Thursday, 5 January 2017

Health | Things streaking has taught me

They say it takes 28 days for a habit to form. Having never reached any continuous goal for 28 days I had no idea whether to believe 'them' or not. When I started my run every day challenge on 1st December I had a clear goal in mind: run all the way up until double parkrun on New Years Day. If you read my previous blog on my run every day halfway update you'll know I was feeling strong although had had a few tricky runs at odd times of day. Well the days leading up to Christmas were pretty easy, a cracking run to 'runners arch' in Christmas jumpers and two opportunities to get our family along to parkrun on Christmas Eve and on Christmas Day celebrating the Speedster's 100th parkrun. 


Runners Arch with the Speedster in our Christmas Jumpers


Christmas Day parkrun at Brueton (SB for me and PB at Brueton)

And then Boxing Day hit and my enthusiasm just went. I don't know what happened. I just didn't feel it. Yes, I was nearly there and it should have been easy but somehow dragging myself out running was really tough. And this is where I think I learned two fundamental things about how my body operates when exercising;

1. My body needs sleep
On Boxing Day morning I helped my wonderful sister-in-law go buy suit jackets for her wedding in February from the Next Sale. My first ever experience of the Next Sale on Boxing Day and hopefully my last. After a relatively late night on Christmas Day (too much cheese needing to be eaten), we had to wake up at 4:50am to go shopping. Yup: 4:50am. It took a good 3-4 days for my body to recover from that missing sleep.

2. My body needs water
It sounds so stupid but I know I am constantly dehydrated. When I was much younger, and much sillier, I didn't drink water. I mean that literally: for about two years at university I just drank coca-cola and tea. For many years after university I struggled to tell when I was craving a coca-cola and when I was thirsty. Retraining myself to understand I'm thirsty is hard work. So when I finished work on 22nd December I somehow was removed from my source and suddenly noticed about two weeks later I wasn't drinking coca-cola. Nor though was I drinking as much tea as I normally do. I was basically surviving off a diet of coffee and wine. Not the best when you're throwing a busy running schedule in to that mix.

So I started getting early nights again and made a conscious effort to drink water. Then I got hit by every runner's eye roll: the head cold. As an outdoorsy type who never goes to the gym I don't really believe in colds until I get one then I'm convinced I'm dying. Principles above applied and lots of sleep and water later I realised I felt a lot better in the afternoons. So on 29 December I went out for a run with lots of exit options built in. If I feel ill by 5km I can simply catch the bus back. If I feel ill by 10km I can simply catch the tube back. I listened to my body, commandeered the Speedster and Support Team (my dad on his bike) and ran from my parents house up Hampstead Hill to Highgate and back. A hilly total of 18.5km.

Primrose Hill sunrise with Support Team AKA Dad

Relaxing in the bath later I realised what this run streak has given me more than anything is a real chance to learn how to listen to my body. Sometimes that means I run slowly. Sometimes I run in the afternoons. Sometimes you feel rotten but your body takes you to half marathon pushing distances. And throughout this streak I've found committing to running with someone else helps take my body further than before while keeping me smiling. 

Long run in Wandlebury, Cambridge with Co-ED of Cambridge parkrun Paul
So thank you body. Thank you streak. It's been amazing. I'm choosing to chill out and have dropped my streaking commitment for January so I can focus on other Ironman training (more on that next blog) but following Ron Hill's principles how hard is it to find time to run/jog/walk 1 mile. Who knows: I might streak forever.


Cambridge parkrun - New Year's Day (photo: John Wilderspin)