Monday marked my 100th day of exercising at least 10 minutes every day.
At the beginning of May, I decided I needed to start running regularly again. I’d fallen off the exercise wagon early in the new year, after spending a week in Cancun (I know, poor me), and was having trouble getting back on. One evening in late April, I climbed both flights of stairs in our home to share a story with Mike. But I couldn’t tell him right away because I was so out of breath.
This is always my personal measure of fitness: can I climb a couple flights of stairs without being winded. If not, time to do something about it. Twelve years ago, I took up running after I climbed a flight of escalator stairs and had to pause at the top for several seconds. And now, every time I find myself choosing the lounge pants over the running pants a few too many days (or months) in a row, my catalyst for action is difficulty breathing after climbing a flight of stairs. So while Mike waited patiently for me to be able to relate my tale, I decided it was time to don the running pants again.
But action is hard. I often find it challenging to get back into a routine because my regular 45-minute run or DVD workout doesn’t always work for a given day. Then I listened to a podcast by The Lazy Genius about establishing morning and evening routines, and regarding exercise, she advised her listeners to set a goal so small you couldn’t fail. Her example was doing just one position in Yoga every morning, and building from there. I decided, my “couldn’t fail” goal was 10 minutes of exercise every day. I figured I could always manage 10 minutes, even if it meant squeezing it in right before bed. And I’d recently purchased a DVD that was a collection of 10-minute workouts.
And so I began: every day, I would either go for a run or do one of the 10-minute workouts. Most days I managed at least 30 min. Some days–running days–it was more; other days, it really was just 10. But every day, I did something, and lo and behold, yesterday I hit 100 days in a row of exercise, and that seemed an achievement worth celebrating.
Over the last 100 days, I learned a few things:
I had to redefine progress. I had several goals in mind when I decided on 10 minutes a day, one of which was to lose a few pounds. Over the last 100 days, I GAINED a few pounds. This has been grit-my-teeth frustrating, to the extent that I’ve vowed every time I step on the scale to never weigh myself again because I know it’s not an accurate measure of my progress. I still weigh in every month (I can’t resist), but I try to focus on non-scale victories: I can climb the two flights of stairs in my home easily! Even while carrying my 3-year-old! I’ve gained flexibility by doing that 10 min stretching workout so many times. Once impossible exercises are now merely challenging. I have more energy in general. I’m motivated to make healthy choices every day since I’m working out every day.
The chain effect is a powerful motivator. Once I’ve done something a few days in a row, it’s much easier to get up and do it again the next day–even if it’s the last thing I want to do–because I don’t want to break the chain. I’m a morning person, so I prefer to exercise right when I wake up, but several times in the last few months, I did my 10 minutes late in the evening, around 9 pm, because I hadn’t had a chance earlier in the day and I didn’t want to have a missing link. One particular day, we left first thing in the morning and were out all day, so after dropping the zip car off that evening, I ran home and then around the block a few times.
Two weeks ago, we went to Las Vegas to visit my in-laws. Our plan: play in the pool. Going by my track record (ahem, Cancun), this should’ve been an exercise-free seven days. But I’d done the math by then and realized I had more than 70 days of daily exercise under my belt. I wasn’t going to let a week away break my chain that close to 100 days. So I brought workout clothes and my DVD and determined to keep up my regimen. And I did. And it was not that difficult. Jet lag helped. (I was up several hours before anything began, and even before my children woke up — might as well work out. This also helped me read three books, so overall I call this week a resounding success.)
It’s easier to continue something than start from nothing. I normally find it challenging to resume an exercise routine upon return from vacation (again, see also, Cancun). But this time, I had never stopped exercising. Every day away, I had made sure to do some intensive movement for at least 10 minutes. So possibly two of the hardest days for me to exercise — the day I travel and the day after — I got in my 10 minutes. I didn’t do any more than 10 minutes, but that’s ok.
I have to be willing to incorporate my kids. I’m a SAHM. As I mentioned, typically I work out right when I wake up. Sometimes my daughter wakes up the same time I do. So if I want to burn some calories first thing, she’s doing it with me. The easiest way to make this happen is to take her for a run in the jogging stroller, which she LOVES. But both kids also love doing my DVD workouts with me. Unfortunately, their participation equals a less intense workout for me because they’re a bit crazy and frequently get in my way. But no matter, I still get my time in, and I love that they love to exercise with me. In fact, they often practice the moves outside of our exercise time. At the pool the other day, Lydia kept exclaiming, “Mommy, look!” as she maneuvered her legs in the water in movements that resembled those we watched on screen.
Also, on my bucket list this summer was to do yoga with my kids. From a friend’s Insta story, I learned about cosmic kids yoga on you tube. The woman yogi choreographs moves to accompany her retelling of popular animated movies. The onscreen background reflects the movie’s environment, and she dresses as the heroine. We did the Trolls episode, which I found to be a good workout, and the kids loved it, having just watched Trolls several times.
I plan to continue doing 10 min a day because I know I’m in better shape even if my scale doesn’t reflect that. A friend on Instagram (@humansoutside) has been chronicling her year of spending at least 20 minutes outside every day, which has inspired me. But for now, I’m excited I made it 100 days.