traveling) with no training at all.
This year I did run while in SE Asia but the heat, humidity, uphills & downhills gave me a real tough time. So I fell behind my own goal of 1,000km in 2016. And I didn’t like that.
This book from Murakami inspired and fueled this personal challenge:
For a month, the most important thing for me has been this: running.
Run, Forrest, Run
Let’s start with some numbers and graphs (I’m an engineer after all), before moving into deep introspective considerations.
|#||Activity Name||Start||Time||Distance||Elevation Gain||Avg Pace|
|31||Albiate||Thu, Jun 2, 2016 9:35||38.20.00||8||14||04.47.00 m.|
|30||Albiate||Wed, Jun 1, 2016 8:12||40.14.00||8,01||12||05.01.00 m.|
|29||Albiate||Tue, May 31, 2016 8:09||40.49.00||8||12||05.06.00 m.|
|28||Triuggio||Mon, May 30, 2016 8:26||43.42.00||8,01||15||05.27.00 m.|
|27||Albiate||Sun, May 29, 2016 11:14||40.03.00||8,01||20||05.00.00 m.|
|26||Albiate||Sat, May 28, 2016 9:12||40.11.00||8,01||17||05.01.00 m.|
|25||Albiate||Fri, May 27, 2016 8:17||41.01.00||8,01||15||05.07.00 m.|
|24||Albiate||Thu, May 26, 2016 8:06||42.31.00||8||20||05.19.00 m.|
|23||Albiate||Wed, May 25, 2016 8:14||44.30.00||8||34||05.34.00 m.|
|22||Amsterdam IJburg||Tue, May 24, 2016 8:17||39.58.00||8,01||4||04.59.00 m.|
|21||Amsterdam IJburg||Mon, May 23, 2016 18:46||40.27.00||8||6||05.03.00 m.|
|20||Amsterdam IJburg||Sun, May 22, 2016 11:22||39.46.00||8||6||04.58.00 m.|
|19||Amsterdam IJburg||Sat, May 21, 2016 9:37||46.50.00||8,95||11||05.14.00 m.|
|18||Amsterdam IJburg||Fri, May 20, 2016 8:28||42.25.00||8||6||05.18.00 m.|
|17||Amsterdam IJburg||Thu, May 19, 2016 8:15||42.16.00||8,01||7||05.17.00 m.|
|16||Amsterdam IJburg||Wed, May 18, 2016 8:07||40.30.00||8||8||05.04.00 m.|
|15||Amsterdam IJburg||Tue, May 17, 2016 8:10||39.36.00||8||8||04.57.00 m.|
|14||Amsterdam IJburg||Mon, May 16, 2016 7:59||40.40.00||8||—||05.05.00 m.|
|13||Amsterdam IJburg||Sun, May 15, 2016 12:20||41.13.00||8||6||05.09.00 m.|
|12||Amsterdam IJburg||Sat, May 14, 2016 9:38||44.49.00||8,7||323||05.09.00 m.|
|11||Amsterdam IJburg||Fri, May 13, 2016 7:59||41.16.00||8||281||05.09.00 m.|
|10||Amsterdam IJburg||Thu, May 12, 2016 8:04||43.26.00||8,01||253||05.26.00 m.|
|9||Amsterdam IJburg||Wed, May 11, 2016 8:07||43.09.00||8,01||258||05.23.00 m.|
|8||Amsterdam IJburg||Tue, May 10, 2016 8:09||42.06.00||8||283||05.16.00 m.|
|7||Amsterdam IJburg||Mon, May 9, 2016 8:30||40.51.00||8,01||108||05.06.00 m.|
|6||Amsterdam IJburg||Sun, May 8, 2016 11:24||43.45.00||8||77||05.28.00 m.|
|5||Amsterdam IJburg||Sat, May 7, 2016 9:35||44.11.00||8,46||86||05.13.00 m.|
|4||Amsterdam IJburg||Fri, May 6, 2016 8:11||42.24.00||8||86||05.18.00 m.|
|3||Amsterdam IJburg||Thu, May 5, 2016 8:08||43.05.00||8,01||67||05.23.00 m.|
|2||Amsterdam IJburg||Wed, May 4, 2016 7:41||42.59.00||8||60||05.22.00 m.|
|1||Amsterdam IJburg||Tue, May 3, 2016 7:57||40.54.00||8||92||05.07.00 m.|
In green and red the best and worst performances.
