I recently completed 380 days straight of at least 30 minutes of lifting or running and no alcohol. Yes, 380 days without a day off!
I went from the worst shape of my life to my best shape ever at age 42.
While on the 380-day journey, I ran a 5K in 26:03, benched pressed 275 3x, and was able to do 22 wide grip pullups. These are all personal bests. I started at 242 lbs and got down to 197 lbs. Did I mention that I was 42?
During this journey, I learned a lot about myself, life, and fitness. I figured I share some of my lessons learned:
#1. Doing something every day adds up way more than you think.
It is all cumulative. Taking action on the same thing every day adds up whether that is fitness or something else like writing. Try it. Do one thing every day for 30 minutes, you will be amazed how much you will improve.
Even if it is only for 30 minutes per day, it adds up. I went from the worst shape of my life to the best shape of my life in my 40s, by exercising every day for 30 – 45 minutes.
I ran 2 – 3 times per week, an average of 3.5 miles. Most of my lifting workouts were at times like lunch where I only had 30 minutes to get it in.
I pushed myself pretty hard each workout, but not to a point that might keep me from exercising the next day. I was able to get results I did not imagine possible with this moderate approach to daily exercise.
Day 221: Shoulders Day. For 220 days now, I wake up each morning with sore muscles. The good kinda sore… where I know I worked out hard enough to spur growth, but not too sore to keep me from running or lifting. THE ONE THING NOT SORE in the morning the last 220 days?? My head thanks to not drinking.. .😀💪 . #NoDaysOff #Overcome38 #Fitness
In January, my daughter challenged herself to hand walk 15 minutes every day. She could barely take 3 steps. By the end, she could hand walk for 18 seconds straight. She is 10 years old. We were amazed how good she got in 31 days… just by doing it 15 minutes a day. Watch her hand walking video here.
#2. 380 straight days was unthinkable on Day 1.
I’d love to say that my goal on day 1 was to go 380 straight days… but 100%, I would not have believed that was possible on Day 1.
When I started in December 2016, my original goal was 138 straight days. Earlier in the Year, I had completed the #Overcome38 challenge: 38 straight days of exercise + no alcohol.
The first time I completed 38 days, I was on the path to getting into the best shape of my life.
But, The goal was 38 days and after I made it I slipped back into bad shape after several months.
Looking back, I knew I was on the right path and that I just needed to go longer. I had unfinished business and the more I thought about it I was pissed that I stopped.
After having the experience of doing 38 days, I knew 138 days would be a stretch, but that I could do it. So I made a public post on Facebook that I was doing #Overcome38 again, but this time for 100 more days!
When I made it to 138 straight days looking forward to 238 days looked doable, so I extended the goal. When I got to 238, friends convinced me that 380 would be the ultimate accomplishment. I went for it and made it.
My take away is to set goals to the maximum that you think is possible today. Then when you get there, the next mountaintop will look much more attainable. Take advantage of the momentum and JUST DON’T STOP. Set the goal higher & keep going.
3. Sharing the journey adds accountability & pushes you
We love to follow stories. Stories have a beginning, a middle and an end. If you do not share the journey from the beginning, then that’s like picking up a book in the middle.
Sharing from the start can be scary. You may fail. Your friends and family know that. They will support you. Some will be watching for you to fail. Knowing this will push you. You know they are watching. Now prove them wrong!
Failure is not trying. Failure is getting knocked down and not getting back up. You set a 100 day goal. You get sick. You start over. You only fail, if you give up. Sharing the journey on Facebook or Instagram will push you on the hardest days when it is easy to fall for the excuses in your head.
Sharing my journey also pushed me during each workout. I felt like if I was going to check-in daily for 380 days, that I needed to get results worthy of it. It pushed me to get extra reps, and to run faster. I would never have gotten in my best shape ever in my 40s, if it was not for sharing the journey.
During the 380 days, I set some stretch goals for 5K times, bench press and weight loss. By sharing these goals, I had friends reach out to me with awesome tips, advice and articles. I hit each one of these stretch goals with the help of friend’s support.
#4. 38 days is not long enough.
