'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 'run 5k a day for 30 days' idea came from. Revolutionary, right? 

Regardless, every day I taped up my knees, pulled on my best running shoes and set my Apple Watch Series 6 to 5km timer mode. Here's an account of what happened to me by day 30 of 5k-a-day - and if you want to try it for yourself, check out my top tips at the end of the article. Happy 5k running!

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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. 

Running may be one of the best exercises for weight loss, but that certainly wasn't my goal when I set out running 5k a day. However, 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 aging. 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. Time for me to start taking the best supplements for joints? Perhaps.

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. Outdoors I was running 5km in just over 21 minutes, whilst my best treadmill time was 18 minutes - 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 favor and invest in good running shoes (team Fit&Well have picked the best running shoes for men and the best running shoes for women because they're helpful like that).

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 the current climate), 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.

Top tips for running 5k every day

If you're looking to run 5k every day like me but you're unsure where to start or how to go about it, I've got you covered. I spoke Will Goodge, a running coach for Pure Sport, and asked him for his top 5k-every-day tips. Here's what he had to say...

Aim for distance over time

Your aim should be to hit the 5k mark, rather than hitting a certain time. 

‘You shouldn’t be afraid of walking as it still counts,’ says Goodge. In fact, a walk/run technique can be a good way to consistently maintain your 5k a-day challenge. 

You may find that some days you feel more tired than other days; this is a good time to implement the walk/run technique. On days when you’re fired up and raring to go, you might find that running the entire distance comes a lot more easily.

Make your runs an appointment

‘Add your runs into your calendar and make them non-negotiable,’ advises Goodge. ‘The world’s getting back to some normality and that last minute dinner invite might sway you from doing your run if it isn’t scheduled. If that means you do them every morning at 5am, then lock it in!’

Get enough sleep

We all know the importance of a good night’s rest. It’s when our body recovers and prepares itself for the next day. The National Sleep Foundation recommends between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night. One study also noted how sleep is critical for athletes to help their overall health. So, make the most of an early night!

Use music to power your run

Invest in a pair of workout earbuds and run to a playlist that keeps you motivated, or a podcast.

‘Sometimes that favourite song of yours can drag you through that last kilometre when you feel like giving up,’ says Goodge. Need inspiration? We've listed the 100 best songs to run to in our article best workout music.

Maximize recovery

‘Being tired or in pain reduces your enthusiasm to get out and after it,’ says Goodge. He recommends incorporating plenty of stretching to help muscles recover, and eating healthy foods to allow your body to replenish its lost supplies. Foam rolling can also help - check out our list of the best foam rollers if you don't already own one.

Goodge says you could also try using CBD. One scientific review presented preliminary evidence that CBD may benefit athletes (yes, that's you!) by providing a number of positive physiological, biochemical, and psychological effects, including reduced inflammation.

Go with a friend

Need extra accountability? Get a friend or two on board with your 5k-a-day plan and you’ll soon find your motivation is boosted. Research done by Princeton University scientists found that exercising in groups actually means better results - so phone a friend, get them to read this article, and you'll be well on your way to achieving your goal of running 5k every day.

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Lucy Gornall

Lucy is a freelance journalist specializing in health, fitness and lifestyle. She was previously the Health and Fitness Editor across various women's magazines, including Woman&Home, Woman and Woman’s Own as well as Editor of Feel Good You. She has also previously written for titles including Now, Look, Cosmopolitan, GQ, Red and The Sun. 

She lives and breathes all things fitness; working out every morning with a mix of running, weights, boxing and long walks. Lucy is a Level 3 personal trainer and teaches classes at various London studios. Plus, she's pre- and post-natal trained and helps new mums get back into fitness after the birth of their baby. Lucy claims that good sleep, plenty of food and a healthy gut (seriously, it's an obsession) are the key to maintaining energy and exercising efficiently. Saying this, she's partial to many classes of champagne and tequila on the rocks whilst out with her friends.