10 Lessons Learned
Here I collect 10 lessons that I learned this month of running and sweating.
1. We are stronger that we think
I realized I’m stronger than I thought – and you are too.
But running went well and I didn’t have any problem doing 8km every day.
Tired: yes. Sore: yes. But never had any real pain. Never had a day I wasn’t feeling like running.
2. I like to run
I like running more than ever. It’s my therapy. It makes me feel energized and in a good mood. I’m not talking about some spiritual form of energy. Nor about the energy of the universe connecting us all.
I’m talking about the energy that keeps you alive and kicking, that makes you do stuff.
Running (or for that matters, any exercise in the morning) gives a life boost and keep the grumpiness away.
Anyway, I’m 36 and I know by now that I’m not agile, I’m not particularly fast, and I don’t do well in sports that require quick-thinking. So running fits with who I am.
3. It was ONE decision
I realized this after the challenge was over: it took me ONE decision. I decided to run every day for 31 days, and that was the only decision I had to take about this.
I didn’t have to decide every evening if I’d run the morning after. running became natural after two weeks. I didn’t have to think about a damn thing. Just get my gear and go.
In other words, it helped me reducing the decision fatigue.
Now that this challenge is over I’m back thinking ‘shall I run tomorrow morning? But it’s raining… but I have a call… but I stayed up till late….’
It felt liberating not to have to take a decision every time. The habit was formed.
4. You don’t need a lot of running clothes
I thought that I would need lots of running clothes to manage this, but I quickly realized that one t-shirt can last for few days if you take it to the shower with you right after the run. And the shorts can be washed every 3-4 days before they stink 🙂
It takes a minute to soak the clothes with some soap, rinse them and squeeze out the water.
5. Consistency vs Discipline
They are both great skills to practice from time to time. And both need motivation to get engaged.
But discipline is what builds consistency. Once again, all the people I admire have this skill.
6. A light breakfast is good
I assumed for years that I could not eat anything right before a run and I was wrong again.
Having a light breakfast (thanks for the suggestion, Jeff!) helps a lot with the energy level. Running first thing in the morning with an empty stomach isn’t the best idea: trust me – I did it for years!
Running every day makes you aware of small things: how temperature affects the body, how different shoes affects the bouncing, all the different muscles getting sore and why.
8. Something to be proud of
Accomplishing a personal goal is something to be proud of. Like Nike’s slogan: Just Do It.
9. Don’t keep your goals for yourself
When you set a goal tell it to everyone. It helps a lot because by telling it, you’re committing to it.
I told all my close friends that I was doing this challenge. But looking back, I should have announced it beforehand on Facebook & the social networks. I wanted to tell the world: it increases the commitment and psychologically the fear of failing act as an extra motivational kick.
10. Routines work for me
I prefer running always the same route. It’s not boring for me. I like that I get to know more and more details, and I get references that I use during the training.
Every time I run a new or unknown route I feel curious but the performance is not good. In other words, I like to see improvements and I see them while keeping the same course.
I kept a daily journal and below I report some notes from it…
3rd May 2016
I’m back in A’dam and the weather is beautiful, but still a bit chilly in the morning. I went out with shorts and t-shirt and my body experienced something he almost forgot about: the feeling of cold.
Of course, I’m exaggerating, because that high-speed train from KL to Ipoh in Malaysia was as cold as a fridge.
