There’s no denying that running is in the midst of a boom not seen since the ‘70s. It’s not just that more people are running than ever before, it’s that individual runners are running more frequently: 26.2 million people ran more than 50 times in 2020, a 4.5 percent increase compared to 2019, according to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association’s 2021 Topline Report.
Those who really want to commit to running more often are turning to run streaks or consecutive days of running that can last a month, a year, even decades (the longest active run streak right now has lasted 52 years and counting—let that inspire you). It can be a commitment—or it can be a fun challenge to keep you moving, like Runner's World's#RWRunStreak, which ~runs~ for 39 days from Thanksgiving Day to New Year’s Day.
Thinking about joining Runner’s World on the road this holiday season? These coach-approved tips and tricks will set you up for success—and keep you running strong all the way into 2023.
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1. Run (or walk!) a mile a day
A run streak, according to the United States Running Streak Association (USRSA) and Streak Runners International (SRI), is defined as running “at least one mile within each calendar day.” It doesn’t matter if it’s on the road, a treadmill, or a trail. So unless you want to be formally recognized for your run streak, you get to dictate the terms—and Runner’s World is totally OK with a walk/run streak (we even give you a plan for it)!
A brisk walk and an easy run aren’t that different biomechanically anyway. And if you get out the door for a walk, “maybe you quicken the steps slightly, maybe you start to lift the knees up, and all of a sudden you’re jogging,” says Runner's World+ Coach Jess Movold. Giving yourself permission to walk can make the idea of getting out there every day a little less intimidating.
No matter your speed, as long as you go a mile a day from November 25 to January 1, you’re an #RWRunStreak streaker.
2. Don’t go HAM on every run
If you go hard every single day, you’re going to set yourself up for overtraining issues and burnout. A run streak is about varying intensities; running slow (or even walking) helps balance the stress of a workout with active recovery. “Active recovery helps get blood flow back to the muscles so they can heal,” says Tracie Hunter, an RRCA-certified running coach in Zionsville, Indiana. “Those easy efforts also help your ligaments, bones, and joints recover from the stress you put them under in a workout”—a lot more than sitting on the couch might.
During active recovery workouts, you want to keep the intensity to 30 to 60 percent of your maximum heart rate, according to a 2019 review in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. And if you’re worried about feeling sore with back-to-back-to-back running days, keep this in mind: Active recovery was shown to decrease the effects of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) in a 2018 article published in Frontiers in Physiology.
3. Be smart about when you run
Daily runs don’t leave a lot of room for recovery. But since the majority of your runs should be easy (just like with any other training plan!), you can be strategic about your timing so you aren’t overloading your system. For starters, keep 48 hours between hard workouts, says Hunter. So if you’re pushing your speed on a run or going for more miles, make sure to spread those workouts throughout the week. Running easy the morning after a hard run, she adds, is actually ideal, because it’s that active recovery again.
Otherwise, keeping your timing consistent—i.e. running every day at noon or sticking with either morning or evening runs—gives you the most time to recover. “I always think it’s great to have a routine,” says Movold. “If you get out the door every day by 8 a.m., you have the rest of the day to eat well, hydrate, stretch, and get a good night’s sleep. Not only are you getting in your miles, but you’re getting the rest of your healthy checkpoints in before you get back out there.”
4. Set aside time for intentional recovery
When you’re running so often (even short distances), it’s easy to let supplemental work fall by the wayside. In fact, 46 percent of runners who logged an average of just over nine miles a week reported some kind of injury over the course of a year in a 2021 study conducted by the University of Gothenburg—that’s a pretty easy number to hit during a run streak.
To avoid that, not only should you be running easy most days of the week, but also packing in some real recovery methods. “I always recommend foam rolling after a run as a cooldown,” says Hunter. Research supports this practice: Foam rolling was shown to increase blood flow to the targeted muscles—a crucial part of the recovery process—immediately after rolling in a November 2021 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.
