What Does a Daily Exercise Streak Have to Do with Financial Advice?

A Big Milestone

Today is a big milestone for me. You see, 1826 days ago – exactly 5 years – I began a streak of working out every single day without missing a day for any reason. The streak started on March 10, 2016 with the goal of working out every day for 100 consecutive days. After about 50 days, I started to wonder if I could extend the streak to an entire year, and, well, the rest is history.

Find Your “Hook” To Create Better Habits

Most of us have tasks or responsibilities that we enjoy, as well as some we don’t. Discipline can be challenging for many of us, when it comes to the things we enjoy less. The challenge is to create discipline around the behavior, task, or goal that we find more difficult to do consistently. Finding a way to establish and maintain that consistency is the key. There is no “one size fits all” solution to this; we are all different, and the key is to find the “hook” that might work best for you.

Using Streaks Can Be Very Effective

One thing I have found effective is to start a streak. I designate a prescribed minimum amount of time to certain tasks or goals that I commit to doing on a daily basis. It’s important to set the minimum time at a meaningful, yet achievable level. For my exercise streak, that was at least 20 minutes of carved out time for a workout. I don’t count activities that I’m already doing anyway, like walking the dog or teaching skiing. The actual rules are less important. What is important is that you have a clear set of rules for yourself. The streak could be daily, weekly, or a certain number of days per week, etc.

At a minimum, I keep track of the streak and ideally, I share it with some friends for accountability. If I can keep the streak going for even a few weeks, as it grows, my tendency to avoid the task is overwhelmed by my desire to keep the streak going. The longer the streak goes, the more motivated I am to keep it from being broken.

I have found that somewhere around 50 days, the task starts to develop into a habit. Once that occurs, it takes less effort to complete it, and, instead something I just do each day, with minimal effort, like brushing my teeth. The longer the streak becomes, the more this is the case.

A wide variety of exercise over 5 years.

Of course, there is some amount of luck involved with this. There is a long list of things that could have happened on any given day in the last 5 years that would have made it impossible to continue my streak. At the same time, there were plenty of things that did occur that I could have allowed to stop the streak, but I didn’t. Some of those obstacles include: overseas travel, a concussion, a sprained shoulder, and a blood clot in my foot. In each of these cases, where appropriate, I consulted with a doctor and modified my exercise as necessary, while still sticking to my rules. 

Use a Balanced and Smart Approach

Being too compulsive about a streak could be harmful and could diverge from the larger goal. If I started a streak to save a certain amount of money each month and an unexpected medical event were to occur, it would be important to put the medical issue first. Such risks are also true with a daily exercise streak, so let me address that further. 

When I first heard about the idea of a daily exercise streak, I thought it sounded like a great way to guarantee a repetitive use injury, particularly for a guy in his 50s. I spent some time thinking it through and I consulted with my trainer. It turns out there is a balanced, healthy way to maintain a streak like this. There are three major components to fitness: aerobic, strength, and mobility/flexibility. When we think about fitness, most of us think of aerobic exercise, a significantly smaller group might think of strength training, and an even smaller subset mindfully addresses mobility/flexibility. 

Starting and maintaining this streak forced me to increase the variety of activities I use for workouts. By doing so, I am able to rotate through a series of different workouts that cover the three categories listed above. I generally alternate through them so that my body is either getting a rest from aerobic exercise, strength training, or resting my lower body or upper body. Like most people, mobility is my weakest area and stretching every day is not harmful, so I try to incorporate that as frequently as possible. Finally, intensity can vary from day-to-day as well. Some days are all out, giving it everything I’ve got, and other days are recoveries where I move at a more moderate pace.

Successfully Making Changes Can Have a Positive Impact in Other Areas of Your Life

I have discovered many benefits from maintaining this streak. Among other things, I rarely get sick, my level of physical fitness is better in my 50s than it was in my 30s, and the feeling of accomplishment has been good for my overall confidence. The streak has gone on long enough now that I’m less concerned about reaching the next milestone. Inevitably at some point, despite my best efforts, life will get in the way and the streak will come to end. That’s okay because it served its purpose long ago. As I said earlier, moving my body everyday has become as second nature as brushing my teeth.

Strategies like this can also be used to make modifications to our financial habits. Just as many of us use personal trainers to guide and motivate us to better physical fitness, a financial advisor can be used to guide and motivate you to better financial health. If you’d like some help making some changes or just to review your financial situation, click the “Let’s Talk!” button at the top of the page, to set up a complimentary, introductory meeting and see if we are the right firm to help you.

John Bernstein