The Day Intentionality Saved My 20k One Year Step Challenge

When Ava saw who was calling she got up and walked to the back of the restaurant to answer. After a few minutes she returned to where we were sitting with our friends.

“We need to go home,” she said.

The restaurant was almost six hours from where we lived. We were on vacation. We still had three days remaining, but we needed to cut it short.

This happened on June 12 which was Day 285 of my 20k One Year Step Challenge. The goal is to reach at least 20,000 steps every day for a year with no breaks. This challenge started on September 1, 2018 with the finish line now just days away on August 31.

We were at the Outer Banks in North Carolina on Day 285. I woke up early that morning, as I almost always do, and went for a long walk. I didn’t get 20,000 steps, but it was a good start. It was cloudy with some rain in the forecast. Not a great beach day, but OK for sitting by the pool.

And, that’s where we spent a couple hours before lunch. I was still thousands of steps away from my goal. After lunch, Ava and I were planning to visit my aunt, who lives an hour away, and then rejoin our friends for dinner when we got back.

There was plenty of time in the evening to go for a long walk and hit 20k. Sitting in the car for that long drive home, as you can see, was not in my plans. I was going to fall short of the goal. My 20k One Year Step Challenge was careening towards ending early. I just didn’t realize it as I was sitting by the pool.

When I made the commitment to do this 20k Challenge I allowed myself two reasons to end it early. If either of these happened I don’t know if I would have started over again, but at least I would know that I gave it my best shot.

If I was sick or hurt and NEEDED to not walk then I wouldn’t. This was the first reason to stop mid-challenge. Thankfully, there have been no injuries, although I did have a couple colds along the way and a mild stomach issue. Those were not fun days, but I was physically able to move and so I did.

The second reason to end the 20k Challenge early was NOT because it got too hard. One of the reasons I did this Challenge was to push myself. I wanted to see if I could reach the goal on days when it would be difficult. Like Day 76.

That was a day that I wouldn’t have come close to 20,000 steps without a commitment.

Day 76 was the final day of our Fall Fundraiser. I had been at the radio station 15 hours each of the last three days so I was really TIRED. Strike one. Soon after I arrived at work that morning I discovered I accidentally left my Fitbit home. Strike two. That meant I couldn’t even start putting 20,000 steps on my Fitbit until I got home later. If the steps weren’t on my Fitbit they wouldn’t count. That was the rule. And, when I did arrive home it was snowing heavily. Strike three.

In other words, I only had a half day with bad weather to reach 20,000 steps. Day 76 was not going to be easy.

But, that didn’t matter because my commitment did not allow for a day off because I was too tired and the circumstances were too hard. When I got home I bundled up and went for a very long walk as the snow was turning my neighborhood into a winter wonderland. I got the rest of my steps clearing our driveway.

So, a hard day was not the second reason to end the Challenge early. But, I would end it early if someone I loved was in crisis and I needed to be involved in a way the prevented me from reaching 20k.

For most people this would be a no-brainer, but I know myself well enough. I could see me not stopping when I should. After all, I made a commitment. This second reason was not permission for me to end the 20k Challenge. It was a mandate for me to stop. No steps, or personal goal are worth more than the people I love.

The phone call my wife received was the very definition of a crisis. Ava’s mom was dying and we needed to go home. When we left for vacation her mom’s health was slipping, but it appeared she still had weeks if not months. Even the day before this call, a nurse told Ava to relax and enjoy the rest of her vacation because nothing was imminent.

Except it was.

We just didn’t know it the morning of Day 285…the morning I figured I could take a long walk that evening to reach my goal and keep the 20k Challenge moving forward. I had no idea that we would be sitting in a car for almost six hours after dinner. Once we got home it would be the NEXT DAY. I would have had less than 20,000 on my Fitbit for Day 285 and the Challenge would be over.

The second reason for ending the 20k One Year Step Challenge was now on the table. I could not tell Ava we needed to wait so I could reach the goal to keep this thing alive. I couldn’t do that. I gave myself a MANDATE to not do that.

Thankfully, I didn’t need to.

There’s beauty in letting life unfold on its own. There’s also great power in being intentional. This 20k One Year Step Challenge has lived within the tension of these two.

I don’t want to control every circumstance. Actually, I do, but I can’t. Life unfolds without my intervention. But, reaching 20,000 steps, or 15,000, or 10,000, or even 5,000 doesn’t just unfold on it’s own. It requires intentionality. I can’t control, or even predict, the future…how things are going to unfold. But, I can be intentional in the present moment.

Being intentional during this 20k Challenge has helped me to see opportunities to move towards my daily goal that I otherwise would have missed.    

After I finished lunch on Day 285 I was still 5,000 steps short of 20k. I had an hour before Ava and I needed to leave to visit my aunt. I grabbed a book and headed for the deck to read. I sat there and realized I had enough time to grab the remainder of the steps I needed. In other words, here was an opportunity, right now, to be intentional about my goal. And, I actually thought, “Who knows what could happen later?”

So, I threw on a pair of headphones, found a podcast to listen to, and started moving. I hit 20k before we got in the car at 2pm to go visit my aunt.

If I had made the choice to use that hour to sit and keep reading this would have ended as the 20k 284-Day Challenge.

Which would have been disappointing, but OK.

If you struggle with motivation to stick with fitness this blog will help. Don’t be intimated by the title. That’s my goal…not yours. But, my bigger goal is to help you start a fitness journey that builds momentum and never stops. If you click FOLLOW (below on your phone and to the right and above on your computer) you’ll get an email with a link to each motivating article the moment it’s published.