April 6, 2015: Day 365/365 of Exercise

The words stayed there on the screen mocking me.

Day 365/365 of exercise.

I could not stop staring at them. I sort of wanted to slap my face for getting so hooked by this seemingly simple Facebook status update. My first thought: How is it possible to exercise EVERY DAY FOR A YEAR??

A classmate from middle school had written it. I emailed her immediately asking a barrage of questions: what does this mean…how did you do this…did you really exercise every day for a year?

And she wrote back and told me she got up very early in the mornings and went to the gym. Plus her kids were older teens so she was able to pull it off.

So then I thought: well, going to the gym at 5 am is not gonna work for me. I have an elementary-school age kid and a kid about to enter middle school in the fall- there will be lots of schlepping them around to school and activities and I’m not quite ready to leave them home alone.

But as I thought about that status update, something shifted inside me. Suddenly my state of inertia completely morphed into a state of extreme motivation. I realized I wanted, no, needed, this challenge really badly.

I had been bummed about feeling out of shape and not making the time to exercise regularly- that’s always been sort of a mantra for me, to be in shape and STAY in shape. I always felt better and stronger when I was active. And I felt like such a slug a year ago.

And here was a way for me to take charge and be motivated and stay motivated.

I started telling people about my goal to exercise every day for the next 365 days as a way to make it more real. I’m not a person who likes to fail, so saying the words out loud made me feel more accountable to my success.

Most people were thrilled and intrigued. One person said: you shouldn’t set unreasonable goals. It made me wonder why people say such things, and for a moment I dwelled on: why wasn’t it possible for this person to be supportive and say: wow, I hope you can do it! That would be hard for me! which is probably what they were really thinking and feeling at the time.

I didn’t dwell on that naysayer though. Luckily, I had a neighbor who exercised regularly and we started going for walks once a week in the morning before work, then when the weather turned nasty, as it ultimately does in Seattle, we started swimming also early in the morning. I was getting up at 6 am, which was certainly better than 5 am! In recent months right as daylight savings time was just about to kick in, we would look at each other and go: are we crazy? But it felt SO good afterwards.

My parameters for exercise: I had to move my body in some way for at least 20-30 minutes straight each day. My goal was not to do intense cardiovascular workouts every day for a year, but rather, get my muscles active and spend more time outside increasing my Vitamin D levels. And here were my main activities:

biking (usually twice a week), swimming (twice a week), hiking, walking (2-3 times a week), yoga (once a week), stair master at the gym (once a week), and playing frisbee or basketball. Skiing was out this season because the snow was nonexistent. Every week was different, depending on the weather and whether I was driving carpool or working at this job or that job.

In December I was sick for a week with a horrible sinus infection that had me completely drained of energy. But I made myself exercise- and it was very gentle and mostly consisted of me going for 20 minute walks around the neighborhood or doing yoga at home.

A friend commented that I seemed more peppy and cheerful than usual especially during the winter. And it is true, I have experienced many positive benefits of exercising every day: less moodiness and sadness, better sleep, feeling stronger and more toned, and it has now become a daily habit. I feel restless and stiff if I don’t make the time to move around.

I copied this status update on Facebook and hope it inspires someone else. I am undecided if I will continue the daily exercise regimen. Maybe it will be more like 5 days a week.

Next goal: I want to meditate every day for a year.  I will let you know when I start that :).

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