I Kept a Walking Streak for a Full Year — and Discovered 7 Surprising Benefits Along the Way

published Jan 23, 2021
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Over a year ago — on Jan. 1, 2020 — I decided to make a promise to myself: I would walk or run outside every single day of the year. To track my progress, I dedicated a calendar page in my bullet journal to highlight the days I met my goal. It could be a three-mile run or a 30-minute walk around my neighborhood. My intention was primarily to remain consistent with my original objective, and I decided to maintain this habit for 365 days — in other words, I would develop a year-long streak.

Tanya Dalton, a productivity expert and the founder of inkWELL Press Productivity Co., says employing the 3 Rs are helpful in meeting streak goals: 

Record: All too often, we don’t take the time to realize how hard we’ve worked until we step back and take a moment to reflect and record that success. Putting your successes to paper shows you how you are progressing and allows you to see the progress you’ve made. 

Reward: Dopamine can do wonders and act as a springboard to keep going. Reward yourself in a manner that is favorable to you and that will incentivize you to keep going.

Redirect: The hard truth about habits is that you will fall, stumble, and miss. Everyone is human, which means we aren’t perfect. Give yourself grace when you get off track and then use the first two Rs to get back in the right direction.

I employed this strategy in my maintaining my walking and running habit and all 3 Rs helped in trying to keep the streak alive. After an entire year of walking and running, I’ve learned seven important truths to making habits stick all year long. 

On days I didn’t feel like walking or running outside, my streak motivated me to do so. 

There were definitely nights when I went to sleep later than usual — as a result, my motivation to run or walk outdoors the following morning would sound unappealing. I’d wake up tired and would often outline several reasons why I “didn’t have time” to squeeze in a walk or run. But the moment I thought about putting a large, bold X on my calendar, I realized it would break my streak. That single thought motivated me to keep it going. As a compromise, on low-motivation days, I’d walk a little less, but at least it compelled me to keep going, and helped me avoid the dreaded X. 

Keeping my walking and running habit every day helped me avoid procrastination. 

Procrastination sometimes interferes with keeping consistent with a goal. Because I knew I had to get in my outdoor time every single day, it became easier to meet this goal when I decided to make it a priority first thing in the morning. I began placing my running clothes near my bedroom door each night, which served as a good reminder to tackle my exercise before I started work or household chores, or mindlessly scrolled on my phone. Realizing I couldn’t wait until late in the day allowed me to make my streak habit a priority. 

My streak allowed me to organize my day more efficiently. 

Knowing I had to keep my streak alive meant I couldn’t dawdle during the day with work commitments, errands, and other household duties. I’d organize my to-do list around my exercise. I learned to become more efficient with my time and replaced that “free” time with tasks that needed to be completed. 

Tracking my habits also offered a way to gain an overview of where I spend my time. “A habit streak is when you chart your activities consistently and you keep note of what habits you have by looking at the information across a period of time,” Risa Williams, a licensed therapist based in Los Angeles, noted to Apartment Therapy. “Then, you can pull back and get perspective and see what you want to change.”

Meeting my streak goal every day taught me how to be confident in consistency. 

In March of 2020, I looked through my tracker and counted 60 days of completing my goal of walking and running outside every day. This acknowledgement created a glimmer of quiet confidence — that I could keep a good habit, prioritize it, and complete several consecutive days in a row. Something about this fact helped me turn the lens toward other goals I didn’t think I could meet. Before my streak experience, I’d have dismissed trying to become consistent at a certain goal. But now, my perspective has changed. It is possible to make a habit stick. I certainly surprised myself. 

Credit: Lana Kenney

Walking and running outside every single day led to new discoveries. 

Since my every day included engaging with the outdoors, I started to notice different aspects of my walk or run. I’d choose a new route and make different discoveries, such as a bougainvillea in bloom or a trail I didn’t realize existed. These unexpected surprises created joy and helped to renew my commitment in my streak. 

Keeping a streak allowed me to commit to myself. 

Self-care is an important component to a person’s wellbeing. The tendency is to brush off little things that can make a big difference in our day-to-day lives. By keeping this streak consistent, I learned to prioritize my self-care and remained faithful to keeping this commitment to myself. It allowed me to recognize it is possible to have a new sacred relationship with the goals you set for yourself. 

A more confident me evolved after 365 days. 

In hindsight, 2020 was one of the best possible years to establish a new streak. With the pandemic and the stresses it brought, my daily walk or run served as a balm. For a period of time, my only connection to the outside world came through my daily walks. 

After 365 days, I learned it is not only possible to cultivate a new habit, but to remain consistent with it for a year. And this knowledge helped me become confident about conquering other habits too.