Monday, 22 June 2020

#24: Streaking ahead: thoughts on daily repetition

Is there something that you do every day, without fail?  Every day?

A good friend of mine has had the same breakfast, day after day, for many years.  Steve Jobs was famous for wearing the same clothes and for daily repetition, particularly focused on removing unnecessary decisions - i.e. one less thing to worry about.  The prolific blogger Seth Godin publishes something every day and writes powerfully on the rationale and need for daily blogging and writing.  Looking back at my life it appears that I am a bit of a butterfly, attracted by the next flower.  Very rarely have I done the same thing day in day out, favouring instead the pursuit of variety and novelty.  But in recent weeks repetition of daily and weekly practices are slowly becoming the norm in my life.  Importantly, much to my surprise, I am noticing some significant benefits.

I started re-reading The Lydiard Way again about a month ago.  It is possibly one of the best running books ever written from one of the best running coaches.  The first time I read the book, about ten years ago when I got to the training schedules pages which recommended a 7 day a week running plan, even for beginners, I quietly shelved the book and carried on plodding around the fields three days a week. 

Front Cover of Run the Lydiard Way book

But with more time on my hands and having read the book again, I have started going out every day for a run.  I am only on day #22 of what runners describe as a ‘Streak’ - a term to describe running every day without fail, normally for one mile or more.  The most famous streak belongs to Ron Hill whose streak went on for pretty much a lifetime at 19,032 days!  But even at 22 days, I am already finding that my fitness has improved and mentally I am more robust as I know that each day, whatever happens, I will be able to get out and run.  I have had to make some adaptations like increasing yoga sessions, and stretching and massaging my legs in front of the TV, which can look a bit weird.  I have found that the cold water therapy associated with getting in the sea each week in North East Scotland is a perfect ice bath for reducing swollen muscles and joints from lots of mileage.  Rather than struggling to keep up the daily practice, which I previously felt would put too much pressure on myself to run, I now look forward to my run each day. You can follow me on Strava to see the gains I have made in the last three weeks.

It has got me thinking not only about our personal lives, sports and hobbies but the work we do.  Are there things in our work which are like the daily run?  Those tasks which are essentially good for us and good for our organisations but for whatever reason we procrastinate over or delay - possibly in favour of the shiny and bright new idea or novel way of working.  Big goals at work have to be broken down into smaller steps to make them more realistic and manageable.  What better way of achieving them than doing something small every day (a work equivalent to the daily mile) which moves you down the road towards your end goal?  

What could you do every day, that if you continued it day in day out, without fail would make you healthier and happier?  Maybe it is a daily walk or even just sitting outside for ten minutes before starting work.  Not only does daily repetition bring performance benefits, but it also takes away one more decision you need to make and keeps you on track towards living the life you really want.  I have been running 20 years now on and off and am really glad that I have started my running streak but wonder why I never did this before.

How can you streak ahead in life by doing the same thing every day?