*This post was written by a Start Healthy contributor.
There are a lot of things in life that get easier the more you practice them: reading, riding a bike, learning an instrument. And there have been plenty of times in my own life that I’ve gone headfirst into something new—fully expecting it to be impossibly hard—but was pleasantly surprised at how much easier it got over time (cue flashback to the sweaty palms and nervous laughter that surrounded my driving lessons).
And as much as I have always wanted running to be one of those “it gets easier with every mile” situations, it has never really been that way for me. My relationship with running has always been complicated. I played almost every childhood sport you could imagine—I danced for 10 years, played softball for 12, dabbled in basketball and soccer, and even tried volleyball and field hockey for a year. The reason I stuck with softball and dance? Less physical contact and less running.
Flash forward to my post-college life, and I’m happy to say that I’ve taken a pretty good hold of my health. I am a regular at my gym, and I try to eat as healthy as I can. But there is still one hurdle in my fitness journey that I can’t cross off my list, and that’s running a 5K.
Last year I really committed to the Couch to 5K program—spending a few months before summer working my butt off until I was comfortable running over 3 miles at one time. I proudly divulged to friends and family that the girl who could barely run a 12-minute mile in high school was finally able to run 3 miles straight without a break, at about a 10-minute pace.
Did I keep up with my running? Absolutely not. I quickly fell back into other forms of cardio and barely touched the treadmill since. So, when I had the opportunity to challenge myself with another running endeavor, I happily (though nervously) agreed. This time I would run a mile every day in the month of February—like how I conveniently chose the shortest month of the year?
So, without further ado, here is my experience running 5,280 feet (almost) every day for the past month. (In reference to the almost: If you can’t be honest with yourself, who can you be honest with?)
Week 1 (Feb. 1–8):
How I felt about day 1? No. Just no. The first day of February was a long, cold Friday and I wanted nothing more than to head home and curl up in bed with something yummy and my laptop cued to The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Season 4: Part II. But when I got home, I threw on my most comfortable workout attire, laced up my sneakers, and headed to the gym. For unknown reasons, I decided to complete my entire routine BEFORE running the mile. I used the stair master for 15 minutes, worked upper body for 25 minutes, and then dragged my lifeless body onto the dreadmill to finish my workout strong (ha ha). The mile was slow, it was painful, but I got it done.
Day 2 was a Saturday (my favorite day of the week to work out because I can usually get to the gym before the rush of people). When I got to the gym there were a few early risers, but plenty of open treadmills. I was able to run a little more than a mile on this day (about 1.5) and at a 6.5 pace, so I was feeling pretty good about the rest of the month. Although, the rest of the weekend and into the week I was feeling slightly more sluggish and the miles were still hard to get through.
Week 2 (Feb. 9–16):
On to week 2 and I started off strong. On the 9th I managed to run a full 2.5 miles (mind you, with a few stops), which felt pretty good. I thought I might even be able to do it again the next day… this was the second to last time in this challenge that I ran more than a mile.
I knew going into this week that it was going to be extremely difficult to hold to my goal. I had planned a weekend away for a friend’s birthday—a couple hundred miles away in DC. Getting up early, and waking everyone else up in the process, to run around her development Saturday morning was simply not going to happen. And it didn’t. Alas, the running streak was broken. I was disappointed in myself, but promised to get back to it once I got home the next day—and I did.
Week 3 (Feb. 17–23):
Running a mile the day after a binge-eating/drinking excursion with your girlfriends is the equivalent of throwing your body down a really, really steep hill with no pads or helmet, and, at the bottom, there’s a giant pit of spikes. It hurt.
I decided to end my work out there, though, to feel more refreshed for Monday. The week went by pretty quickly, and the runs actually weren’t that unbearable. I kept the rest of my routine light, only working abs, arms, and legs one day each to be able to give the runs my all. I was really looking forward to the last week, and being able to stare at the treadmill from afar during my work outs instead of being all up in its big, dumb face.
Week 4 (Feb. 24–28):
When I tell you that my last Sunday run brought tears to my eyes, let me tell you. It was like I had just binge-watched the first season of This Is Us type stuff. I pushed through to run a little over a mile, and was ready to finish this challenge strong. Little did I know this week would be draining mentally, making anything physical feel like a death sentence.
The last week felt stressful in more ways than one. It was just one of those weeks (you know the feeling) where balancing work and all other priorities seems unfairly difficult. I tried to channel my negative energy into each run, but mostly just came out feeling extra tired. These were not the strongest runs of this challenge, but that’s OK.
After my run on the 28th, I took one last long, dirty look at the treadmill that had held me hostage for 28 days. Adios, you soul-crushing menace! I honestly wish I was one of those people who can look back on a challenging experience with one of those laugh-smiles you see ladies in Getty images make at their make-believe dates, but that will not be happening here.
Every time I finish a commitment to running, I come away from it feeling a little better physically, sure. But mentally? Let’s just say the treadmill and I won’t be meeting again any time soon.