Your Guide to the 2015 100 Days Challenge

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bellin_cutThis all started with a gesture of kindness. While working an event in Key West, Florida in January of 2010 I managed to throw my back out. It was so bad that I ended up in two different emergency rooms trying to get some relief.

Months went by and the pain, while lessened, never truly went away. I could walk, some, but couldn’t run at all. It was the first time in nearly 20 years of running that I had an injury that prevented me from running.

In early May of 2010 I dislocated the cuboid  joint in my foot. I didn’t realize what I had done until September of 2010. Between the back pain and the dislocated joint my running fell off to zero and my walking wasn’t much better.

I needed to do something to get motivated. I knew that by making a public declaration I would be more inclined to stick with it so I challenged myself, and the folks who follow me on Facebook [Twitter wasn’t a factor then] to move intentionally for 30 minutes for the first 100 days of 2011. In no time thousands of people all over the world were taking the challenge.

One thing I learned right away was that I couldn’t run every day. I also learned that with my travel schedule it was going to be much easier to walk than run. So, my activity of choice became walking. And much to my surprise I discovered I really liked to walk.

I walked in the cities where I was working, I walked in the woods behind my house, I hiked with a backpack, I snowshoed, and more. I was moving, intentionally, at least 30 minutes every day. And so were lots of others.

On day 101 I woke up and knew what I had to do. I went for a walk. I walked the day after that and every day for the entire year. 365 days. No fudging. No excuses. No kidding.

Like so many others, circumstances intervened and I wasn’t able to complete another year in 2012. I did, however, train for and walk the VA Beach 1/2 marathon; the first race of that distance in which I had participated for over 5 years.

It can be done. I know it can because I’ve done it twice. And I’m going to do it again. I invite you to join me.

John

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Planning to Fail

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failing-to-plan-is-planning-to-failThis is the old saying. Failing to plan is planning to fail. Well, the author of that quote didn’t know much about people like me. I did plan. And I did plan to fail.

Whether it was a fitness program, or weight loss, or quitting smoking, I had to fail. No matter how much planning or hoping or dreaming went on in advance, the end was always the same: failure.

If I had succeeded, at any point, my life would have changed. I would have changed. The “ME” that I had spent years cultivating would be a different me. The me I knew was a smoker. The me I knew was an over-eater.  The me I knew never kept is promises to himself, or anyone else. I had to fail to stay ME.

If you’re already struggling with your decision – or hope or dream – to make positive changes in your life, through being more active, or making better choices about food, or being a bit more responsible with what you put in your body, don’t worry. It’s normal to struggle. It’s perfectly normal to have a battle raging inside of you. The YOU that you are and the YOU that you want to be are in conflict.

How could it be any other way?

But you do have a choice. You do. You are who you are in large part because that’s who you’ve been. And, it’s worked. You’ve gotten alongfailing-to-plan2 in your life just fine – or at least I did – being who I’d always been. I wasn’t miserable. I wasn’t feeling as though I was a failure. I was, as far as I could tell, just fine the way I was. Why would I change?

So, for me to be who I was and had always been I had to fail. I had to fail to become something other than what I already was EVEN if that wasn’t who I wanted to be.

It isn’t easy to change your life. It isn’t easy to lose weight, or get more active, or quit smoking. Don’t be fooled by the messages that you get from the very industry that needs you to fail in order for them to survive. It’s hard. It’s very, VERY hard. And that’s why it’s worth it.

You’re worth it.

Waddle on, friends.

John

Read more from “the Penguin”  at Competitor.com

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The Point of No Return

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point_of_no_return1We’re more than half-way home. Today is day 56 for me. Every day hasn’t been easy and every day hasn’t been convenient. There’ve been early mornings and late nights. There have been curses said and grumpy attitudes. There have also been beautiful sunrises and stunning sunsets. There have been moments of pure satisfaction. At least for now, for this long at least, I haven’t quit on the challenge or on myself. It hasn’t always been that way.

