Now before we start, I am no athlete! I am 6 foot 1 inch tall and started this process at 242 pounds. Not really endurance runner stature. But now I exercise consistently every day and can run a half marathon at the drop of a hat. Recently I challenged myself to run 10 mile per day for 10 days before leaving for work, which I am pleased to say I completed.
Just over a year ago, I committed myself to exercise every single day for a whole year. Whilst this proved to be quite a challenge on occasions, it taught me that if you are absolutely committed to something then you will always find a way. In a twelve month period you are going to hit all sorts of temptations and obstacles – Christmas, New Year, illness, holidays, travelling etc. All of these things can tempt you to say you will take a day off but, as soon as you do that, you leave yourself vulnerable to another day and then another day. Now I am not saying that this was easy. I travelled 10 hours east and back and 10 hours west and back on different trips during this time and this can mess up your internal clock with what we all know as jet lag, but the big lesson that I got out of this, was that if you tell yourself that you must find a way to exercise during the trip, then you will start to work on plans to make that happen. For example, knowing that at the other end of my trip I was going to be wanting to go for a run I planned to drink a little more water and little less alcohol on the plane. And this point is critical – planning is so important to making your commitments happen. And commitments to yourself are no less important than commitments to other people. In fact, commitments to yourself are much more important because, how you follow through on your commitments to yourself, determines the identity that you have for yourself and this, in turn, determines the thoughts that you have and what you will do on a daily basis.
- Beware your thoughts for they become words
- Beware your words for they become actions
- Beware your actions for they become habits
- Beware your habits for they form your character
- Beware your character for this creates your destiny.
By dedicating myself to exercising every single day for a full year I was creating an identity in my own mind of who I am and what I do. This dedication told me that, no matter what hurdles might get in my way, even when I went off the rails a little, I always knew that I was100% committed to my health because exercise was such an important part of my life. And this had the great advantage of quickly making sure that I pulled myself back on track in all other aspects of my health.
Another very interesting feature of dedicating myself to such a challenge was that this was a demonstration to myself that I was someone who has high standards. Now, I have always really known this, but getting myself to exercise every single day for a whole year really embedded that idea into my subconscious mind, and as a result I started to raise my standards in other areas of my life as well.
Let the numbers drive you
Once I had started to record how many consecutive days I had been exercising I found that I became a little obsessive about keeping my run going. At first, 3 or 4 days in a row did not play much of a role in inspiring me, but once I got up to 20 or 30 days I started paying attention. When I got to 200 or so I would do anything to make sure I kept my winning streak going. After all of that work who wants to go back to 1 day in a row!
Physically I learned a couple of interesting things about myself.
Whilst I may not be the text book build for long distance running (and I know to some people 10 miles is not an awfully long distance) I love it. At 47 years old I can now comfortably run further than I have ever run in my life. I am by no means the fastest runner in the world but I am only competing with myself. A goal of mine from about 5 years ago was to be able to run 10 miles at any time and without very much additional training. Well, as you will have seen from the first paragraph of this blog I cannot only do that, but much more. And it was all built up from consistent practice and training my body to do things that I had never asked of it before.
Secondly, I got a little faster even though this was never one of my goals. I would much prefer to add on an extra mile to a run than do the whole run faster. The consistent movement made my body more efficient and without really trying I started to move a little faster anyway.
The final physical lesson that I learned is as much of a confession as anything else. I have to say, when I first embarked on this challenge I had imagined that by the end of it I would be as lean and slender as I could possibly be, purely on the back of exercise. I guess I fell into the temptation of believing that because I was doing all of this extra movement I could eat pretty much want I wanted. Now 20 or 30 years ago that was probably not far off the mark, but now that is sadly a great misconception. There is a real truth in the adage that “you cannot out-run a poor diet!” I tried, but trust me, it catches up with you. And so, some of the consistency that I have been applying to my exercise routine, I am also having to apply to my diet and now I am well on my way to reaching my target weight and body shape – but that is for another blog.
What I learned about myself
I have always known that I am a pretty determined and persistent person and so it was not really a great surprise to me that I was able to stick to the program. However, an interesting lesson that I did learn about myself was that I can be rather creative when I need to be. When you are trying to exercise for 365 consecutive days there are bound to be times when this is quite challenging. You may not feel well, you may be really busy, you may be travelling on a long haul fight or many other things may be going on. But because I had a target that I MUST hit then I was always looking to find a way. Running up and down the stairs at a hotel is a great way to take advantage of your situation, for example.
Find a time that works for you
Early mornings are best for me because it not only feels great, but it gets it out of the way so that I am not worrying about whether I will have time to exercise later. It also gives me a great sense of accomplishment as I start the rest of my day. Before anyone else is around I can just dedicate this time to me, no concerns about taking up anyone else’s time, or feeling guilty about doing what I want to do. If I leave it for the evening, and something happens during the day that is out of my control, time may just get sucked away.
Oh, and by the way, my streak of consecutive days is still going on. 435 days in a row as of this morning. My only worry now is how will I ever stop!