Anyway, feeling cold while running has been definitely a missed sensation for the past three months.
I feel happy and excited, and I end up the run with a good pace – at least 20 seconds faster than the same distance in the SE Asian heat!
5th May 2016
3rd day in a row running in the morning, the weather is fantastic but my performance is going down.
Is it because of motivation? Am I avoiding pain? Or just part of the process?
I did my normal course, happy to notice how beautiful it all is.
7th May 2016
On Saturdays I run with the ‘Dam Runners group. It was good to be back running with a bunch of nice folks.
My legs were already tired but they pushed me to run faster, so I shut up and tag along.
After 4K… my left nipple was bleeding! That’s all fault of that old Amsterdam Marathon running shirt that has a rough fabric. I’ll throw it away. For the rest of this run, I was shirtless that feels good in this temperature.
8th May 2016
Legs were quite stiff today but it’s part of the game. It’s Sunday and I took it easy, I went to the park by 11:30am of one of the hottest days you can have here. (27C).
I listened to an Tropical MBA episode about ‘the long view on location independence’. It triggered in me different reactions and I didn’t like most of the things I heard – I wonder if this influenced my run.
I ended up with a slow run: legs were heavy and could not push much.
9th May 2016
Maybe today is the day. Maybe from now on things will go better. I hit the park a bit later than I wanted (8:30am) but I was energized and the temperature was just perfect.
Another one of these days that are a bliss around here.
The result was the best pace I had so far.
10th May 2016
First run with the new Garmin Forerunner 230. This watch has more functions than I expected, it even notifies me about phone calls, SMS, whatsup, facebook and twitter messages!
The weather changed today, it was still perfect for running but not as sunny as the previous days.
I’m not tired of running. I still look forward to my morning runs and today I forgot home the earset, so no podcast. Instead, my thoughts roamed free while my body was running.
11th May 2016
It’s cloudy today but very warm. I mean, warmer than the previous sunny days.
Walking down the stairs I felt my legs. They are tired, the muscles tight and ready to complain at any movement out of the ordinary.
Not a good start, but the run turned out to be smooth and not too slow.
13th May 2016
I woke up early even if I came home late from the Salsa party at Westergas. And I woke up with thoughts about all the things I had to do today, but never the less excited to go out running in another sunny Amsterdam morning!
No problem with the muscles, but I feel my shoulders sore and that’s because of Salsa… a sign that I’m not dancing much anymore.
The run went very smooth, listening to a podcast but to be honest my mind was wandering around and I didn’t pay attention to half of it.
I don’t know where my mind was, but must have been a good place for running as I had a very good pace for the whole 8K!
My legs got definitely used to run daily, and I’ve no pain.
15th May 2016
It was already past noon when I found the strength to get out of bed.
I followed Jeff’s advice: he says that having a light breakfast before running gives more energy.
But I’m not used to get food before running, so I limited myself to a bunch of delicious and protein-loaded cashew nuts.
Out there in Vondel Park, the day was cold and the sun was shyly peeking through the clouds.
On my usual course, the bridge was open to let some boats pass by, an unusual obstacle that made me detour a little waiting for the road to be open again.
I ended up with a good pace and, most important, feeling pretty good even if a bit cold.
The motivation is still good, there’s no chance I’m going to miss a day.
The muscles are following accordingly. I’m not getting fast but again, as Jeff said, I’m working on volume now. Adding speed to this would be too stressful.
I found myself thinking that after this 30-days challenge, I can reduce the run frequency and introduce interval training to get faster… this is also a good sign, I’m thinking about continuing with a proper training!
16th May 2016
It’s public holiday today (Pentecoste) but for me is just a working day. My customers are all over and I can’t follow Dutch calendar, and anyway I haven’t plan anything.
So my morning run was at 8am like usual: my new usual.
Legs were a bit tired from yesterday but I didn’t have any pain. A podcast episode about how walking helps growing a business is a nice company and makes me feel better because I don’t walk: I run.