I was a quitter. Not the good kind of quitter. I couldn’t quit smoking. I couldn’t quit over-eating. I couldn’t quit abusing myself physically and emotionally with over-working, over-playing, over-commiting, and over-achieving. I couldn’t quit abusing myself spiritually by continuing to believe that I was at the center of the universe and that nothing that happened – N O T H I N G – didn’t somehow have something to do with me.

I couldn’t quit trying to manage and control everything and everyone in my life. Children, spouses, colleagues, employees, and friends were all subject to the absolute certainty of my thoughts and beliefs.

What I was good at quitting was the things that I shouldn’t have quit. I shouldn’t have quit on jobs just because my innate genius wasn’t celebrated. I shouldn’t have quit friendships just because my views weren’t accepted unchallenged. And I shouldn’t have quit relationships just because the pace and direction wasn’t wholly mine. But I did.

I quit believing that my life could ever be different than what it was. Well, that’s not exactly true. I never quit believing that my life could get worse. I quit believing that it could get better. I quit believing that I could be be thinner or fitter. I quit believing that the best I could be was not the best I had been.

This challenge isn’t just about movement. It isn’t just about commitment. It’s about learning who you are. Who you REALLY are. REALLY, R E A L L Y  are. Not who your parents said you are. Not who your teachers said you are. Or your friends or partners or anyone else. It’s about finding out who YOU tell yourself you are.

I told myself I was a quitter. Right up until the day that I didn’t quit on myself.

Waddle on, friends.

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After the Party’s Over

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superbowl1It was easy to keep track of the first 31 days of the 100 Days Challenge. Now that we’re in to February it’s a little more complicated. It’s also, I think, a little more difficult.

If you live in a Four Season part of the country – like I do – it is Winter now. We’re past the “coming of Winter” or the changing of the Seasons. It’s Winter. It’s cold. It’s light late and dark early. There’s snow on the ground and – did I mention – it’s C O L D!

I’m lucky. Being married to Coach Jenny Hadfield means having a fully equipped gym in the basement. Coach’s gym isn’t just a treadmill in corner of the room. This is a rubber-floored, mirrored-wall, treadmill, stationary bike, elliptical, rowing machine, weights, exercise balls, yoga mats, gym. I have no excuse not to get in my 30 minutes.

That’s not to say that I don’t look for excuses. What I know about myself is that if I wait too long to get it in it will get increasingly difficult to find the time. One day, a couple of weeks back, it was 9:30 PM before I could get on the treadmill. It was very tempting just to let it go.

If you’re still with us on Day 36; good for you. If you started but fell off; get started again. You may not get to 100 days exactly when we do, but you’ll get there. If you haven’t started yet because you’re afraid you’ll fail, welcome to the club. We are all infected with the fear of failure. The only fear worse is the fear of success.

Stay, start, or start over. What have you got to lose?

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Breakfast of Champions

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breakfastI’ve been having this recurring memory of my grandfather lately. He died in 1965 so it’s a bit strange that it should be happening now. I see him sitting in the basement kitchen area [I grew up in a Chicago bungalow where we lived in the basement] at a small table by the window in between the stove and the refrigerator – which we called the “ice box”.

He’s eating a freshly made fried sausage and banana peppers sandwich. The sausage was fresh from the Italian delicatessen and was mixed to his taste. The peppers were fresh from the vegetable stand. The bread had been made that morning and the olive oil was right from the “old country”.

I can’t imagine a person being happier than my grandfather was at that moment. The delight on his face as he bit into that sandwich was transcendent. He was happy. He knew he was happy. And there wasn’t anything anyone could do to disrupt his moment of epicurean bliss.

Not even, as it turned out, the diabetes and heart disease which killed him.

Too often we expect our natures to change simply because we decided to do something different. We start to be more active and – suddenly – we think we’ll start eating like we THINK athletes eat. It doesn’t happen.

We CAN make better choices. I do. Not always, but enough of the time that I can convince myself that I’m eating healthier foods than I used to. Sometime, for me, that might mean not putting gravy on the fries with my open-face hot roast beef sandwich. You get the idea.

