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Self-Improvement

My 30-Day Challenge of Ten Thousand Steps (Or Why I Jogged in Place at a Bar)

It started out innocently enough. A busy week of errands and a particularly fun weekend filled with dancing, and there it was: A 7 day “streak” of hitting my goal of taking 10,000 steps per day, according to my Jawbone Up.

(The Buffer team + family members all get a Jawbone Up as a gift, and we share our steps and sleep stats with each other. I love this because I think it is an amazing way to be super transparent and share our self-improvement efforts with each other. These are two of Buffer’s key values. It’s one of my favorite aspects of life at Buffer, to be completely honest!)

I have always tried to lead an active life, especially in the last few years of my life, when I’ve started sitting at a desk for many hours per day. There’s nothing like a good sweat session after sitting still! But, that being said, I usually take days off here and there, whenever I have a busy (or lazy!) day. I suddenly had the thought, “I wonder how long I can keep the streak up?”

Taking the 30-day challenge

I am extremely fortunate in that I live in a beautiful apartment complex with a gym in the building. So, with this incredible luxury, I knew it would be just a matter of willpower, and not weather, or responsibility, or anything else. If I chose to achieve this, I would simply have to DO it!

It was then that I decided to do my first “30-day challenge.” I’ve long been inspired by these bite-sized goals, first brought to my attention by Matt Cuts.

I love to quote my old gym’s manager on this concept. He used to say, “You can stand on your head for 30 days!” Meaning, you can withstand any challenge for that amount of time. I was so excited to try.

I think it was important that I had the 30-day goal instead of simply, “I wonder how long I can keep this up?” Otherwise, I might have been tempted to say, “Ah, turns out I could keep it up for 20 days.”

It was around that time that my friend visited, and I realized on a night out that I wasn’t going to get back home in time to hit the gym before midnight. So, I jogged in place! Luckily, my friends (and San Francisco residents in general) are extremely tolerant of such strange behavior!

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Ultimately, I did it. And on the last day, I timed it so that I could run up the stairs in my building, to the very top floor, and run out onto the roof to complete the challenge.

There, I gazed upon the San Francisco skyline, and reflected on my many blessings. (Perhaps most obviously, the incredible gift of health. I hope I never take for granted the ability to walk on these two legs, as long as that privilege is mine.)

A new view on “rest days”

Ultimately, I walked away (heh) with a renewed confidence for my dedication to my goals, as well as a few lessons learned. The first was that “rest days” really do serve a purpose, but not as I once thought. After about two weeks of the challenge, also known as halfway, I was pretty wiped out! My heels, knees, muscles, and will power craved a day off. But, I was able to switch from more involved exercises, like the elliptical, to simply walking. This provided a great ‘rest day’ without breaking the chain.

Now I realize that, with my low-intensity workouts, I don’t really need complete rest days. I can simply change things up. The need for a  ”rest day” had been mostly in my head, leftover from my younger years of much more intense and exhausting workouts on the soccer and lacrosse fields. Secondly, I can’t believe how well I slept that month! Now that I have observed such a strong correlation between my exercise and sleep, I always know how to combat it when I’m having some trouble sleeping in any given week!

And, aside from the occasional 11:30 p.m. treadmill sprint, and the time I jogged in place while my friends played darts, I managed to schedule in my workouts pretty well, as long as I prioritized it. I’m lucky to have super supportive coworkers, who cheered me on in our daily pair calls and on the improvements hackpad. :)

A sweet reward from a Buffer customer

And, partly due to Buffer’s transparency, I even got the most incredible gift from a customer: a plaque celebrating my achievement! Proving yet again that people are just awesome, especially Buffer customers. :)

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I’d love to hear if you’ve been similarly inspired by someone, or by your activity tracker! Share your thoughts in the comments!

  • Cyril Pepito

    Nice Challenge Carolyn!

    Now have you been keeping it up? I have found out that the real challenge in any daily/regular physical activities is the first 3 to 4 weeks. Once the “chain/habit” has been building for that period I find it much easier to find motivation as it becomes almost a routine (maybe not the best word to describe it).
    I guess activity tracker wearables come in handy during that period where you want to see results and make sure that you reach your goals.

    I like this Confucius (I think) quote: ” it doesn’t matter how slowly you go as long as you don’t stop.”

    I find it pretty motivational, especially when it comes to daily or very regular activities where the “I’ll skip it for just this time” temptation can be strong.

  • Terry Doherty

    Congratulations, Carolyn. I like the idea of flipping the streak on its ear and setting a challenge date rather than keeping a string of days alive.

    Now that my husband has inherited my old Fitbit, I have a new “challenger” / cheerleader to encourage me.

