This week’s Courier Herald column:
David Pollack was a three-time All-American standout on defense for the University of Georgia and is currently an analysist for ESPN. That’s the network where we used to watch sporting events before we became stuck in the present.
Pollack has always been a motivational leader, even during the time when his NFL career was cut short due to injury. He’s now using his platform for an “Every Day Counts” challenge, which began years ago asking his followers to run, jog, or walk a mile every day from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day.
The point is to do a minimal amount of exercise each day. There are three holidays in the original time period, but every day means every day. There are no excuses.
I decided I would adapt this approach a little over a year ago to my own exercise. I was out of shape, had gained way too much weight over a three-year period after tweaking my knees during my last commitment to fitness.
A bad diet, a lot of excuses, and empty pledges to start back “next week” turned days into weeks, weeks into years, and inertia into pounds. My habit was to rest, and I remained at rest.
On April 5th 2019 I decided I would go to the gym. In addition, I decided that I would do at least 30 minutes of exercise for thirty days. There would be no excuses.
The important thing about committing to anything over thirty to forty days is that it establishes a habit. A rule of thumb I’ve always observed is that it takes three weeks to turn practice into habit, whether intentionally or not.
It’s a bit harder if it is something you don’t want to do. I don’t like to exercise, but I do like to eat. A lot. Life is often a series of tradeoffs. Exercise, especially at my age and with my family medical history, is the ticket to good eating.
A couple of weeks into my new habit I saw the opportunity to take a spur of the moment 10-hour drive to Miami. I got up at 5am to hit the gym before I departed. On the way home, I found an aquatic center that allowed day guests so that I could squeeze in some lap swimming.
Thirty days came and went, as did forty. I had fulfilled the commitment to myself and to exercise, but I had no reason to stop. So I kept going.
My 8,000-mile road trip from last summer? A lot of municipal aquatic centers, hotel gyms, and an occasional jog outside were checked off. Every day.
I’ve been members of three different gyms over the last year, and am still trying to find one that works for me. But even on the days I didn’t want to go, I found a way to get at least 30 minutes of cardio in.
Quarantine closed the gyms? No excuses. I’ve taken up jogging again, often having to have a long talk with my knees about their responsibilities to hold up their end of this bargain.
Rainy days? No excuses. With an Apple watch keeping me honest, I can jog a 5K inside my house without the aid of exercise equipment, exceeding my exercise minute minimum and hitting my burned calories goal daily.
As of this writing I’m 389 days into this habit that is now a borderline obsession. There’s 50 pounds less of me as a result. The conversation with my doctor at my last physical was actually civil.
We’re now well beyond three weeks into our Great Timeout, and a lot of us have established new habits. Some are likely good, some are not.
Things are not as we would like them right now, but each day is a gift for us to choose how to use it. The shock of this pandemic has mostly worn off. We now question when we will be able to move forward.
While the example here is about exercise, it’s really about making conscious decisions to move forward, and committing to a plan to do that – with no excuses. If you’ve found yourself creeping into bad habits, or just burning each day waiting for something to change, then do a self-assessment.
We each get the same 24 hours. You have to decide what points you want to put on your scoreboard. Every day counts.