100 days of counting steps is like a marathon, only longer

Three outside stairs (in Chicago) with a right foot in a robin blue running shoe and the bottom of a brown leg (Tracy's) on the lower step.
Three outside stairs (in Chicago) with a right foot in a robin blue running shoe and the bottom of a brown leg (Tracy’s) on the lower step.

Sam and I are both doing the Virgin Pulse Global Challenge, which is 100 days of counting steps as a member of a seven-person team. We’re not on the same team. She’s on Nasty Women and Bad Hombres (a team specially crafted to win and which is currently 304th globally and 1st at our university), I’m on Oh, the Humanities! (a team not specially crafted to win that currently stands at 9040th place globally and 21st at our university).

I’m doing it despite that last year I said I would never do it again. I got drawn in by FOMO.

We’ve got 15 days to go and, like last year, I’m ready for this to be over. Today it occurred to me that this 100 day challenge is feeling like a long, long event that loses its shine after a bit.  I’ve run a marathon and done other distances of running events and triathlons in the past, and they all have a similar psychological pattern to them (for me, anyway).

At the start, I feel super enthusiastic and energized. I want to be there. I like being there. It’s fun to be doing what I’m doing. I’m up for the challenge. This is the part of the race where you feel like you can do anything. That’s how I felt about the step challenge for about 6 weeks.

I was in a routine and it felt good. There were some tougher days when I didn’t do my regular walking commute and had to make a plan if I was going to get those steps. I traveled a bit, and that threw off the routine but I managed. But for about the first half, it felt pretty good.

In the middle part of a race it’s easy to lose your focus. The mind starts to wander. All the scenery looks the same. I sometimes experience boredom or a sense of doubt about why I’m even doing this. But despite all of this, I’ve still got the energy to stick to the plan.

That’s how it felt for the past month. I’ve got other things on my mind and some days I just don’t care that much about steps. I get the idea — I know that mostly it’s no problem for me to get between 15000-20000 steps in a day. But other days, like if I work at home or drive to work or go to a pool party, it requires more effort and planning. I need to go for walks or plan a 10K run or risk falling short. My mind wandered but I stuck it out.

Going into the home stretch of a race — that’s when I feel as if I want to tap out. The doubt about why I’m doing this can shift into the downright conviction that this is a useless undertaking that makes no sense. Instead of a lack of focus, the mind fixates on just one thing — finishing. This is the time in a long race that I haul out all of the affirmations I can muster. I can do this. I’ve trained for this. I’m strong and full of energy. Seriously, anything. And still, it’s a slog. I just want it to be over.

It’s day 85 of the challenge. I’m in home stretch mode. I want it to be over. It makes no sense. I’m kicking myself for allowing FOMO to motivate me to do something that I have already determined loses its luster before the end. And to top it all off, I’m about to go sailing for two weeks. And it’s hard to get steps on the boat. And I just want to enjoy my vacation.

Not that I don’t enjoy activity on my vacation. But I can start to resent goals and monitoring and tracking and all that. And that is the stuff of which the global challenge is made. I will stick it out to the end. I’m on a team and that adds to the commitment, even if my team doesn’t stand a chance of victory. At least some of my team members have had a good experience dedicating themselves to the challenge. As did I for the first bit. I guess it’s time for my affirmations.

I know we’ve asked this before, but I’ll ask again: how do you feel about tracking your steps? Is this a part of your life? A thing you do from time to time (for a time, like the 100 day challenge)? A thing you would never do because…?

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