365 Days in a Row
This weekend, I celebrated my 1 year anniversary for exercising every day. June 12. 365 days in a row.
Awhile back, (about 265 days ago), I published a post: What I learned from exercising 100 days in a row. It got a lot of interest, so I thought I would follow it up with this update after a full year.
Some things that remain true:
1. It’s easier to do something that is not-optional than to do something that you should do
2. Forming the habit is more important than the specifics of any workout — they don’t all have to be impressive
3. It is possible, and actually not that much of a big deal – just a good habit
I still don’t like to exercise
I wish I could say that this successful habit has turned me into a rabid fan of exercise. It hasn’t.
It’s still an effort and most days I would rather skip it. But I will say, that if the day wears on, and I haven’t exercised, it’s not that I crave exercise, but I do have a small negative-ish reaction to breaking the habit — So I guess that’s like a 5% useful craving!
Here’s the thing. So many people I talk to say that they want to exercise more. But then they say that they have to find something they will enjoy doing, or else they won’t do it.
If you want to exercise more, exercise more. Even if you don’t enjoy it. If I waited to enjoy exercising I would never do it.
Exercise benefits basically every human condition. Even if you don’t enjoy it, you’ll get benefits to your energy, your mood, your brain, your digestion, your skin, your aging, your strength, your endurance…
As miserable as I am before I start a workout, I always feel better afterwards. Sometimes I feel better simply because the annoying workout has finally finished, but most of the time I actually feel better.
I can’t report that there was huge, dramatic benefit for me. It was not a dramatic big deal to accomplish this, and there was not dramatic change. Just as I reported at 100 days, I have saved loads of mental time and energy no longer negotiating with myself about whether or not I will exercise on any given day. This has been great.
I can also report that I have an easier time not gaining weight. Which since I love to eat and drink, is a good deal!
Here are the challenges I faced, and my strategies to overcome them.
I get sick sometimes. In the old days my 2-day sickness could put me off exercise for weeks!
Now my rule is that if I can get out of bed, I can exercise. I’m pleased say that in the past year, I was never so sick that I could not get out of bed. For me walking 2 miles is the bare minimum. Even if I’m sick. If I can get out of bed, I can walk 2 miles.
I did have a surgery in the past year. I exercised that morning beforehand, and then the next day because I could get out of bed, I walked 2 miles. And the next day I walked 4 miles. Habit intact.
There are three separate challenges that in the past would throw me off my program: Business travel, vacation travel, and international travel. It could take me weeks to recover a regular workout routine after a trip.
My biggest issue is time zones. If I am only getting 4 hours of sleep and getting up at the equivalent of 2 or 3 am, the last thing I want to do (truly the LAST thing I want to do), is to get up even earlier to exercise.
But if I know I will have no time to do a workout later in the day, I will do an abbreviated session (about 15 minutes) of stretching and push-ups in the morning. It is always excruciating. The specific content of the workout is not as important as rienforcing the habit. Lame workout. Habit intact.
My biggest issue is that when I’m on vacation it seems a shame to do anything that is not-fun. But I have forced myself to get up early on vacation and go for a run, or go to the gym each day before the vacation part begins. Or some days I’ll do yoga or push-ups in my room.
I’d like to report that exercising every day on vacation is a bad idea because it ruins the vacation vibe, so I could create a “not-while-on-vacation exception”, but I can’t. I always felt refreshed and more ready to enjoy the day.
I was on one vacation where my morning workouts became a topic of conversation, first because everyone thought I was crazy, but by the end of the week all the men were reporting in on how many push-ups they could do. (I was doing 5 sets of 20). Another note, when I was in my 30’s I could do zero real push-ups. Now I can do loads. It’s not impossible at any age to get stronger.
My issue here is just being totally wiped out. And because the flight takes so much of the day, there is very little of the day left to do anything.
So far I have found that on the day I leave, I have always walked more than 3 miles (with luggage) through the airports. So if there wasn’t any time when I landed, or I was too tired, that walking covered my minimum (2 miles of walking).
The bigger challenge for me is with international travel is on the day I return. I’m pretty wiped out after the trip. What I have forced myself to do is to change into running clothes, and to go for a run somewhere between the airport and getting home.
Because I know that once I get home, the call of the sofa and the bag of Doritos will be insurmountable. So I don’t let myself go home until I’ve completed my workout.
Too busy at work/home/kids:
Sometimes your life committments make your days so busy that you can’t fit in a workout.
My only advice here if you want to stick to the habit of working out is that you need to make it fit in, even awkwardly.
You may need to negotiate with bosses, peers, or family, but if you make it a Ruthless Priority, you can do it.
If your life is so consistently over-busy that you can’t find 15-20 minutes a day ever, I think you are facing a problem bigger than exercise. I encourage you to change something. We all need some time to breath and take care of ourselves.
Do it today
When I started this approach it was after accepting a challenge to do it. Since the challenge was to do it every day, I started the next day. Becasue whatever excuse I would give myself for starting next week, or at the beginning of the next month was going to exist forever after. If you want to do something everyday, logically, start today or tomorrow.
Finally I have always felt strongly about staying fit while aging. My philosophy is this:
If you can do it today, you can do it tomororrow — but you have to do it today.
If too many todays go by, you lose strength and fitness and it really does become impossible. I believe you don’t have to get unfit just because you age. I have many role models who inspire me in this. So at 1 year in, I can report that this works for me –making it not-optional guarantees that I can keep “doing it today”
What do you think?
Have you succeeded with a new workout routine?
Join the conversation about this on my facebook page.
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Patty Azzarello is an executive, best-selling author, speaker and CEO/Business Advisor. She became the youngest general manager at HP at the age of 33, ran a billion dollar software business at 35 and became a CEO for the first time at 38 (all without turning into a self-centered, miserable jerk)