What I Learned by Running 31 Miles

One month ago I started streaking. I ran at least one mile per day, everyday. On some days I ran more. I particularly enjoyed running a 5k on Wednesdays. But I made some surprising discoveries about myself.

I’ve been running for a long time. During my late 20’s I ran five marathons, several half marathons, a lot of miscellaneous distance races. This, combined with being an airborne paratrooper, took a toll on my knees. I started slowing down, and then a few years ago I quit running all together.

My bread and butter exercise these days consist of powerlifting routines where I get a kick out of squatting and deadlifting ridiculous amounts of weight. But I still have to be able to run two miles in order to pass the Army Physical Fitness Test. If I run more than a couple of miles my knees hurt for several days following the run. The same thing happens if I run sprints over a much shorter distance. I needed a way to maintain cardiovascular health without stressing my knees.

My knees are healthier than I thought.

At 35 I’m old by airborne paratrooper standards. A few bad PLFs (Parachute Landing Falls) as a young troopy and your knees are in for a lifetime of hurt.

Since starting a running streak, my knees feel better than they have in a long time.

My overall health is better than I thought.

Since starting the streak my resting heart rate has gone from 63 to 51, I sleep like a boss every night, I drink less caffeine and take less painkillers, and I my stress at work is way down. I’m just much more resilient.

My 2-mile run time is still relevant.

The Army standard for 17 to 21 year old measles is two mile in 15:56 (7:58/mile). At 35 I can still meet, and even beat, the standard for younger Soldiers.

I never really wore out my old shoes.

I bough a new pair of shoes like I do every year. Usually around month 9 I’m pushing they’re usefulness and the health of my joints, but the pair I bought last year never really wore out because they were never really worn.

I was getting plenty of exercise. Most of it was powerlifting in bare feet in my home gym. I was doing very little cardio. My strength went way up, but so did my blood pressure and BMI. I was getting too much of one thing and not enough of the other.

You really don’t need long, slow cardio.

Sure, it helps build cardiovascular endurance, but it is also very hard on your joints, particularly your knees. There are plenty of other ways to train your cardiovascular endurance. Put a priority on circuit training and you won’t need to beat your knees up anymore.