End of / New Year update (2014/2015)

I’m not going to blather too much on here. Just dot down some bullet points to update you and remind my future self how things are going:

  • My running streak is still alive, it hit 3 years as of yesterday. My real celebration happened in October, when I passed day 1024:

  • Weight is once again well up. This is a problem I continue to have despite putting in 40-60 miles most weeks. It’s the result of a bad diet, a complete lack of discipline, and the high mileage.
  • I read “Racing Weight: How to Get Lean for Peak Performance“* over the Christmas break. It has given me a lot of ideas about how to lose weight while doing my lengthy commute runs.
  • One of the things it recommends is to track body fat rather than weight. So I got myself a set of Omron BF508 Body Composition and Body Fat Monitor Bathroom Scales* in the Amazon Boxing Day sales. I don’t know how they compare to “accurate” methods of measurement. It is a baseline from which to track my progress.
  • According to the book, I’m in the 5th percentile of “athletes” of my age. I’m not an athlete, but it gives me an idea of what other people doing a similar workload to me carry. It also tells me that maybe I should look after myself better.
  • Currently, I’ve marked the book as 3 stars on Goodreads. I shall revisit this in about 6 months and review it based on my results.
  • I once again intend to update this thing more, as a blog that reflects me and where I am right now. Expect more running, more tech stuff, as well as some reflection on the things I have consumed. Revisiting that stuff is both rewarding and useful. I should do it more.

* I’ve stuck some affiliate links in there. Delete them if you care.

Passive Mileage

In personal finance, they often talk about ‘passive income’ and making your money ‘work harder for you‘. The idea being that you set-up a side project which starts trickling in a bit of surplus cash each month without having to do any extra work. It’s not something I do – most of the traditional ways seem a bit leechy and middle-manny for my liking. But even so, it is something that has always stuck in the back of my head.

Before I started streak running, 20 miles in a week was a great week for me. When I started doing 2 miles a day, I realised that I was getting in 14 easy miles without even trying. It reminded me of this passive finance idea. Passive mileage, if you will.

Last year, about 15 months into my streak, I moved to a house which was 5 and a half miles from work. My workplace provides showers, and so I started running in to work 2 days a week. My passive mileage had doubled.

Since then, I have gradually grown it, to the point where it’s not unusual for me to do 4-5 11 mile days on the bounce. I never intended for this to happen. I guess I just enjoy the commute – it’s as fast as public transport, cheaper, and it lets me indulge in hours upon hours of podcasts. Without going out of my way, my mileage now always breaks 30+ in a week

This doesn’t come without cost: I find eating well to be a challenge. There have been some weeks where, despite running 40+ miles, I’ve still managed to put on considerable weight. It’s tiring – I’m not sure that come Friday, I’m that pleasant to be around (insert a joke here about Friday being no exception). And it limits what you can run at the weekend. Thanks to passive mileage, I no longer have a Long Slow Distance Run. It would be a foolish recipe for injury if I didn’t rest up at the weekend.

But these are all things I’m working on. I’m measuring calories, and the weight is coming down. And I’m not currently training for anything. Needless to say, when I do train for a race again (I have my eye on a couple), this routine will all shift up.

Is passive mileage for everyone? Goodness, no. But it works for me, I mean – it doesn’t make me run fast, it doesn’t make me run particularly far, but it does allow me to run a lot. All without having to adjust my normal routine. And that’s why I like it.

Overly introspective post about my running streak.

For the past few years, I’ve found running to be a decent way of shifting some weight (slight aside, since the age of twenty, I’ve been the classic yo-yo when it comes to weight – between 11.5 and 17 stone, depending on what the dice spell out in any given week). The only problem is that it can sometimes be hard to motivate yourself to go for a run. Excuses are very easy to come by: the weather, needing a sandwich, hangovers, the sniffles, Emmerdale’s on, Christmas, not really feeling like it today, bone-idleness, needing a poo… Basically it’s much easier to not run than it is to run. Which is one of those really obvious things that someone who could write probably wouldn’t be writing.

He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.  – Benjamin Franklin

Pretentious quote – check.

