Exercising Every Day for 40 Months

Not only was Wednesday the last day of April and the hottest day of the year, it marked the 40th month that I’ve exercised every day.* That’s 1,216 days, but who’s counting?

I hiked my regular loops — Tennessee Valley-Coastal Trail-Fox Trail. Four miles. An hour and 10 minutes. About 1,000 feet of climbing. Gorgeous views. That photo at the top of the page is from this trail.

I started keeping track on January 1, 2011. My goal at that time was every day for the year. When 2012 arrived, I kept on going. Of course, my reward for reaching this milestone is to keep at it for another 40 months. At least.

So what counts as exercise? Walking, certainly. That’s what I do more than anything. Then, in order of frequency, there’s bicycling, lifting weights, Zumba/aerobics class, and, hardly ever, swimming and running.

How long before it counts? An hour, though I give myself some slack and 45 minutes counts when that’s all I can fit in. (On the stopover from Ecuador three years ago, I walked back and forth in the small San Salvador Airport at least a dozen times, which was about 40 minutes. But we had hiked the Inca Trail ten days earlier so I decided that was good enough.)

I’m not an athlete. When I bicycle to the city, the only cyclists who don’t pass me are tourists on rented bikes. After 15 years of Aerobics or Zumba, I still feel like a beginner. Most of the time, I do these physical activities myself, though I frequently walk with my wife and/or with friends.

One key to making the every-day routine work is, whenever possible, walking or bicycling to where I need to go anyway. For ten years, I commuted to or from work 2-4 times a week, from Mill Valley to downtown San Francisco. I walk to and from grocery stores, cafés, meetings, friends’ houses.

Since it’s so easy to make charts these days, I made one. This is an estimate, of course. (I kept track off and on, but then figured all I needed to know was that I did something, not what it actually was.)


As you can see, my most common activity, by far, has been a walk or hiking. But when does a walk become a hike. When I wear hiking boots and it’s on a trail? When it’s long and steep? Going to Peets on city sidewalks is a walk. Climbing a 14,000-foot-peak in Colorado is a hike.

Here are some photos of memorable walks and bike rides.

  • Walking from my mom’s apartment in Edgewater to downtown Chicago (about 6 miles). Here’s Lake Michigan on a cold winter morning.


  • Backpacking in a very different Chicago — the Chicago Basin in Colorado’s Weminuche Wilderness — with a wonderful group of Sierra Club folks two years ago. My first three (and only three) 14ers.


  • I took most of my hundreds of rides to or from San Francisco as the sun rose or set. Here’s Richardson Bay on the way in.


  • And here’s a recent hike with my love Z at Goat Rock Beach on the Sonoma Coast, where the Russian River meets the Pacific.


Sometimes this daily habit is a chore. I wish I didn’t have to do it. Like bicycling toward the Golden Gate Bridge on a summer evening, directly into the cold fog. Or dragging myself up the last steep hill home.

That’s when I tell myself that I’m grateful I can still do it, that I’ve avoided injuries, pain, and never really been sick. I’d like to believe my habits have something to do with that, but there’s no denying luck and genes.

I know that can’t last forever, but my goal is to keep this going for as long as I can. One day at a time.

*As to that asterisk above, in the first paragraph, no, I’m not taking steroids. But I did miss one week with the flu in June of 2012. I made up for it.