This is the time of year for streaking. No, not the crazy naked college kind you might be imagining, but the active workout type of streak. The one where groups of people commit to running or working out every day between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. From what I can tell, the streaks often happen either to attempt to maintain sanity during the busy holiday season, or to attempt to ward off the holiday pounds that tend to result from endless celebrations and indulgences.
Several years ago, I joined a Runner’s World holiday run streak. The guidelines stated that you had to run at least a mile a day, every day, between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. I completed the streak successfully. And yet, I have no desire to complete another one. Usually I’m a sucker for any type of group running activity. So why not streaking?
In my mind, streaking is most beneficial if you have an issue with accountability. If you don’t work out, committing to a run streak is a great motivator to start. If you have trouble with consistency, choose to do a run streak gives you a reason to get out every day. Now there are many things in life that I struggle with, such as putting away my laundry in a timely fashion, but sticking to a running schedule is not one of them. I draw up schedules 6-9 months in advance, print them out in an Excel spreadsheet, and then diligently check off my runs as I complete them. I occasionally cut a run short, or move it to a different day, but it’s rare for me to miss one completely. So for me, the accountability aspect of a run streak isn’t really needed.
The other reason I don’t like streaks is that I think it actually hurts my running. See, when I follow my training plan, I tend to run 5 days a week, and do 2 days a week of strength training. One of those days is an easy run combined with strength work, which gives me one day a week completely off, and another day a week where my legs get a break from running. I believe that being diligent about days off is one of the things that has allowed me to run at a fairly high training load for so long with very few injuries. When you are training 30-50 miles a week for 11 months out of the year, recovery days are just as important as active training days. Participating in a streak messes with that, and tends to lead me to overtraining.
Of course, I’m not saying that run streaks are bad in general. As I stated above, they can be a great way to build up your training base, or learn to become more consistent with your training. For me, however, I plan to head into this holiday season the same way I usually do – with my trusty Excel sheet in hand.