Hunter also recommends starting at a suuuper easy pace to give your body time to warm up (even if you’re only going a mile). Prioritizing sleep and reducing stress when you’re running will also help you stay on your A-game.
5. Keep the end date in mind
It’s easy to say “I’m going to run every day!” on a beautiful, blue-sky Thanksgiving morning. It gets a lot harder to stick with it as the days get shorter, winter weather starts to set in, and the craziness of the holidays takes over. Remember: A run streak doesn’t last forever, it lasts as long as you want it to last.
“I like the Runner’s World run streak because I know it’s only 38 days,” says Movold. “Try approaching the run streak the same way you would any other training plan: There are going to highs, there are going to be lows, but you’re going to commit to giving it your very best for as long as it lasts.”
Having an end date can also help keep you motivated—just get yourself to Day 38! If you’re loving it, you always have the option to extend it, too.
6. Post on social
A challenge like this is better with company. Think about how many times life can get in the way of a run. On those days, having a community, however big or small it may be, can remind you a) of why you’re doing this and b) that you’re not doing it alone. “Teamwork is huge; accountability is huge,” says Movold. “Sharing your hype can motivate someone else, and sharing in someone else’s journey can motivate you.”
A real-life run streak buddy can be a huge help in keeping you from flaking, but online friends hold you just as accountable. When your friends run more, you’re more likely to run more, a 2017 study published in Nature Communications found—when a running buddy logged 10 extra minutes, other runners clocked, on average, an extra three. FYI: The Runner’s World Run Streak Facebook group is 41,000-plus members strong. So that’s a great place to start making some virtual workout friends.
Also, did you really run streak if you didn't post about it? 😉
7. Keep it interesting
Your brain is as susceptible to burnout as your body when you’re doing the same thing day after day. To avoid that—which can actually mess you up on a physical level, according to a 2020 study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology—“you’ve got to find a way to enjoy it,” says Hunter.
Maybe that means switching up your route every day (or running it in reverse). Maybe that means running with new people. Or maybe that means alternating between the road, trails, and tread. The point is: Not all runs should look the same, and adding in variety is the surest way to make sure you don’t get sick of doing the same sport every day.
8. Stay safe out there
A run streak may call for running rain or shine, but that doesn’t mean sacrificing your safety to get your miles done. Staying safe during the shorter winter days might mean getting your runs in after the sun comes up or before it sets; running with a buddy if you have to go out in the dark; wearing winter run shoes for better traction on slippery surfaces; and taking your runs inside if the temperature (and especially the windchill) is too low.
“Safety is first and foremost, because that’s what will keep the streak alive. Allow yourself some grace if you’re outside, which might mean slowing things down,” says Movold. “And when the conditions are working against you, get creative. I jogged up and down a hallway for 15 minutes until my watch logged a mile once in 2019 and once in 2020—but I got it done.” Do what you gotta do.
9. Stop when you need to
Yes, a run streak is about consistency. But if you get to the point where you’re starting to resent running every day or if you fear that continuing to run every day is going to cause injury, you have to listen to your body. “I think that's where people get into trouble, when they’re like ‘I have to do this run streak day X,’” says Hunter. “If you’re not getting something positive out of it, then what’s the point?”
That’s not an excuse to bail if the weather sucks or if you had a bad day. But if you really, really don’t want to run for reasons that might continue to cause issues after the run streak—whether that’s injury, overtraining, or mental burnout—you’re gonna get so much more benefit (mental and physical) from just giving yourself a break, rather than pushing through.
10. Just have fun with it
The #RWRunStreak is all about challenging your run skills in a new way and keeping you consistent. But you don't have to take it super seriously—just have a good time. Dance your way to that mile if you need to; put on your favorite pump-up playlist and sing your heart out as you step; circle your couch while watching a holiday rom-com—anything works as long as you clock that mile. So just get up and enjoy what your body and mind can do, no matter how you get it done. And hey, maybe because you made fun a priority, you’ll want to continue streaking beyond that 38 days!