Training

Stay Consistent in 2020 With a DIY (Define-It-Yourself) Activity Streak

Doing a “showerable activity” every day for 2,000+ days has kept this runner healthy and race fit.

On December 5, I hit the 2,000-day mark of a self-styled personal fitness challenge. As a life-long runner, I’ve always been fascinated by the myriad running streaks and endurance challenges that runners and other athletes undertake. But I wasn’t sure a pure running streak was for me, so around the time I turned 50 I decided to create my own one-of-a-kind activity streak.

The idea was to complete a major physical activity every day, involving some form of fairly serious cardio. The basic rule was that the activity had to work up a good sweat; I termed it a “showerable” activity.

More specifically, my ground rules for the different types of activities were:

  • Running: minimum 40 minutes
  • Cycling: Minimum 1-hour ride—commute biking does not count (unless it is long and hard enough to have to shower on arrival)
  • Walking/Hiking: Only counts if a dedicated walk of 10+ miles, or hike of at least 1.5 hours, involving some elevation
  • Gym Activity: Has to involve at least 45 minutes—some combination of elliptical, stairmaster, stationary bike, etc. Can also include strength training if it includes at least 30 minutes of cardio
  • Gym classes: Spinning, Crossfit, HIIT, etc.
  • Tennis: Minimum 1 hour of singles
  • Swimming: Minimum 40 minutes in lap pool or open water swim
  • Skiing: Downhill skiing counts (if the better part of a day), as does X-C skiing
Skiing is one of Lowenstein's streak activities
Photo: courtesy Mark Lowenstein

I live in Boston, so some of my activities are seasonal. I run year-round, and in all conditions (I don’t do treadmills). Although I bike everywhere, I only road cycle when it’s above 45° and when surface conditions are safe. Tennis is all outdoors.

Five and Half Years of Health

I started on June 13, 2014 with the idea of getting to 100 days. I hit that milestone, and felt good, so decided to go for the one-year mark. That became two years, then 1,000 days, then five years…and now 2,000 days.

Over 5 and half years, the grand total has been 3,270 hours of measured activity, adding up to 1.5 million calories burned (base on Runkeeper and Garmin Connect algorithms). Total miles covered is about 18,500—mostly running and road cycling, though I didn’t tabulate distance for indoor gym equipment. (See table at end for more complete statistics).

During these year of my streak, I’ve maintained my weight despite my age increasing into my 50s, my resting heart rate has dropped from around 47 to 42 beats per minute, and, while my race times have gradually crept up, they’ve kept to the typical age-graded curve. One thing that has empirically improved is my ability to tackle hills when running or cycling, which I credit to the diversity of training including HIIT and Cross-Fit workouts.

strength training is part of the activity streak
photo: courtesy Mark Lowenstein

Getting it Done

I’ve gathered some fun stories along the way, particularly on days where the best laid plans went awry and I had to be creative to ‘get it in’. One memorable occasion was the day before Thanksgiving in 2016. I had an early flight from San Francisco back to Boston, which ended up delayed by several hours. I arrived home at 9 p.m. to an ice storm. Roads un-runnable. Gym closed. So it was up and down the three stories of stairs in my house for 45 minutes, with my visiting in-laws snapping pics.

There were other days like these; a 4 a.m. workout on a half broken elliptical in the dingiest hotel fitness room you can imagine, workouts achieved as the clock ticked toward midnight. There was a period in 2016 where I managed to keep the streak alive even while serving on a jury for a nine-week homicide trial (the longest in the history of Norfolk County), and trying to keep work, family, and the Great Runs project all afloat.

For those considering your own daily streak, here’s some advice for working around another required, post-50-year-old ‘activity’…the colonoscopy. Do your run before the dreaded, day-before ‘prep’, and schedule the procedure itself for early morning, which allows sufficient time for the meds to wear off.

Happy for Health

More than anything, being fortunate enough to be healthy throughout was a major factor in achieving this milestone. The nature of the challenge itself was significant: Engaging in a broad range of activities helped me remain injury-free.

In addition, with the streak somewhat in mind, I avoided marathons or major endurance events that would have knocked me out a couple of days, post-event. I did run a few half marathons and rode some century bike rides. I’ve been very lucky to have not experienced a major illness over these 5 ½ years. Sure, there were some days where, battling a cold or a minor flu, PRs weren’t exactly set.

Lowenstein running a half marathon
photo: courtesy Mark Lowenstein

I was also lucky enough to have a somewhat flexible work schedule, and a supportive family. So thanks to them for tolerating what we called “European dinner hour”, and the countless drop-offs (including one on the middle of an I-93 highway off-ramp while stuck in horrible traffic) and schedule adjustments that helped me find the hour to do something every day.

A natural concluding question, of course, is how long I plan to keep this streak alive. For now, I intend to keep at it, for as long as I feel healthy and the schedule allows. I continue to look for new activities to add variety and avoid injuries.

Could I do this all the way to age 60? Like anyone training for a major event or competing in some sort of streak or challenge, it will take the unique combination of making the time, being lucky enough to be healthy, and, on those cold, dark mornings, just getting yourself out there.

cycling is a regular part of the activity streak
photo: courtesy Mark Lowenstein

2000 Days of “Showerable” Activities

Activity Type # of Hours # of Miles Est. Calories
Running 719 4,425 518,000
Road Cycling 977 12,666 474,000
Mountain Biking 42 430 17,351
Hiking 283 528 55,650
Tennis (singles) 324 N/A 100,193
Swimming 17.5 16 9,403
Outdoor Rowing 58 143 17,479
Downhill Skiing 240 (50 days) N/A 40,870
X-C Skiing 59 188 26,551
Skating/hockey 6 N/A 1,653
Crossfit Classes 175 N/A 83,139
Spin Class 55 N/A 28,176
Stationary Bike 38 18,550
Elliptical 115 N/A 73,766
Strength Training 148 N/A 45,935
Stairmaster 14 N/A 7,746
TOTAL 3,271   1,518,562

 

Mark Lowenstein is Chief Running Officer at Great Runs, the ultimate guide to the best places to run in cities and destinations worldwide.