Applying the Compound Effect to Running

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I recently read ‘The Compound Effect’ by Darren Hardy. I was startled by the simple yet powerful nature of this seemingly mystical effect to achieve remarkable results. In this article, I’ll explain the compound effect and how you can apply it to supercharge your running.

Picture this scenario

Meet Jim and John. Two ordinary guys, who live ordinary lives. Both are in good physical shape, work in a relatively well-paid office job and have loving relationships with their wives.

Jim starts making small, seemingly insignificantly changes to his daily routine. He starts running 10 minutes a day, walks 4,000 steps to work whilst listening to an Italian language learning podcast. He reads 20 minutes of a non-fiction book before bed, spends 15 minutes at dinner about his wife’s day, and eats an extra piece of fruit and serving of vegetables per day. These changes weren’t massive and were easily added into Jim’s daily routine.

Like Jim, John starts making small and seemingly insignificant changes to his daily routine. He starts drinking three more beers a week, eats an extra fast food meal per week, begins taking the car to work instead of walking the 4,000 steps, starts using social media for 20 minutes a day and stops making effort with his wife.

After three months, there is no major change neither in John nor in Jim’s life. It’s the same story at six months. At nine months, however, there are now large measurable results. At twelve months, both are living a completely different life.

John is heavily overweight, has a drinking problem, his relationship with his wife has broken down, he has been given a warning at work for lagging behind his colleagues and he is now addicted to social media. John isn’t happy with his life.

Jim on the other hand is physically fit and can run for a couple of hours without stopping. Him and his wife have never been closer, he has been promoted at work due to learning many skills from reading books and listening to podcasts, and he is able to speak and understand decent Italian.

Both started out in the same conditions, but both ended up with completely different lives. What happened? At first, it didn’t seem like either Jim or John were venturing down different paths. It took nine months for results of their daily habits to show themselves.

All of a sudden, after nine to twelve months of consistent daily action, their lives started to change drastically. What is this phenomenon? This is the compound effect.


What is the compound effect?

“You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.”
 Darren Hardy, The Compound Effect

The compound effect describes the huge, remarkable results that can be accomplished by regular bouts of consistent work over a long period of time. Okay, sounds good. What exactly does this mean in practice?

Think about when you want to accomplish something big in life. Passing an exam, playing a new piece of music, learning a language, landing your dream job, running a profitable business.

Chances are that achieving such a goal took you loads of time. In the moment of the daily grind, you probably didn’t feel like you were getting anywhere, and your aspirations were hopeless.

Learning ten new words of a language every day for fifteen minutes seems like you’re making no progress at all. Adding two bars to your knowledge of a four-page piece of music feels like you’re going at a snail’s pace. Absorbing one challenging concept out of fifty to pass a law exam feels insignificant in the bigger picture.

However small the progress felt in the moment you know that, after some time, you start to become more skilled and confident. Suddenly, after months of hard work, things start to make sense. You listen to a French podcast and understand most of what is being said. You’re able to talk about various areas of the legal system with ease. You can now play over half of the song you’re learning flawlessly.

This is the compound effect in action. Small steps, taken every single day, over long periods of time, add up to form massive results.

The microwave mentality and why the compound effect keeps things real

One can say that we live in an age of instant gratification. Posting and getting likes on Instagram, fast food, series on Netflix, next day deliveries. This is the world we live in and instant gratification is starting to become the new norm.

This, in his book ‘The Compound Effect’ is described by Darren s the ‘Microwave Mentality’.

Imagine someone severely overweight expecting to become slim after a week of running. Sounds ridiculous right? Unfortunately, this is the sort of ‘lose weight quick’ scheme that is sold to us daily on social media and in magazines. It’s an example of the microwave mentality in running.

What I like about The Compound Effect is how real it is about the power and necessity of hard, consistent work for huge results. Simply put if you want to achieve big things in life there is no quick fix. Instead, it’s necessary to put in lots of hard work, consistently, over a long period of time.

How can I apply the compound effect to running?  

If you want to achieve greatness in running, don’t start by taking massive action and expecting quick results in a short time. Instead, start talking consistent small actions and over time you will succeed with huge results.

Say you have the goal of running a marathon. If you try and run eight miles on your first training run without any prior experience, you’ll injure yourself and your goal will be dead in the water. Not only is eight miles in the first session unrealistic, it’s a prime example of the microwave mentality in action. Expecting big results quick and easily. Unfortunately, this just isn’t how the world works.

To employ the compound effect, start by running a medium distance which is comfortable for you at a relatively chilled pace every day. For me, this would be to run 4 miles a day in under 32 minutes.

Once you start to run this medium distance easily and your times get quicker, up the distance by 15%. When this gets easier and your running quicker times, up the distance by 15% and repeat until your at approximately eighteen to twenty miles.

Of course, you’ll have a couple of days off in here for recovery, but you’ll want to try and make the training as consistent as possible.

Maybe running a 5K is your goal or running 10 miles without stopping. Whatever your goal happens to be, start by taking small actions every single day and over time the results will start to show themselves.

My personal experience with the compound effect was when I first started running. I was training for my first half-marathon and began running 3 miles per day. As a non-runner, it was hard at first and there were many times I felt like quitting. It seemed like, every day, my efforts were all for nothing and I wasn’t getting anywhere.

At the end of the 2nd week, I noticed something incredible. I started running without huffing and puffing like a worn-out dog. I found that I could continue running past 3 miles and up to 6 miles. The compound effect had shown itself in the incredible results I was suddenly getting with increased endurance and speed.

Fast forward to now and I’m able to run 30 miles in one go, am training for my first 65-mile ultra-marathon, have achieved a sub 1:23 half-marathon and a sub 19:00 5K. For someone who couldn’t run more than 2 miles in his first run, I consider these results powerful evidence of the compound effect.

I still have many running goasl to accomplish and I’m sure that, with the power of the compound effect, their accomplishment will be possible.


What do Serena Williams, Michael Jordan and Rory Mcllroy have in common? They all understand the power of momentum. They started their sports incredibly early, put in lots of work at the start to establish initial momentum at which point they maintained their efforts for many years to come.

In achievement of the incredible effects of the compound effect in your running, it’s necessary to build and maintain decent momentum.

Momentum is the force that keeps you going after you have started your new daily running action, enabling you to maintain the effort over a long time. A necessity for the compound effect.

Usually, getting started is the hardest part. I remember when I started running every day, it literally felt like torture in beginning few weeks.

Now, I can’t imagine a day without it and it’s literally like a habit. It’s thanks to putting in huge effort at the start to establishing the momentum that I’m able to continue as easily as I currently do with my daily running.

Picture a rocket going into space. Most of the fuel is used in the take off when the rocket is lifting itself into the atmosphere. Like a rocket, it’s difficult to start from nothing and build a daily habit for the formation of momentum.

However, the sooner the initial effort is put in at the start the easier it will be for momentum to be created and for substantial running progress to start being made.

The recipe for running success according to compound effect

Small bouts of running + consistency + time = massive results


There we have it. The compound effect and how you can apply it to your running. Remember, it doesn’t matter how small the running effort is that you make. The most important thing is that you make the effort daily and that it becomes a habit. Like that, you will eventually see massive results and become the runner you want to be. Good luck and happy running.


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