The original challenge was 38 days for #Overcome38 because my brother lived to be 38.
38 days is the perfect amount of time to get into the routine and start seeing results. But 38 days does not fully establish the habit. Science shows that it takes 66 days to do that. And I felt like after day 66, the habit was set and that taking a day off would have been tougher.
70 people have completed the #Overcome38 Challenge. Sharing workout selfies every day for 38 days. As time went on, I started to challenge those who make it to day 38 to continue on to day 66. Many who made it day 66 kept going to 100+ days.
#5. Streaks are powerful
Cal Ripken Jr played 2,632 consecutive games over more than 16 years. Brett Favre Play 321 games in a row. That is an 18-year streak. On day 1, neither of them would have imagined playing that many games in a row. But, as a streak gets higher and higher, it gets more important. You will do anything to protect the streak.
After writing these numbers, my streak of 380 doesn’t seem quite as impressive. But, one of the reasons that I forced myself to end the streak was that it started to become more important than why I started. I also felt like to accomplish other fitness goals, that I need to end the streak. It was harder to end it, then was to start it.
I ended the streak by raising money to support those overcoming addiction. To feel ok for ending the streak, I needed to do something bigger and more important than the streak. That’s how powerful a streak is.
Jerry Seinfeld has used the technique of “don’t break the chain” in all aspects of his life. He credits a lot of his success to this one simple technique. He commits to doing one thing every day. He puts a calendar on the walk and marks an X on each day in a row that he does the one thing. As the visual chain of X’s grow longer the desire to not want to break the chain gets stronger.
Streaks are powerful – Start yours today!
#6. Wash Your Hands
You will never have a streak of anything that lasts over a year without being germ conscious. Even when something becomes an ingrained habit, getting the flu or other severe illness will end the streak.
As my streak grew, the more I found myself washing my hands. I knew getting sick was the only that would end it. I stayed well for 380 days even with 2 kids
#7. 40s are a great time to re-focus on fitness
As I was approaching my 40s, I had already started the mindset that it was all downhill from here. I was convinced that there was no way I could get back to the strength of my 20s after 40.
I was completely wrong.
In my 20s, I was able to get into awesome shape in about 2 months. As soon as I’d hit a little plateau, I’d convince myself that I’d hit my genetic boundaries. I was wrong. I know now that if I would have pushed myself harder and treated my body better than I could have gotten in much better shape.
By day 138, I was back into shape that would rival my late 20s. By day 300, I was in better shape.
Our 40s are a great time to refocus on fitness. For most of us, the kids are not babies, so we have more time. I’m more disciplined than I was in my 20s. And now, focusing on my health and fitness is as much for my kids & wife as it is for me. The better shape we are in now, the longer and higher quality our life will be.
If you spend enough time in the gym, you’ll see plenty of people in their 40s & 50s in phenomenal shape. There is nothing special about them except that they go to the gym almost every day.
#8. Just worry about getting it done today
QUICK STORY: Our main summer vacation was my daughter’s national dance competition in sunny Sandusky, Ohio. On the 3rd day, we were hanging out by the pool with the other parents. The parents were all enjoying adult beverages.
I was on Day 175 … so I was already past my original goal of 138.
Since it was getting later in the afternoon, I decided I was going to join everyone for a couple of beers the next day. I left the pool and went to Wal-Mart to buy my favorite beer.
I woke up early the next morning for a run after not drinking a beer the day before.
While running, I felt so good. I knew I would have most likely skipped the run and not have felt so good if I’d drank alcohol the day before. When I finished up the run on an incredible runner’s high, I made the decision to go the rest of the vacation without drinking.
Sometimes you just have to make through today. The hardest days to get in 30 minutes of exercise will be the ones you remember the most. The day you had to wake up at 4:30 AM because you were traveling the whole day. Or the night that at 11 PM, you did 30 minutes of pushups, jumping jacks, burpees, & situps.
You can always find 30 minutes to exercise. And on these days you want to drink alcohol the most, plan on drinking the next day… most likely when you wake up you’ll feel so good about not drinking the day before that you will not want to drink that day.
