Maybe you have heard of this, maybe you haven’t. I hadn’t until I noticed something on from the local running club on Facebook just before New Years this past December. People were talking about signing on for a hundred day streak, and I got intrigued. The rules were simple, run or walk, at least a mile a day, every day for one hundred days. I liked that I could walk or run, I liked the low minimum, I liked that it is a challenge anyone could meet. I thought, ‘I can do this’ and I made a commitment to myself, one hundred days it is.
I’m on day 77, for those keeping score, having started January first with a 5k race (so much better to start the new year running in the morning on a good night’s sleep, than to start the new year sleeping off the last night of the old one). My mileage isn’t going to break any records or win any awards, and I’ve had to change the rules a bit to accommodate the contours of my life; any vigorous physical activity will count in a pinch (telemark skiing, nordic skiing, spending 2 hours shoveling out from a storm… even ugh doing cardio in the gym when all else fails). I hope some day that my body will let me actually run every day, but that time isn’t now, so being able to include walking or skiing or whatever means a lot to me. The important thing, in my personal 100 day streak, has been building the habit to be active outside (whenever possible, with very few exceptions), every day. No excuses. I even dragged my self outside and walked a mile the day I had norovirus. When you commit to yourself this way, you make being active a priority in your life. It simply becomes something that is part of your routine, every day. You think about what to make for lunch, what to pick up for dinner, when and where you will run. When you commit to the hundred day streak, you don’t have to decide whether or not you have time to run that day. You’ve already decided to run that day, and every day. And I have found that so much of the difficulty in exercising or being active is the uncertainty of deciding, the tension of making that decision each day. Streaking is simplicity, you simply make time for activity each day, period.
New research comes out nearly every day linking daily exercise with reduced risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and just about every chronic illness you can think of. And that is a great reason to be doing this. But for me, it is more than that, life has gotten easy, altogether too easy for some of us, at least in this country and others like it. I look at pictures of my grandmother, the one that died at 64. She looked old. Her life had been the hard life of a teenaged bride and mother in the Depression, married to an alcoholic who killed himself not long after she left him. There was stress and strife and a physicality to life that was embedded in her body, you could see it in the lines of her face and her white hair. Then I look at my father in law, who, at 64, looks radiantly healthy, and much younger than his years, his skin is smooth, his hair black. He has worked hard, but has had opportunities perhaps to take care of himself that my grandmother did not. Then I look around me when I go out and about and see people everywhere clearly in ill health, resulting at least in part from a sedentary life, a life with little physical activity, because our survival no longer requires it, if you consider survival simply being alive. We aren’t meant for a life without physical activity. We have bodies, and physical activity is what bodies are for. That’s what bodies do. Streaking is a way to remind ourselves of that. We Americans so lucky that we don’t have to live the marginal existence of our ancestors, or of our peers in developing countries. We have to be careful not to let that ease be our downfall.
Yesterday, day 76, was the hardest day so far. I woke up grouchy, not sleeping well, having been woken up three times by my faithful guard dogs, alerting me that some wild animal was making a midnight raid on the bird feeder. I felt tense and overwhelmed by the day and its responsibilities. I, like almost everyone else I know, was irritated to wake up and read 3 degrees on the thermometer. It was just “one of those days”. At five pm, when I was finally done with work, the LAST thing I wanted to do was go for a run. All I wanted to do was go home, and start a fire, warm up my house and make dinner. Instead, I thought about this post, which I was in the middle of writing, and all the words I had written about commitment to the streak and myself, and I went back to my office, changed my clothes and snuck in a couple of miles before I went home. I realized that my decision to streak means commitment, but also sacrifice, and not always my own. Waiting for me at home were two dogs who hadn’t gotten a walk that day. Some days its other family members that get neglected, other days its just a sink full of dishes or a pile of laundry (smelly running clothes!). Reorganizing your priorities sometimes hurts a little, but when the dust settles, I will have figured out what can be let go, or reallocated, to make room for moving my body outside in the air, this most essential of human endeavors.