When the country went into lockdown in 2020, a great many people soon found their lifestyles becoming increasingly sedentary. Philadelphia-based YouTuber and medical student Zach Highley was among them. “Two months into quarantine, my fitness was at an all-time low,” he says. “I wasn’t exercising, I wasn’t going to the gym, I wasn’t doing anything to get me out of the house and get me moving.”
In order to break out of his slump, Zach decided to start doing a morning run every other day, and set himself the challenge of sticking to it for a whole month.
“Day 1 was a struggle,” he recalls. “I didn’t know how fast to run, where to run, or how to run. I looked like a weird penguin… Those first days were really rough. My chest hurt, my legs hurt, my entire body hurt. And oh yeah, every single person that was running was passing me.”
Using the in-ear coaching service on the Nike Run app to keep himself motivated, Zach forced himself to keep getting up for those morning runs, regardless of weather conditions or how he was feeling. “I think one of the best things you can do when you’re trying something new is to just keep to it, and do it consistently,” he says. “I don’t know when it happened, but slowly the days, the miles, were passing me by. Slowly I was running farther, faster, and better. I ran three miles, then four miles, then five miles.”
“Not only was I running better, but I was feeling better, and I started to get excited for these morning runs,” he continues. “There was this amazing moment when I got the runner’s high, I finally got it, I didn’t know what it was but I got it… It was like happy butterflies, almost, and it just spread from my stomach to the rest of my body.”
As his running performance improved, he began to find that not only did he feel better physically, but that his new morning routine was having a positive impact on other aspects of his life too.
“The great thing, this new healthy habit would just bleed into everything else I would do,” he says. “I would go to sleep easier; I was less stressed; I began focusing on the important things, like my family… But it also pushed out the things that I realized weren’t that important to me, like watching TV and playing video games.”
Now that the month-long challenge is over, Zach plans to make running a regular part of his lifestyle and personal fitness routine. “I went from running two miles and feeling like shit to running six miles and feeling great,” he says. “If that doesn’t show you the power that your body has, the changes you can make in a 30-day timespan, I don’t know what does.”
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