There are times, though, like this morning, when I wanted breakfast. I wanted scrambled eggs and ham and crisp hash brown potatoes with a bagel, cream cheese, orange juice and coffee. So I had it. And I thought of my grandfather.

I won’t do it tomorrow morning. I probably won’t do it again for weeks or months. But I will do it again eventually. I will because I’m not any different than I ever was. I’m just trying to be a better me than I used to be.

Waddle on,

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Over the Hump

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habitSomeone told me years ago that it takes 21 days to create or break a habit. I’m sure there’s some research on this, but, my own experience has been that it’s pretty true.

That’s not to say that every time I’ve wanted to change my life I’ve been successful. Most often the 22nd day was when my hopes and dreams came to a crashing halt.

That’s not all bad. For 3 weeks I wanted to be a tennis player. For three weeks I wanted to learn to identify plants, trees, and birds. Really. I bought the books and the binoculars. I had the hat and vest. I was ready. Probably the worst idea I had for three weeks was the 21 days I wanted to be a professional fisherman. The fact that I had only fished – unsuccessfully – once in my life and that I didn’t own any equipment beyond a cheap rod and reel didn’t concern me. I was committed.

If you’re doing the 30-for-30, you are three quarters of the way there. Just hang in there for another week and you’ll have accomplished something that most people never do. If you’re doing the 100 Days Challenge, you’re over the habit-creating hump. It’s not that it won’t always be easy. It’s not that you won’t have days when you don’t feel like moving, or have trouble finding the time to move, or days when you’re just flat sick of it, but you’ll have the momentum to keep going.

If you’ve struggled, if you’ve missed a day or two – or more – don’t be discouraged.fall-down-7-times-get-up-8 Recommit. Start again. And then start again if you have to. That’s the funny thing about creating or breaking habits. Sometimes you have to fail in order to succeed. In the end it doesn’t matter how many times you fail, it only matters that eventually you succeed.

In my life I’ve failed much more often than I’ve succeeded. What’s made the difference for me is that I’ve always tried to fail forward. As they told me when I ran the ascent of Pike’s Peak: always fall up the mountain so that you don’t have to repeat your steps.

John

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Week Three: How Not to be Sysiphus

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sysiphusFor many people changing one’s life, getting in shape, losing weight and the rest of our New Year’s Resolutions is like the situation of Sisyphus, a figure of Greek mythology who was condemned to repeat forever the same meaningless task of pushing a boulder up a mountain, only to see it roll down again.

When asked if this myth confirms the absurdity and frustration of trying to do something, and failing, again and again, the author, Camus concludes, “The struggle itself […] is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.

We have to find a way to be happy in the struggle. As we begin the third week of the 100 Days Challenge, or as we hit the half-way point of the 30 for 30 Challenge, the memories of past failures start to creep into our unconscious and the voices who remind us how often we’ve failed grow louder and louder. Where it all made sense to squeeze in an easy 30 minutes of activity every day starts to seem impossible. The holidays are over and work, family, and life in general start to chip away at our commitment.

In my experience this is often because our expectations exceed our abilities. We expect to be able to do more. We expect to be able to go faster or farther. We expect that the obligations in our lives dissolve and our single goal of getting fit will transcend all else.

It doesn’t happen.

This is the week to rethink both your expectations and your abilities. 30 minutes a day of intentional movement is possible. It really is. But 60 minutes of intense exercise may not be. Walking around the house or the mall or the neighborhood for 30 minutes is possible. Running 4 miles every day at an 8 minute pace may not be.

Do what you can do. Do what you know you can do. Commit to doing what’s necessary. It may not always be want you wanted, but it will be all you need.

John “the Penguin” Bingham

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Week Two: The Heavy Lift

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weight lifterIt’s fun making resolutions. There’s no way to fail at making resolutions. In the course of my life I have been very successful at making resolutions. I’ve resolved to quit smoking, to eating better, to exercising more, to being a better husband/father/son/friend/colleague, even to being a better citizen of the planet. And every time I make a resolution I meant it.