“Don’t Break The Chain”

I’ve been interested in Seinfeld’s don’t break the chain ‘productivity secret’ for a while now, it makes sense to me and is simple enough to follow. And I’m now, a year in, convinced it can and does work. At the beginning of the year I decided to see how many days I could go running without breaking the chain. The only rule of the running streak was that every day I had to go at least 1 mile. The only tool I needed was the brilliant joesgoals – it’s not the slickest or best looking app, but it does one thing and it does it well. And reasonably consistently (I do see the odd Coldfusion error screen now and again).

The running streak itself started reasonably inconspicuously, a couple of days, a week, two weeks  – no bother. But then I got to a month – and this was now a ‘thing’, it was at a stage now where people were asking if I was still ‘streaking’, and there was a pressure to keep going. And it got bigger, and bigger – 90 days, 6 months. I started only recording binary milestones – 64 days, 128 days, 256 days – because monthly was now too often to brag about, and I can’t help but be a geeky attention-seeker. The pressure to not cock up was overwhelming – some of the hangovers I ran through were ridiculous, but by now, that I was going to run – come rain, shine or coma – was a given.

It is said that it takes 21 or 66 days to form a habit, dependant on who you ask – but I guess it was a fair bit longer than that before it was a really natural thing for me to do each day. Now however, I find it as weird a feeling to have not run as I do to have not brushed my teeth. Not that my feet grow fur or anything.

The Perils Of Running Streaks

Is streak running for everyone? Probably not – running alone is reasonably high impact and  not taking a break does increase the risk of injury. The US Streak Running Association have a very good post that explains the risks and everything that goes with the hobby far better than I ever could. In every exercise regime, rest is required in order to allow muscles to recover – so in a typical week, I have one or two one-milers, which I consider rest runs – they take less than 10 minutes and exist to keep the discipline enforced and my running streak going.

You also have to be realistic and listen to your body – I’ve had to cut runs down due to suspicious aches in my shins. And I’ve also always had to be prepared to break the streak, it’s better to let an injury heal before you start a new streak than try to run through an injury and be out for a year. Luckily, that hasn’t come up yet – because while this sort of thing is very easy to type, when an injury does occur, I’m not sure my ego will find resetting that magic number so simple a task.

Yay! Go Running Streaks!

Some of the spoils of my running streak - my shoes

That warning aside, running has been one of the few constants in my life this year (yeah, this is where the introspective, self indulgent bullshit stuff begins – bet you’re glad you read on now, eh?). Despite changing jobs and cities – among many other things – running has kept going alongside all of that stuff, regardless. It has been something to turn my attention to, something to set goals against, something that has given me a continual sense of achievement, and something to force myself out of the house in order to clear my head. It has been great, both physically and otherwise.

Speaking of achievements, at the beginning of the year I set a target of 500 miles, figuring most of my runs would be in the 1-2 mile mark. But due to training for the Great North Run, my mileage was upped considerably and I ended up hitting 1124 miles on my 365th day. Not too shabby.

So yes, with all this in mind, I would say that starting a streak of any type gives you an incredible impetus to get a task done, and I would recommend it to anyone with a goal to achieve of any sort. Running is a great way of staying active and keeping your head in check, I’d recommend that too.

I was going to post about my goals for 2013 here, but that seems to have developed a life of its own and should hit this website in the next week. Cheers for reading this far – and if you haven’t had enough of my self-indulgent running bollocks, I post updates on dailymile and I sometimes natter on about it on twitter.

Edit / Addendum

Allan Whatmough asked on Twitter:

http://twitter.com/allanw/status/286835193174716416

Which raises a great oversight in this post – how do I not forget the odd run? Well I prioritise the run as the first thing I do everyday. I don’t eat, I have a glass of water if I’m dehydrated (always sure to hydrate if I was drinking the night before), and then I just run. I find it hard to run with food in my stomach anyway – I’m just conscious of it being there, so I guess this system works pretty naturally for me. Even long runs don’t justify food yet (15 miles is about the longest I’ve ever gone). I guess this is a similar solution to disciplining myself as saver’s use to make sure they ‘pay themselves first’ – which I’m sure works nicely.