'I ran 5k every day for a month and this is what happened'

From weight loss to mental clarity, our writer reaps the rewards (and overcomes toilet-related challenges) of daily 5k runs

Lucy Gornall ran 5k every day for a month - and this is what happened to her body
(Image credit: Lucy Gornall)

I have never classed myself as a runner - as a personal trainer, I prefer gym-based sessions. However, when I ran 5k every day for a month, I quickly realised why people choose running as their go-to exercise.

Aside from cross country and athletics at school, I only really ever used to run at the gym - opting for sprints, hill climbs and the odd quick 2km treadmill run. I also teach at a studio in central London which incorporates shorts runs. But, when the lockdown kicked in and gyms closed here in the UK, running soon became my escape. 

I ran until my knees creaked and my feet were sore. I didn’t stop. Then when the gyms reopened, alongside my usual regime of resistance training, CrossFit-esque workouts and boxing, I vowed to keep up the runs. So that’s where my '5k a day for 30 days' idea came from. Revolutionary, right? 

Regardless, every day I taped up my knees, laced up my running shoes and set my Apple Watch Series 6 to 5km timer mode. This is what happened to me by day 30 of 5k-a-day...

I lost weight

Yup, I did. A couple of kilos actually, without changing any part of my diet. In fact, if anything, it felt like I was eating more. But the scales said otherwise. 

Weight loss certainly wasn't my goal when I set out running 5k a day, but as I was burning an extra 300-400 calories a day from this run (according to my trusty fitness tracker) and still following my usual routine on top of this, some weight loss was inevitable.

I noticed my joints aching

Gah, the pitfalls of ageing. However, at just 29, I figured my joints were fairly resilient. Yet, when I bend my right knee, it now emits a weird cracking sound. It doesn’t actually hurt, but the noise it makes sounds like total agony. 

The impact of running on joints is one reasons why every runner should get a gait analysis and ensure they're wearing shoes with suitable support. More on that later...

I got quicker and fitter

You know the saying, ‘it doesn’t get easier, you just get better’? Well, that definitely rang true. Outside, I was running my 5km in just over 21 minutes, whilst on a treadmill I was smashing out 18 minute 5km runs - both PBs by some margin. So I was a pretty smug Sally after that.

My cravings decreased

I thought that running more - and therefore burning more calories - would increase my cravings for sugary, carby foods. Actually, it did the opposite. I didn't hanker after chocolate at 3pm and I wasn't raiding my snack cupboard after dinner for a suitable dessert. Nope, I was quite content just eating my meals and then having no more.

I realised the importance of good running kit

As a PT, I’ve seen my fair share of dodgy workout footwear (Converse on a treadmill was an interesting one...) but my word, shoes are important. 

Honestly, don’t even attempt to run in best cross training shoes - or any shoe that has a flat, hard sole, for that matter. Think about it; you’re pounding a solid floor continuously, and your joints are basically being smashed around. So, do yourself a favour and invest in good running shoes. 

I became a Podcast nerd

You soon realise that pounding dance music playing in your ears can start to become a little, well... repetitive. So I popped in my best workout earbuds and turned to podcasts. 

My particular running favorites included The James Smith Podcast by the PT-turned-bestselling author of Not A Life Coach, Couples Quarantine with super-fit husband and wife duo James Haskell and Chloe Madeley, and The Model Health Show, which sees health guru Shawn Stevenson interview world-renowned experts on fitness, nutrition, personal development and more.

I became more in tune than ever with my bowels

TMI alert! Things are about to get intimate, because I feel it's necessary to tell you of my incredibly close-call incidents in relation to my bowel movements when out running.

A few times, nowhere near my home or a public convenience, I found myself looking around desperately wondering where I could, err, relieve myself. Honestly, that's how bad it gets. You actually picture yourself squatting down behind a bush to do a number two. It's horrific and it hurts. 

FYI, I never got quite so desperate as to relieve myself in public - phew. But maybe that played a role in me getting faster!?

My mind was clearer

Some days I would head out on a run with a million thoughts running through my head. Whether it be a to-do list that was stressing me out, a recent negative news story (a fairly common scenario in 2020), or a boy-related drama, going for a run just sorted it all out. Which leads me onto...

Decisions were made

Along with shower time and bedtime, running has now become a time when I make key decisions. Should I message him back? What kind of reply does that work email warrant? Do I opt for black or duck egg blue curtains? What color should I paint my nails? All really important decisions, as you can tell - and all decided on my daily runs.

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