Daily accountability is a powerful tool.
I have kept a log of every hike that I’ve done since 2011. The calendar years since have ranged from a couple hundred to a couple thousand miles. There is a lot of variability year to year despite having the same love of spending time outdoors.
The largest year to date is 2014, where for 107 of 110 consecutive days I put on miles walking the entire 2185 miles of the Appalachian Trail. My total time outdoors in 2015 was way behind my wishes. In 2016, I saw a similar pattern emerging.
Beginning in July 2016, I found myself going much more regularly and wound up walking 30 of 31 days that month. I realized it felt good and that not wanting to break my streak kept me going back every day. I wanted to try committing to a longer streak.
I set the goal for my 28th year to hike 366 consecutive days. 1.0 mile minimum.
The goal of one mile per day seemed to fit. It drew inspiration from Seinfeld’s “Don’t Break the Chain” advice, ultrarunners with multi-year daily run streaks like Sean Nakamura, and from filmmaker Casey Neistat’s Daily Vlog. Casey calls out the daily commitment as a way to “kill all the excuses I used that kept me from making more movies because at every single inflection point in my life, doing the work has always been the thing, has always been the catalyst that took me from where I am to where I wanted to be.”
Baseline: 1 year preceding the daily goal-
Total distance: 552.3 miles
Total hours: 301.9 (estimated based on 84.5% of miles’ time)
Logged walks: 214
Miles per day: 1.50
Result: 1 year with a 1 mile per day goal-
Total distance: 1421.6 miles (+157%)
Total hours: 680.3 (+125%)
Logged walks: 445 (+107%)
Miles per day: 3.89 (+157%)
Eliminating days off had a massive impact. The daily commitment lead me to 157% more miles and 125% more time on foot.
Only 34 of 445 walks (7.6%) were for the pure minimum 1.0 miles. This means most days, more than the absolute minimum mileage was accomplished (whether by 0.1 or 20 miles). 8 walks saw a marathon or greater distance (3 in the upper 20’s, 4 in the 30’s, and one 60 mile day).
Walking one mile a day gave plenty of time to listen audiobooks. I had consistent balance of physicality to go with primarily mental labor of the work day. I spend more time in the open air and in the natural world.
While minor compared to the benefits, there was also frustrations. Unforgiving instance to follow the rules I defined for myself occasionally confused those close to me. One day early in the process, my system of reminders failed. I had drifted to sleep without walking, and I woke abruptly at 11:30pm leading to a dash out the door and a power walk complete a mile prior to day’s end.
For the first 6 months, per the Seinfeld advice, I kept a calendar of X’s to mark the daily completion of a mile (in addition to my training log). The longer the chain grew the more accustomed I was to the habit. There were many days where I shorted myself sleep because plans dictated the walk needed completed before work.
In exchange, I saw more sunrises, sunsets, and wildflowers. I spent more time on the beach, in the desert, and under the moon. My energy was devoted to something I love.
Daily accountability, applied with rigor, elevates.