Every year, I choose a New Year’s challenge—one that is slightly out of reach so that it is in fact “a challenge”.
In December 2017, I was mindlessly scrolling through Facebook aware that the New Year was quickly approaching. I had not yet chosen my challenge. Facebook knows me oh so well! A sponsored ad extolling the benefits of a 365-day running streak appeared. I was intrigued. This would certainly be a challenge! Almost on a whim, I decided to go for it. A 2018 calendar I received as a gift became my running log, I picked a date during my Christmas vacation so I could ease into it while I was home, and began. Just like that… starting was easy. One foot in front of the other.
I am now 48 days into my running streak and have logged 132 miles. Some days, I run the bare minimum (one mile before midnight); however, on the weekend, I aim for three to six miles. On one particularly ambitious week, I ran 3 miles every day. You would be amazed how quickly the miles add up! In all honesty, I’ve had my fair share of aches and pains. After a long day at work, particularly in the first few weeks, I complained profusely as I headed to the treadmill asking myself why I was doing this stupid challenge, but it really hasn’t been that hard. I have more good days than bad. Surprisingly, the days I don’t want to run usually end up being my best runs.
A running streak is so much like writing. It is surprisingly easy to get started. You don’t need much for this challenge. Make sure you have some good running shoes, lightweight pants, shirt/sweater and off you go. I have even run in pajama pants before! Show up and run. One foot in front of the other… ready, set, go before you change your mind. With writing, you need even less to get started so now you have even fewer excuses. Open your journal, turn on your computer, get a pen or pencil, paper, tissue paper, napkins (channel your inner J.K Rowling), and write.
One day, I asked myself… If I could get this far in my running streak, why couldn’t I write every day? What was holding me back? The problem was that I didn’t have a challenge. I didn’t have a daily achievable goal (e.g. one mile). So, I came up with a really simple writing goal.
Write 50 words about anything every day before midnight.
Let’s put this into perspective. Fifty words equal 4 lines or so of text. It isn’t even a full paragraph. You could type, write or use speech-to-text recognition software in one third the time it would take to run half a mile. I placed the bar low on purpose. Set yourself up for success! Think about it… If you start with 500 to 1,000 words, you may not achieve your goals if you are not used to writing on a daily basis. Imagine choosing 10 miles as your minimum daily running goal! You probably won’t reach your 365th day.
When I started the 50-word challenge, I stared at my journal longer than I care to admit. I had no idea what to write, I was too tired, I didn’t get enough sleep last night, I’m therefore exhausted, that book looks interesting (I read voraciously to avoid writing. In one week, I read four books!) and, OMG, I still have to run!! I couldn’t possibly write 50 words. This challenge is worse than my running streak! Really? Talk about dramatic! It is not! I had to tell myself over and over again… stop making excuses and write! You will have to be hard on yourself!
If you can’t think of anything to write, describe how much you love your pet, how was your day, create a how-to guide about a website you use regularly (these are easy and straightforward), start a story, or describe your living room. Or, like I did one day, write, “I am a writer. I am a writer” over and over again until you have your 50 words. It really doesn’t matter what the topic is. The whole point is to commit to a daily writing goal and follow through with it. You don’t even have to show anyone what you wrote although that does help to hold you accountable.
The first thirty days
The first thirty days of my running streak took an eternity! I came up with excuse after excuse—my ankle ached, I didn’t want to run, I was too tired from working all day, it is 16 degrees in the garage, I am absolutely, positively sick of running in cold, icy weather, 930pm, 1030pm, and even 1100pm runs were not at all appealing—but I never gave up on my challenge. I always ran. Even it was just a mile. Before I knew it, I was at 5, 10, 15, 28, and then 30 days. Even I was surprised! I have never run for 30 days straight. Ever.
Shortly after reaching the 30-day mark, I was in the groove. Running was part of my day. I rarely complained. I got ready, laced up my running shoes and off I went even if it was 11pm at night. I have completed many 11pm runs. They are growing on me now that I listen to audiobooks about writing. All of a sudden, the miles and days went by so quickly.
I am convinced that writing is the same way. We just have to start!! Before you know it, you will be further along with your writing goals than ever before.
I challenge you to start with 50 words today… step by step; word by word.