#9. Daily exercise and no alcohol makes everything better.
Not only did I have my best fitness year in my 42 years… but it carried over to all aspects of my life.
I had more energy at work. Most of my best ideas for work came to me while running. As the streak grew, and I was knocking out strength and running goals my self-confidence grew. This confidence had me setting & hitting bigger goals at work.
I spent more quality time with the kids. Running on the beach. Throwing the football with my daughter. Going on long walks with the dog. A body in motion wants to stay in motion.
For me, I proved that the foundation of my optimal life is fitness. Without exercise, I would not have been able to go without drinking alcohol for 380 days. After a tough day at work, exercise was my substitute stress relief instead of a beer.
If find yourself in a rut, focus on exercising daily. The short-term benefits are immediate while the long-term benefits add up over time.
#10. My kids loved the streak as much as I did.
This challenge has reminded me how much our kids watch what we do. They learn from our behaviors and my kids fell in love with the streak. My daughter completed the #Overcome38 38 day challenge & started her own hand walking challenge.
STORY: On Day 316, I was helping my daughter with her water testing science experiment. This required us to get a cup of water out of Rocky River. I slipped on the mud going down the steep bank toward the river. I fell and cut my ankle on a sharp rock. I had pain in my ankle, and both wrists. It took me a couple of minutes to figure out how bad I was hurt before trying to get back up.
My daughter was at the top of the bank crying. She was worried. She just watched her dad go falling down the embankment knee dip into the river.
As I went limping up the bank, she said: “oh no Dad, you’re not going to be able to work out today and it is my fault.” And then started crying harder. I was not going to let that end the streak. I could not run for over a week. But I did get to the gym that day and did a back work out.
There were times, where we had to modify plans so I could get in workouts. My kids & wife were very supportive. Most days when I’d get home, the kids would ask “so, you’d get in your workout today?”
#11. Healthy habits can become an addiction – and that is a good thing.
At Christmas Mass, the Bishop spoke about good addictions. That over time the word addiction has become negative. But that it is possible to have healthy addictions.
You can be addicted to helping others, eating healthy, exercising, etc. These things make you feel good, and if done daily can become addictions.
Has the days went by not only did I look forward to that day’s workout, but also found myself wanting to eat healthier. I also started doing more research on running and training. Getting fit became a healthy addiction just from exercising every day for 30 minutes per day.
Try to start a good daily habit today, that will one day become a good addiction.
#12. Not drinking alcohol is tougher than working out every day.
I say that, but I ended up not drinking for 14 months.
After day 66, I woke up each morning thinking about my workout for the day. It was something I looked forward to each day. Not drinking got easier over time – but it was not something I got excited about.
For the first 3 months, I avoided all social situations that involved alcohol. Alcohol is woven into almost all aspects of our lives. The grocery store by my house has craft beer bar, and people drink beer while grocery shopping. So you either become a recluse or you have to re-learn how to be functional at social settings without drinking.
Fortunately, I really enjoy talking to people and getting know them. So, I eased back into drinking social situations. I made it through weddings, birthday’s at the club, vacations, and Fraternity brother’s pool party that looks something straight out of Wolf of Wall Street.
I went to Vegas and played in World Series of Poker events on day 194. I was so close to 200 days. It was intense. I said in this post, it challenged me to my core and it 100% changed me:
In the fall, I looked forward to going to Cherokee and playing in the local WSOP event knowing I’d do it completely sober. I found that I no longer get anxious while playing and I actually play better without a beer.
Jumpstart your fitness TODAY!
If you want to jumpstart your fitness, I 100% recommend giving up alcohol & exercising daily for 38 days. Alcohol adds unnecessary calories and a little too much can leave you not wanting to exercise the next day. Plus, it is good for your mind & body to go 30+ days without alcohol every once in awhile.
Fitness & health are the foundation of all other aspects of your life. Setting aside 30 minutes a day for exercise will positively impact it all. Start now – don’t wait. Do a little each day, and you will be amazed where you will be 100 days or 380 days from now!
Hopefully, you picked up a nugget or two here from the lessons I learned over 380 days.