17th May 2016
Something must have changed. Not even last night beers with Gian and Luigi could interfere with my clear improvements.
Maybe are the cashew nuts I eat now before running?
Or maybe it’s just that after almost two weeks of running 8K a day, the body reacted and the muscles are getting stronger.
Whatever it is, I’m having fantastic runs and today for the first time in a long time I broke the 5 minutes/km pace.
18th May 2016
I’m surprised at how natural it became. I just wake up around 7 feeling good, by 8 I’m in the park. I don’t have pain in the legs.
In the last two days I felt the muscles on the external side of the thigh, close to the hips. They’re sore.
21th May 2016
Run with the group. My knees felt tired last two days but it wasn’t an issue.
We started slowly, chatting among us and then I could push more.
I run along Dave and noticed he’s breathing hard. Stephan instead is hitting hard the ground with the feet. It would be useful to learn more about running technique, cadence, vertical movement etc.
I think would have been useful to buy the HR monitor with the new watch after all.
23rd May 2016
Today weather has been the worst so far. A light rain was falling in the morning and I decided to wait, wait, wait and eventually I went out running after work, around 18:30.
I started slowly under this drizzling rain, but then I got to a comfortable pace and in the last 2K I pushed more. I clearly felt my thigh muscles burning a little, especially the left one that is still smaller after the knee operation.
It’s the first time I have this feeling since I started the challenge.
24th May 2016
I had a terrible night. That chicken korma killed me, or was the nan bread maybe?
Between 3 and 5 I was pretty much awake with a brick in my stomach. By 8am the night didn’t matter anymore. What mattered was the run.
It was cold so I put the jacket on. The course is always the same, but every time a little different. Today I saw my friend Kuba cycling in the park.
The last KM pace was 4:25, and I can’t stop thinking about Jeff’s yesterday half-marathon pace: 4:11!
25th May 2016
I was afraid of moving to Italy for two reasons: first is not flat here, and second it’s a change, and I’m afraid of changes that can put the dynamics of my challenge out of balance.
My first run here was good, but affected by the terrain that has so many downhill and uphill.
28th May 2016
It was fresher this morning. I started quite fast with sub-5 minutes kilometers.
It became progressively hard to keep running fast, today was the hardest run in the whole challenge.
29th May 2016
A rainy Sunday morning. Fresh run. My legs were tired already and for the first few hundred meters I felt my knees.
I had to slow down for the first KMs and then pushed. I ended with the best pace since I arrived in Italy, but was hard work and my legs hurt for the rest of the day!
31st May 2016
Valerio arrived yesterday from Bologna. The sky was gray and there was a bit of rain as soon as I started my usual run.
Legs were still not recovered but I could keep a decent pace – the first KMs were pretty good.
1st June 2016
Last night drinks, the police raid at the Bar Star downtown Meda, few hours of sleep, but by 8am I was happily running, for one of the last runs of this personal challenge.
No podcast this morning, just my thoughts and running. Sometimes I don’t feel like taking in business notions or occupying my mind with any information at all.
Like any other run here in Italy, it wasn’t easy.
2nd June 2016
31st consecutive day of running. I didn’t realize that the 30th day was yesterday, so I extended my personal challenge to 31 days.
The sky was gray but the temperature was perfect. I was very excited for the last run and eager of do the best time. I could give everything without thinking about tomorrow. I won’t run tomorrow.
And so I did. A good start, I was happy and strong. At KM 6 I passed in front of uncle Lodovico’s house and he was there, collecting roses from his garden. I stopped to say ‘hi’, then off for the final sprint. Happy and strong.
This is how I want to feel in a race: happy and strong. Not holding anything back.
The final sprint was fast, imperial, epic, fueled by a 182 BPM music mix made for runners.
4:47 is the best pace of 2016.
This is the end of my 31-days personal challenge.