How the Hell Do I Keep My Self-Improvement Habit Going for 250 Days?

After 200 days, it may get old. But you have to keep going.

I was nine months into my daily exercise when I’d faced my greatest challenge. I’d started in spring and gone through the easy days of summer, running consistently and starting to shed weight.

In the fall, I figured out how to exercise while taking my son to soccer practice or my daughter to dance lessons. In spite of the driving around and waiting, I did something every day (my pro-tip: use the time waiting for the kids at soccer or dance to go ahead and exercise).

Winter came and still I persisted, adding a layer of clothing to keep me warm as I jogged outside. Even the holidays didn’t disrupt my daily exercise, as I ran before Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas afternoon, once the presents were opened.

But on that fateful Christmas afternoon, as I jumped over a snow pile as I jogged, I landed too hard and tweaked my right knee. By evening it had swelled like a casaba melon and ached like something was very wrong.

It turned out I tore the meniscus in my right knee. I needed surgery, and although it was technically possible to run, it hurt and my knee swelled up. I could swim, though, so I switched my emphasis to doing laps in the pool and I kept going to a health club to use their muscle machines for my arms and shoulders.

Once my surgery was over and my knee healed, I worked jogging back into my routine.

If I could stretch like that, I wouldn't need a doctor.

What I learned after a year of daily exercise

The first nine months of daily exercise taught me that I could figure out how to get through the next three months in spite of knee surgery.

I took off the days needed for the actual surgery, but otherwise found a way to stay active.

This was especially useful because next I would have an emergency appendectomy, a (benign) tumor, and a hernia to deal with. I simply had to take a break from daily exercise during those recoveries. But once cleared for activity, I got back into it.

In the meantime, I took walks, as allowed, every day, as a placeholder for more strenuous activity later on.

What you should learn about daily exercise

Having persisted for 250 days or more, you will have taught yourself what it’s like to exercise in the different seasons, when it’s cold out, freezing out, dark out, hot, humid, and bright out. You have taught yourself what it’s like to exercise when your kids are in school, on a break from school, and home for the summer.

After a full year of these challenges, you’ve faced the worst of it.

Getting up there is the easy part.

The key to success in daily exercise

It is more important to have the daily habit than it is to achieve certain goals by certain days. With each challenge to your daily habit you deepen your capacity to persist.

And there are gimmicks you can use to help you along the way. I have used the Fitbit to help track these things. I don’t necessarily need the reminder by the app, but I do check and see if my activity level has decreased.

And I use my morning stretching routine to do something, and also use the high-intensity, interval training if all else fails. In seven to fifteen minutes, you get a full-body workout that can keep the daily streak going, and reinforce your resolve to exercise daily.

There was absolutely nothing special about me that made me more likely to keep a daily exercise habit. It’s kind of like staying married. You have to decide to stay married in spite of the distractions, frustrations and endless temptation to do something else.

You simply decide to exercise every, single day. Once you do it, you are that person who exercises every day.

Next Steps

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