  • Love this! When I first got a Fitbit (which I wish had streaks now!), I was so obsessed with hitting my daily goal (sadly just 5,000 between my time spent sitting at a desk and past injuries that prevent me from jogging/running for more than a minute or two at a time).

    I had so many routines: every time I went to the restroom, I ran in place as I washed my hands. Same with while I was waiting for food in the microwave. And if I hadn’t hit the goal by like 8pm, I would just jog in place while I watched TV. I hope my downstairs neighbors didn’t think I was crazy, haha.

    I got a little too lax over the past few months and am so embarrassed about my daily step counts, but last week I started putting more effort into hitting my goals again.

    • Also, bars in my town are the best for hitting my step goals because they play music that makes it impossible not to dance. There have been times where I hit my step goal for the day by 1am, justifying staying in bed all day the next Sunday. :)

  • I’m really new to exercising and monitoring my steps – I had 3 days on site for a client at an exhibition and was so proud to do 5K of steps and 9 flights of stairs – using an app built into the iphone, so now I really want to keep it going! It’s funny how addicted I’m getting to keeping it going. Today I’ve only done 3.9k of steps, but it’s more than the 1.4K I was doing – because my office is at the bottom of the garden!!

    If I feel for 5K of steps, how will I feel for 10K? I can’t wait to find out :)) Thank you for sharing about the need for discipline and going the extra mile (!!) with the jogging in the bar. Love it!

  • Маргар и Мастерита

    You may want to try some salsa or swing dance classes 2 or 3 times a week. That would easily get you to your 10k steps a day. =)

  • What a great achievement Carolyn! You rock! What is the next step? 15k per day? :-) I have the same view on the rest days, when I run, my rest consists of pull-ups, push-ups, sit-ups etc. or yoga. Basically when you have a sedentary job, resting is the sitting behind your PC except you have a stand-up desk :) Keep it up Carolyn, fingers crossed.

  • Craig Fifield

    Nice work Carolyn! I’m happy to run, bike, or lift everyday, but I don’t know I’d have the dedication for this type of challenge!

    As for being inspired, I’ve never needed inspiration for lifting (I just love it), but I did for running. I was NOT interested in running until my wife started a 10 years or so ago, then some of my coworkers started going for a run at lunch. That combo plus knowing sitting all day was no good, gave me the motivation to get out there, I’ve run ever since. My Garmin is what keeps me motivated these days, it’s amazing what tracking your activity can do for you! Oh, and my brother in law, who is somehow new to running AND super fast!

    • I’ve often wondered if tracking my activities would motivate me to do more, i.e. be more consistent in my routines. I’ve heard it works for some people, and not so much for others. Guess there’s only one way to find out how it will work for me.

  • Congrats on hitting this goal, Carolyn! :) I’m surprised no one secretly filmed you running in place at the bar and posted it on YouTube. That could’ve totally went viral. ;p

    • Valid point. I’m pretty sure it looked quite amusing.

  • Jen Monroe

    Great job! I have been monitoring my steps (via fitbit) since Christmas. I hadn’t realized how much my desk job was keeping me from moving around! I now march in place on conference calls, get up and jog in place to grab some extra steps after I get a glass of water, etc. Just to meet my 10k a day goal… working from home has made it challenging to find places to take steps away from my desk, but I am definitely glad I have my tracker to keep me focused! Also, totally agree about “rest days”. My perspective has changed too, and now I can let myself be ok with resting by simply just walking to reach my goals. Keep up the good work!

  • As a triathlete, I find that the environment I’m in helps me to keep going for training sessions more than my willpower. I’m more inclined to go for training when I know that my teammates are going too. So I try to hang out with them before my training sessions. This has even motivated me to attend my training sessions when I did not feel like going.

  • Great going (no pun intended).

    I really grok why you chose a 30-day challenge. The usual—especially this time of year—would be to go for an all in “I’m going to do this all year” type of New Year’s resolution. Start small, set a reasonable goal, and stick to it. One step at a time (again no pun intended).

    Oh and I can almost imagine you running up those stairs like in the movie Rocky :)

    If you do something like this again please let us read about it again. I enjoyed this post.

  • Sounds cool! As a
    temporary staffing account
    manager
    , I sit at my desk for hours a day as well. Someone who inspired me is Kayla Itinies. She created the 12 week bikini body guide and has thousands of followers in instagram who all posts their workouts, it’s like a community! I’m only on week 2 and her workouts are tough. Whenever I feel like I can’t complete a workout, I check out #thekaylamovement on instagram and am instantly motivated. It sure does help when you aren’t focused on the fitness journey alone!

  • Brendan Hufford

    Just found this article now after getting my Fitbit for Father’s Day and realizing that 10k steps consistently is difficult! Great work, Carolyn!

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