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…?

9 thoughts on “100 days of counting steps is like a marathon, only longer

  1. I’ve got lots to say. Might write a post about the challenge. But here’s my early morning observation, you take it far more seriously than I do! When it starts to annoy me I just tune it out. Lalala, not listening. When it’s motivational I pay attention. It’s a tool. Use it when it works. Ignore it when it doesn’t. Though I guess in your case it’s “working” and annoying you. But still, pay less attention to it.

    1. I take it more seriously because I feel the team aspect obligates me to take it more seriously. If it were just me and no team I would chuck it right now.

      1. I guess. My Fitbit tracks and syncs with the global challenge so there is nothing I need to do anyway.

  2. I feel that the team dynamic of this challenge always lets me down. This is my 3rd year now with this challenge and there is always 1 or 2 people who loose their pedometer or give up after a few weeks and the challenge stalls. I also resent that things like weight or strength training are not considered as relevant in this exercise as they don’t provide as much movement and therefore not as many steps. This challenge also uses the BMI scale which I have several issues with that you wonderful ladies have written about before. Apart from that, I think this program is a good way for office workers who sit all day and don’t usually exercise to move more and really become aware of how little we do while at work.

    1. I can relate to every one of your points. I have been doing it for two years. Each year there is at least one person who disappears from the challenge altogether before it’s half over. I know that in the grand scheme it means nothing if the team does well or badly. But I still think there is an obligation to do your best if you’re going to be on a team. I agree too though that it makes me aware of how little it is possible for me to move on a day when I drive to work, walk to my desk, and sit in front of the computer all day. It is quite shocking, actually! So for self-awareness of activity, I like it. Thanks for your comment.

  3. Well, I’ve never counted steps. but, I did relate to this part of your post, “But I can start to resent goals and monitoring and tracking and all that.”. I often think of starting a “challenge” of some sort. Then I get resentful of thinking about that moment when I can’t meet some aspect of said challenge and now I get to feel like a failure! I want movement and fitness to be part of my life the way my morning coffee is, and for me, I think that means having a very whatever attitude towards it. I might one day do a true workout, but another day just take a an easy walk around the lake with daughter. Having said that, that might also be why I am not as fit as I’d like. because I don’t set goals and take such a casual attitude towards it!

  4. I’ve never done a step challenge and don’t own a fitbit (I don’t want one that automatically sends info to the company because I’m an information privacy crank). BUT: your comments about wanting to be DONE when you’re 85% of the way through is exactly how I feel often about physical activity. On some of my regular cycling routes, I can identify exactly the spot where I think wryly to myself, “I wish there were a bus stop here”. It’s hard for me to stay with the process all the way to the end. Why? Part of me worries that it will be too hard, too painful, too something. (BTW, this happens with finishing writing articles, too). But riding with others helps a lot, and trying to stay in the moment (which is usually kind of fun, as I love cycling) also helps.

    Questioning of the purpose, boredom with the activity, other emotions can all interfere here. There are other complications with being part of a team, too, that don’t crop up in cycling or running (for one thing, we gotta get back home!) . So I’m not sure what I think about this– definitely glad you posted, and looking forward to more discussion.

  5. I turned on the fitness app on my Samsung and apparently it stays on till you ditch the phone. Since I usually have my phone with I became an accidental tracker. I found it useful to get myself back to walking after an interruption to my routine and on days when I would walk a lot it was kind if cool to look at it and have it tell me how much I exceeded expectations. Kind of like my mother praising me for my bravery over brushed knees as a child. You know it doesn’t make you special but you can kind of believe bit anyway.
    Don’t think I would ever do a challenge though, and certainly not if it had anything to do with the university. My attitude towards the university trying to get faculty to get involved in fitness or transit is pretty much FU. Don’t talk to me until you give me back my gym membership ( we lost that benefit in the early 90s and and i am still pissedoff) and until you subsidize my public transit.

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