How to fit it in (more on Rule #3: Move by 3 p.m.)

This week the Tranquility by Tuesday Challenge is focusing on Rule #3: Move by 3 p.m. We cannot make more time, but we can boost our energy levels, and getting a few minutes of physical activity is the equivalent of putting a magic reset button into an ordinary day.

The primary purpose of this rule is straightforward. Physical activity feels good and is good for us! But there is a secondary purpose, which is that to move by 3 p.m., every single day, you generally have to survey each day, and see what can’t be moved, what can, and where the space might be. This strategic mindset has all sorts of spillover benefits.

I know that people’s lives look different, and some days and schedules make this rule a lot harder than others. I can’t pretend to know the answer for where to fit in a 10-minute walk (or something like that) for everyone. But I can talk about my thought process when I did an exercise experiment a few years ago.

On December 26, 2016, I went for a run. I happened to run a few days in a row after that (we weren’t traveling for the holidays and the weather had been decent). I had long been fascinated by the concept of streaks — doing something every single day for a long time — and so I decided to try to keep my running streak going. I would run at least a mile a day, every single day, for the foreseeable future.

Running a mile generally takes me 10-12 minutes, depending on the circumstances, so this is a good approximation for Rule #3. The vast majority of days were straightforward: put on my running shoes and go run outside or on the treadmill. But a few were more complicated. For instance, early on in the streak I realized I had forgotten my running shoes and clothes when I was staying overnight at a hotel in Long Island. I’d planned to run on the hotel gym but that didn’t seem doable in my dress shoes! However, I could run barefoot around my hotel room in little loops (in my pajamas, I believe) with my step counter on to let me know when I’d hit a mile.

Did this feel ridiculous? Absolutely. But here’s the funny part. I actually still felt better after that “run.” If I wasn’t trying to run (and was just trying to get physical activity) this would have felt less silly because I could have done push-ups and sit-ups in my hotel room. Or even walked briskly in my dress clothes (clearly I had the ability to do some walking as I’d gotten myself to the hotel).

There were a few other memorable ridiculous days. For instance, I once got up at 3:30 a.m. to go run a mile on a hotel treadmill before a 6 a.m. flight (I knew I would be traveling all day). There was one day where I woke up on a Boy Scout camping trip, came home from that and had to turn around to go sing in a concert in New Jersey and then get to NYC for a conference that night. I had about an hour after getting home to turn myself around…so I ran for 12 minutes and spent the other 48 on the transition.

On family vacations I generally just got up before everyone else. On the occasions when I was traveling with a kid, solo, and couldn’t leave said child in a hotel alone, I’d do the hotel room loop thing and let the kid giggle at me.

Anyway, committing to do something every single day changes the question. It’s not “will I go for a run today?” The question becomes “when can I go for a run today?” That is just a matter of logistics, not motivation, and for 3 solid years, it was always possible to do it somewhere.

Of course, three years is not forever. My last run of the streak happened on the morning of December 28, 2019. Long time readers might recall that kid #5 was born early in the morning of December 29. So, some days, it doesn’t happen! I haven’t attempted to restart the streak. But I do know that it is the rare day when I couldn’t do something if I wanted to. It’s just a matter of fitting it in.

Photo: From a half-marathon that happened about 6 months into the streak. I think I ran a very slow mile late the next day to keep the streak going…

4 thoughts on “How to fit it in (more on Rule #3: Move by 3 p.m.)

  1. For me I am counting small bits of walking as moving. We went from minus 30 to hovering around freezing which is a lot of wind and windchill. I take the stairs two flights up and down at work a couple of extra times. I get off the bus and walk an extra block and a half into work. I will take a walking loop around the floor I’m on when I have breaks between the classes I teach. It’s not my ideal of going for a 30 minute walk but it is what I know I can stick to in this winter weather!

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