I can’t remember the last time I made a plan for something big where I didn’t just “decide to do it” one day for no particular reason.
Case in point, last year, somewhere around mid-May, I decided I was going to run every day for a year.
Well, to be really specific, I didn’t decide it would be “every day for a year,” I just decided I was going to run every day. Every day, at least a mile, I would run. For how long? Who knows? It was just a thing I wanted to try out and see how far I could go.
(Disclaimer: Let me say at the outset, here, that running every day is not a thing you should take on lightly, as I did. I’ve been running for over 10 years and have a pretty good sense of what I’m capable of …. check with your doctor, or something.)
So I went for my regular Monday morning run, and then on Tuesday morning, I got up and took a quick tour around the neighborhood (just over a mile). Then on Wednesday, regular speedy run (speedy for a forty-something unathletic dude), and on Thursday, another easy jaunt around the neighborhood. Friday and Sunday runs as usual, with another short one on Saturday to round out the week.
Well, that week went okay, so I did it again the next week. And after that second week went without incident, I figured, why not go for a full month?
Then, with a month in the bag, why not try for another? And then, with two down, another month is a full-on quarter of a year, so … yeah, sure, let’s try for it. Three months in, I’m halfway to half of a year, and I’m not suffering any more than usual, so yeah, let’s go for six months with at least a mile every day.
This is where the prospect of going for a full year starts to set in. You can do just about anything for a few weeks, or even a couple months, but finding the time and the energy and the drive to run every day for 180 days in a row is a thing that comes with its own challenges, and then you’re thinking about doing it all again. And here’s where, as a teacher, what might have made sense in May became a lot trickier in August — over the summer, if I didn’t wake up early for the run, I could get after it later in the day, and the only drawback would be the late morning heat. Once the school year is in session, sleeping through the alarm for the morning run just isn’t an option — *if* you want to keep the streak going.
(Here, too, is where I come down on myself like a ton of bricks for slacking so badly on the writing over the past *let’s-not-actually-talk-about-how-long-it’s-been* while maintaining this other commitment. Then again, these are different types of commitments with different requirements, but still … if I’m not hating on myself for one thing or another even in the midst of tremendous accomplishments, then I’m not really myself.)
There came a point — maybe after three months, maybe after six, certainly after nine — where I decided I’d sunk in enough time toward this thing that to give it up would really be selling myself short. And, not for nothing, I was enjoying myself. There’s a lot to be said for the beneficial psychology of having a “win” first thing in the morning, and getting that mile in — even if that was *all* I did — was enough to tick that box every day. So I marked the calendar, girded my shoes, and didn’t think about it too much — except for on the occasional morning where I *really, really, really* wanted to snooze the alarm, when that brutal inner voice would whisper “are you really going to let the streak end today? Is this the day when you turn back into a pumpkin?” (My inner voice is a jerk and often mixes its metaphors.)
But the point of this post isn’t the streak, it’s how I embarked upon it, to wit: callously, on a whim, and without much if any consideration for the long term. At no point in the first 5%, 10%, even the first 20% of the undertaking did I say “Yeah, I’m going to do this for a year.” Rather, it was a “well, let’s see if I can push it a little further, and we’ll see how I feel at the end of the week, or the month, or after I get through this difficult weekend.”
I finally took a day off after 402 days in a row (having gone a full month and change past the full year because, at a certain point, it becomes stranger to *not* do the thing than to keep after it), that day being in mid June, just over a month ago.
I took that day off because I had bloody well earned it, because I was exhausted and beaten up to a point I’ve not often been in this life, and certainly not within recent memory. I had to rest. Not resting was not an option, because I found a New Thing to satisfy that morning workout … and scratch some other itches, too.
But more on that another day.
I’m still exercising every day, but I’m down to only three or four days running — and that’s fine. I’m even, crazily enough, feeling the urge, some days, to sneak in a quick mile on those days when I *don’t* run, because after so long running every day, it somehow feels like getting away with something if I *don’t*.
Maybe I’ll shake that off, maybe I won’t. Still, this is now officially A Thing I Have Done, and I guess that’s worth being proud about.
And you know, I think if I *had* started back in May of 2021 with the goal of “running at least a mile every day for a year”, I don’t know if I’d have been as successful. The commitment at that point, from just starting out, is almost too big to process, too big to be borne. I have to do this *every single day*, starting today, when yesterday, I did nothing like it? Maybe that works for some people, but it sure doesn’t for me.
The point here is, I think — for me, at least — that as much as you *can* get good things out of planning and visualizing and forethought, there’s no substitute (and it may even be better) to just jump in and *start doing a thing*. For one thing, one way to make sure you’ll never finish a thing is to never start it.