It always amazed me at how quickly the flame of any resolution could burn out. It was like striking a match. The enthusiasm and commitment was there for an instant and then it was gone. Poof.

What changed, eventually, for me was the understanding that no matter how public my declarations were, no matter how many friends and family members I informed about the new me that they were about to see, none of it made any difference to them. Sure, they might be happy to see me quit smoking or lose a little weight, but, the truth always was that the changes I wanted to make to me were most important to me.

Researchers tell us that it takes 21 one days to make or break a habit. That may be true. For me, though, the second week of trying to change anything is always the most difficult. This week is the heaviest lift. This week is when the enthusiasm dims, the voice that was telling us to move more or eat less begins to fade, and the call to go back to what we know and love can become deafening.

I’ll hit the treadmill today not so much because I want to as because I know that if I don’t I won’t be as inclined to do it tomorrow. I’ll do it today and not worry about tomorrow.

Move today. Be active today. Strike another match of commitment. Do it for yourself. You’ll be glad you did.

John

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Like Deja Vu all over again

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Deja Vu

It’s Day 3 of the 2013 100 Days Challenge and I am, honest to goodness, having the feeling of Deja Vu. Now, when you get to my age it’s good to be able to remember anything, so to be remembering things that I only think I did is a little like remembering a dream you haven’t had. But I digress.

Why is is that despite my best intentions I always begin by doing too much too soon? You wouldn’t think that walking for 40 minutes 2 days in a row would be too much for someone who has completed 45 marathons but, I can tell you, it was.

I woke up this morning and my legs didn’t feel quite right. Not tired or sore, exactly, but not quite right either. In the old days I would have told myself that I was just trying to find an excuse to not work out. Today, I told myself that I had done too much – even if that too much didn’t seem like too much – and that today I didn’t have to NOT to anything, I just had to not do as much.

So that’s what I did. I got on the treadmill, set the speed at 3.0 mph, and walked for 30 minutes. Not 40. Not zero. 30. That’s what I’ve committed to. That’s what I did.

In the next few weeks – or even the next few days – your body and mind may start to argue with you. If you’re new to activity your history alone will be screaming at you to quit. Remember, the you that you used to be doesn’t want you to become the you YOU want to be. Your history will try to convince you that you can’t do it. Not today.

Do it anyway. Do 10 minutes 3 times a day. Do 15 minutes twice. Walk VERY slowly. Just move intentionally.

Eventually the monsters in your head will start to let go. In the meantime, just keep moving.

Waddle on,

John “the Penguin” Bingham

Follow me on Twitter: @jjbingham

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Jump Start, 30 for 30 or 4×4

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jump-start-your-businessI hope everyone is gathering their things together for the start of the 2013 100 Days Challenge. I’ve got a brand new pair of Brooks shoes and Superfeet insoles ready to go. I’ll write the date on the shoes and insoles to remind me of when this started.

I also know that the idea of doing ANYTHING for 100 days is a row is more than some people can wrap their heads around. So, for those of you who just can’t quite commit to a 100 days program I’m proposing 2 other ways to jump start their activity for 2013.

The first program is just that; jump start. If your fitness program is as dead as a dead battery you need to find someone with more “juice” than you have and get them to give you a jump start. Call a friend, a colleague, or neighbor and tell them that you want to get more active and need their help. They’ll love you for asking because it will help both of you.

30

If 100 days sounds like too many days, just tell yourself that you’re going to be active for 30 minutes every day for 30 days. What the research tells us is that it takes 21 days to create or break a habit. If you can get through the first 30 days you’ll be well on your way.

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And if you just can’t make yourself be active for 30 minutes every single day, try the 4X4 program. Move for 30 minutes 4 days a week for 4 weeks. If you have fun and are active 4 days a week you may find yourself motivated to do more – or – you may find that a 4X4 program is right for you.

The point of all of this is just to get more active and stay more active. Activity, any activity, is the engine the drives your fitness, your weight loss or weight management, your emotional state, and even your self image.

We know – YOU know – that being active is better than being non-active. Don’t wait. You’ll feel better from the very first day.

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