5 Lessons From Walking 20,000 Steps a Day

I see Bob and Larry every time I’m in the grocery store. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to shake this.

When our kids were younger we did what so many parents have done for decades. We plopped them in front of the TV when we needed a break. We didn’t do this as much as I wanted at times, but every afternoon at 5p when Thomas the Tank Engine came on so did our TV. That was followed by Bill Nye The Science Guy.

Walking is Fitness is also a podcast. You can read or listen to this article.

Occasionally, they got a little extra TV time when we had a special video for them to watch. Disney movies were always a hit, but the best was Veggie Tales.

If you’re not familiar with Veggie Tales the concept is going to sound a little strange…talking and singing animated vegetables telling Bible stories. I know, but it really worked.

While the videos were aimed at kids, the humor was smart and Ava and I enjoyed Veggie Tales as much as our kids.

I haven’t seen a Veggie Tales video in years, but I think about it every time I’m in the produce section at the grocery store. The “hosts” were a tomato named Bob and a cucumber named Larry.

IMG_4103They opened every video with a funny little dialogue that took a page from the greats like Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello, even Martin and Dean. They also reappeared after the Bible story (which featured other animated vegetables and even a few fruit) for a quick wrap-up.

I was reminded of this closing bit from Bob and Larry as I thought of this week’s blog post. I’m a few weeks away from the finish line of my 20k One Year Step Challenge. On September 1, 2018 I began a year long quest to reach at least 20,000 steps every day  without taking a day off. I’m still on track and hope to cross the finish line on Saturday, August 31.

Things like this tend to get me thinking big picture. As I’ve been doing that, I thought of how Bob and Larry ended every Veggie Tales video with, “It’s time to talk about what we’ve learned today.”

At the risk of presuming a successful finish to this challenge I have five lessons from getting 20,000 steps every day for (almost) a year.

Commitment Matters

I just wrote about this last week and won’t re-argue my point. You can read it HERE. But, this is the biggest lesson and so to not even mention it would be wrong. If emotion is the spark of change…commitment is the fuel that keeps the engine of change going.

Most of us begin a fitness journey because of something we are feeling. We don’t like the way we look or a number on the scale. We’re tired of feeling bad or it just got real at the doctor’s office. We FEEL these and that emotion gets us moving.

But, to stay the course we need commitment. Our feelings will fade and may even turn against us. That’s when a commitment to fitness keeps us moving forward.

There were days during this 20k Challenge when that commitment was all I had to push me towards the goal. Your fitness journey will not last unless your commitment is stronger than your feelings.

Fitness is a Mostly a Head Game

On Day 40 of this One Year Challenge my wife, Ava, had surgery for breast cancer. The surgery was successful and Ava also completed radiation treatment. She’s doing great and the long-term prognosis is fantastic.

Obviously, I was with her at the hospital that day and at home taking care of her needs since it was out-patient surgery. I also had to figure out how to get 20,000 steps that day.

We often think of fitness as a physical thing. And, it is. Fitness doesn’t happen without some physical effort and intensity. But, fitness is also a mental exercise. And, I would contend that’s where fitness is either won or lost.

How many people aren’t pursuing fitness because they believe it doesn’t matter, don’t feel they have what it takes, or simply can’t figure out what to do.

The day Ava had surgery I had to DECIDE not to break my 20k chain. I had to figure out how to manage my time so I could get those steps and still be fully available for Ava. All that happened before I put a single step on my Fitbit.

Fitness is won or lost in the mind before a single intentional physical movement ever happens. And, that battle must be re-engaged daily. Fitness is mostly a head game.

The Real Goal Isn’t What You Think

Fitness goals usually involve numbers. We want to lose weight and see that progress on a scale. Maybe the numbers involve blood pressure or cholesterol. These are all great goals for fitness. But, they’re not the REAL goal.

Fitness is not easy. That’s probably why more than half the adults in the U.S. don’t do ANYTHING AT ALL. This is a mystery to me because fitness is so readily available to all. Walking is such a simple way to move more and begin to reap the benefits of fitness, but whatever…

That said…fitness is not easy especially at the beginning. It feels hard, awkward, and sometimes even pointless. It takes awhile to really see sustainable progress on those number goals. And, that can get discouraging. That’s why a lot of people start and then stop. “What’s the point?” they wonder.

