1,600 days. That’s how many days in a row I’ve spent at least 20 consecutive minutes outside. Often, especially when the weather is nice or if I’m out for a run or adventure, it’s way more than 20 minutes. Sometimes, like once or twice over the past week when the weather was gross and uninspiring, it was almost exactly 20 minutes.
If I always did exactly 20 minutes every day, that would be 32,000 minutes of outside time since I started my challenge, or about 533 hours, or about 22 days. And like I said — that’s the bare minimum. The actual time, which I don’t track because honestly you can’t track everything in life, is so much bigger. That’s hard to imagine, because 533 hours is a pretty huge number.
Like probably all humans, I find that I feel better about my outdoor time after the weather has been nice. When I hit 1,400 days in July I had all sorts of great things to say about what I’ve learned by spending so much time outside. This week, however, is featuring some real Alaska winter weather, which is to say ice, followed by really cold, followed by not nearly cold enough, followed by more ice. If you start down my driveway right now you better be committed to the idea, because you won’t be stopping. And I ditched multiple outdoor runs for the treadmill because, frankly, I just didn’t want to deal with the ice anymore.
In short, my attitude has not been stellar.
When I hit 1,600 days this week I set off to do what I always do on these milestones: contemplate the things I have learned. Because it’s a hard weather season, I was reminded of two really important things you can only know in the midst of discomfort.
First is the idea that I am not particularly proud of the amount of time I’ve spent outside. I mean, yeah, it’s a big number. And yes, it’s representative of all the incredible things I’ve tried and the ways doing those things and the overall time has made me a better person in so many areas of my life, something I hope to write a book about.
But the thing I’m most proud of is the habit itself — and it’s a feeling of achievement I wouldn’t have unless the conditions were challenging. It’s easy to keep a habit when the weather is perfect, you’re infinitely comfortable or you never feel rushed or inconvenienced. It’s easy when your family has a good attitude, you didn’t spill coffee everywhere on your way out the door and exactly zero children are throwing a temper tantrum about a balloon they haven’t seen since last Easter. But all the other times? All the other times are when it’s hard.
So I’ve learned to lean into the tenacity keeping this habit has taught me — and to use the value of that tenacity as a reason to keep going when I’d rather not. When I set out to do my outdoor time even when I don’t want to, I remind myself that practicing doing something minor that’s not a life or job requirement even when I don’t want to — like keeping this habit every single day no matter what — gives me the muscle to push through do the things I MUST do when they are unpleasant. Tough conversations. Actual physical pain. Controlling my emotions. Whew, it would be easier to skip all of that. But sometimes you don’t have a choice. And when I practice my skill of keeping my outdoor habit no matter what, I practice my skill of doing hard things even when I don’t want to. The strength I have found in keeping a habit is the reward.
The second thing I have recently realized thanks to those 1,600 days is tied to the toughing it out thing, and it’s this: the weather will eventually change.
This week it warmed up to 40 degrees, which is crazy warm for winter in Alaska. It really does do some version of this at some point every year, melting so much of the snow with freezing rain and just above freezing temperatures, only to then to turn back to below freezing and even crazy cold in due course, freezing all of that water into hazardous and obnoxious ice. It’s not my favorite. I’d like to get the cycle over with.
Meanwhile, my nearby walking trail is many feet deep with snow drifts that blew over it during our mega windstorm in early January. And you know what happens to snow drifts when they start to melt? They become unstable, and walking on them gets very tough. For three steps you may be on top of the drift, only to punch down hip deep for step four. Then, you climb back up and walk another step or two until – punch – down your other foot falls. It makes walking a lot of frustrating work.
And then one of two things happens. The drift either melts away as the weather stays warm. That’s what usually happens in the spring or quote break up season, when all of the ice breaks up. Or, the drift gets hard again as the weather cools.
And so I was punched through a drift over and over again early this week, I reminded myself of that lesson: that the weather always changes eventually. That means I can push through the hard stuff, holding out hope for that weather change in the likely near future. Or, I can hold onto the things I enjoy now, being fully present and fully enjoying the gift being outside in weather I like is giving me, because I know that it is only here for a moment.
The weather will eventually change.
If you’re looking for motivation to get outside daily just like I have for these 1,600 days, I have created a challenge program to help you. A little extra boost to make your habit awesome and give you a reward at the end is a really fabulous thing, and I designed the Challenge to create that. You can learn more about what you get with each level at Humansoutside.com/challenge.
And of course you can see all of my outdoor time at Humans Outside on Facebook and Instagram. And, please share your own by tagging your posts with #humansoutside365.
Until next time, Ill see you out there.