2021 marks an entire year of walks outside every single day! 365 days later, I am so, so proud to have hit this personal milestone of going on a 3-5 (or more!) mile walk every day this year, no matter what. When January 1st rolled around last year, I was never intending for this to be a New Year’s Resolution or even anything that I planned in advance, but it evolved from one month of daily walks to 100 consecutive walks to effortlessly deciding to make this a year-long goal. When I hit one month of daily walks, I figured… why stop now?! And every day since then this year, it’s been part of my daily routine and one that I always, always make time to do.
Not only do I spend so much more time outside (a huge benefit and something so important to me!), but I have set aside dedicated time to moving my body, to doing something that brings me joy and that also is good for my physical AND mental health, and that has become something I truly look forward to. Since I played tennis every day in high school, regular and consistent exercise has never been my strength nor something that I successfully fit into my everyday routine (despite being a very organized, goal-focused, and motivated person – this has been my thorn for a long time). There are a lot of reasons, big and small, that this effort and daily habit stuck this time, which has surprised no one more than myself. It’s also so much easier than I ever made it out to be to fit a routine of exercise and more physical movement into my days when I truly prioritize it, and these 3-5 mile walks each day are such an innate habit to me now.
For me, I am very often motivated by all-or-nothing goals (like walking every single day for a month or not having a single drink in a month), and more vague goals (like exercise three times a week or only have a drink on the weekend) are not at all beneficial for me. I am simply not that good at sticking to more vague goals and instead prefer all-or-nothing (hoping that my competitive spirit kicks in so that it’s much more on the “all” side) and very concrete goals with great extrinsic and intrinsic motivations. After a fairly sedentary 2020, especially when looking at my pitiful daily step count on my phone, I knew it was time to make a change before it’s too late. I don’t feel the need to run a marathon, but I would love to be able to live an active and fit lifestyle — to easily and actively play and run around with our nephews and niece and future children, to go on long walks and hikes (around national parks and cities and greenways and wherever our feet take us), to continue playing tennis and get more and more endurance, to go on short jogs when I feel like it, and to simply be able to fully and easily embrace this beautiful life in this beautiful world.
So for me, this milestone is a major victory (though it may sound trite to others, and that’s okay!) and also something I found great delight in. Honestly, I barely remember a time when I last exercised for three days in a row, let alone 365, so this is something that I’m really proud of. Little by little, if I can make any of these changes and habits stick, I’m absolutely positive you can, too! Whether it’s a quicker 3-4 mile weekday walk around our neighborhood or a longer 5-6+ mile hike on the weekends, I really can’t imagine not going on a walk every day, and I definitely plan on carrying this habit into the new year, too. Why stop now?!
Rain or shine, snow or 100 degrees, busy schedule or not, I have made time to get outside every day. When we had freezing rain for ten straight days in January, when it hit 95 degrees by 8am all summer long, when I had the world’s busiest day of meetings and calls, when we drove 10 hours to visit family… I always made time for these walks. This, in and of itself, is something to be proud of! Even when the weather was freezing cold or solid rain or a million degrees all day long, I am proud of myself for pushing through, throwing on my tennis shoes, and going anyway. As my friends and I often say at articles club, there’s not often very bad weather, just bad clothing. I am thankful for my very warm and cozy puffer jacket with a waterproof hood and extra layers during those frigid walks, and I think Rob and I really were able to embrace winter in ways that we never had before. I definitely missed those cold walks this summer, and summer in North Carolina is no joke! Whoever would’ve guessed that I’d be glad to set my alarm and wake up at 6:30am throughout the summer to exercise before the heat and humidity really set it? Sometimes I can’t believe it myself and have shocked myself at how much I enjoyed watching the sun rising over the lake and those quiet, peaceful mornings. I’m proud of myself for powering through, embracing whatever weather was occurring, and getting a walk in no matter what the weather was. For far too long, I’d let a little inconvenient weather shift my plans and be an excuse for not exercising – no longer!
Above is a screenshot of my daily step count, with December 2020 on the left… and every month since then throughout 2021. It’s a little staggering to see the difference in my daily step count between December 2020 and each month since deciding to make walking and more activity and movement a consistent part of my daily life. My daily step count in February 2021 was almost five times what it was on average in both November and December 2020, and in March, it was just about SIX times higher than November and December 2020. A year later, in December 2021, I’m averaging roughly TEN TIMES MORE daily steps than I did then. 10x more! It’s a little crazy to see how few steps I was taking a year ago, and while more work can be done to be more active, I’m really pleased and proud of this change. It’s so incredibly important – not only to my physical health but also to my emotional and mental well-being, too! It’s been really fun to challenge myself to get more steps, on average, every passing month and to be so much more active each and every day. Just getting outside and moving has been so refreshing and has really become something I look forward to every day. It really has become second nature to carve out an hour in our day to go on a walk and to really prioritize this.
Rob has joined me on probably 85% of these daily walks this year (he opted out of a few of those freezing rain ones and then the early morning summer walks, understandably!), and while we have always loved spending so much time together, it’s been so advantageous and fun to connect even more on our walks and to have a solid hour or more of uninterrupted talking together. This has been a really meaningful and special addition to our marriage and our walks have held the sweetest conversations. I’ve always thought that walks with friends or family were so sweet and feel like you talk and share even more openly while walking! I’ve also gotten together with a couple close friends for some outdoor walks, and that concentrated time together is invaluable. If I’m not walking with Rob or a friend, I pop in a great audiobook (doubly productive: exercise and a book/learning all at once!). I have also done several “prayer walks” where I simply pray as I’m walking, which is so good for my faith and my heart. I feel so close to God in nature (another reason why we try to prioritize as much time as possible outside), and walking while praying is a really beautiful and peaceful thing. Noticing and appreciating the world around me is something I deeply love, and these walks cause me to do so even more. Watching the seasons change is mesmerizing!
A year ago, never would I have thought that I’d have gone through two pairs of tennis shoes (working on my third!) by walking thousands of miles, every single day, over this past year. Consistency – and keeping my streak alive – have been great motivations for me, along with knowing how important it is to live an active lifestyle, to enjoy nature and get as much fresh air as possible, and to invest in my physical health, even in the simplest of ways. I have grown to love our walks more than I ever thought possible, and it’s such a natural daily habit now. So today – and this year! – I’m celebrating this little victory that has become such a rich and fruitful and fulfilling habit. I’m aiming to keep this streak up as long as I can!