The real goal of fitness is to keep it going. You want to build a foundation that makes it HARD TO STOP. The first goal of fitness is simply to establish a fitness habit which eventually builds momentum.

I hope to reach the finish line of my 20k One Year Step Challenge in just a couple weeks. This year-long challenge was built on the momentum established over five years since I got my first Fitbit. People are asking what I plan to do after August 31. I’ll tell you what I can’t do.

I can’t stop. Even if I wanted to take a break, my momentum is such a level that it would take more effort to stop fitness than it to keep it going.

That’s the real goal of fitness.

Fitness is the Bigger Investment

When I was in my 30’s my employer established a retirement program. It was voluntary and retirement was so far away that I couldn’t wrap my emotions around it. Even so, I started making contributions.

Over the years those I made adjustments to how much I was investing and even backed off for a bit when money got tight. I regret that now. Retirement is no longer far away and I can see how much I set myself back when it got tough and I made those adjustments.

Saving is not the only investment we can make for retirement. As important as having money set aside for the next season of life, I’m realizing it’s even more important to be investing in my health. I see things now I never noticed when I was younger.

I see people ahead of me on life’s journey. Some invested in fitness, but many did not. I may not have done everything I could have with my money, but I’m grateful for what I have done for my health.

I would hate to have more money than I know what to do with, but lack the fitness and health to enjoy it.

Invest BIG for your future by investing in your health today. You won’t regret it!

You Can’t Outfitness Aging

I used to be surprised by pictures of myself. Where did all that gray hair come from? I could only see it in pictures. In the mirror it didn’t look gray…it looked blondish. I don’t understand why I couldn’t comprehend my reality. Maybe it was the bathroom lighting. Or, maybe it was my brain trying to protect my emotions from what was really happening.

Now I see the gray hair…and the deepening wrinkles in my face. Oh…and when I walk up the big hill in our neighborhood I feel it. I can’t…you can’t…outfitness aging.

Fitness has many benefits. It can improve your health. It can help you feel better. It can even help you look better. But, fitness can’t stop the aging process. and, that’s not all.

Jack Lalanne is often called The Godfather of Fitness. As a young man he developed a passion for exercise and healthy eating. He was on TV for decades showing others how to begin and maintain a fitness journey.

Jack enjoyed the full benefits of fitness and healthy living…even into his 90’s. Jack Lalanne died on January 23, 2011 at age 96. Jack’s final lesson on exercise and eating well is that you can’t outfitness death.

I love fitness and, even more specifically, I love walking for fitness. But, during this 20k Challenge I’ve been continually reminded that my fitness will lose to aging and death. Fitness is not my END GOAL, but merely a way to live the years I’ve been given better.

So…Bob and Larry, that’s what I’ve learned from my 20k One Year Step Challenge.

What You Can Do

If you have struggled with making fitness stick it’s likely because you started with a goal that was way too big. 20,000 steps a day was my goal, but SHOULD NOT be your goal if you’re just getting started.

If you’re looking for ways to move more, check out this free guide to “37 Easy Ways to Add 1,000 Steps.” It includes ideas you probably have never considered. And…it’s quarantine friendly!

If you don’t have a Fitbit I recommend the Fitbit Inspire HR. This is the Fitbit I use to track my 20,000 steps a day. The Inspire HR also tracks your heart rate and sleep so you get an even wider picture of your fitness progress.


(By the way…if you use the link above to but a Fitbit Inspire HR this blog will receive a small commission. It won’t add anything to what you pay, but letting you know is the right thing to do)

Lastly, this blog is designed to help you embrace walking as a fitness activity. It’s sustainable, flexible, effective, and fun. Every week I post new articles with stories and helpful suggestions to Win at Fitness.

If you click FOLLOW (below on your phone…to the right and above on your computer) you’ll receive an email with a link to each new blog post.


  1. Thank you committing and sharing. Both are helping me. Please consider helping me commit to a long term goal and learn to plan ahead for what success will look like on hard days and how to mentally handle the days that life, such as surgery, literally prevent to participation and how to minimize that.

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