When something happens once, it might be a random occurrence.
When it happens a few straight times, it’s a pattern.
The past three years, I haven’t been very kind to my body during the fall. As the days get shorter (and darker) and the weather colder, I start to pack on the winter coat a little bit. And not my Patagonia one.
There’s certainly a ton of conscious decisions that go into this. Eating nachos at 11:30pm. Being a little more OK with the double fisted desserts. Hitting snooze a few extra times because it’s so damn dark, cold, and early.
But, I’m starting to see, some of this pattern the past few falls, is a deeper one.
A subconscious story of self-protection and survival.
I’m obviously not talking about actual survival in my warm suburban house. But something at the soul level starts to get unsettled, restless, and primal as winter nears.
Or so I’ve begun to become aware.
For the past four years or so, I’ve been on this progressive journey towards a different narrative towards nutrition and activity.
Falling in love with running.
Removing alcohol from my long list of coping strategies.
Introducing meditation and journaling into my (mostly) daily practice.
Consciously choosing foods that grew in fields more than processed plastic bags (but damn, I still love tortilla chips).
In spring, summer, and the beautiful parts of early fall, it felt like an open sea and smooth sailing. High activity. Outside often. Better sleep. Easy food choices. Etc.
But then, the narrative of the choppy waters would swirl, and eventually storm as I’d fall back into the same pattern.
A couple packaged trail mix bags (with the peanut m&m’s for good measure) for lunch. Some late night snacks. An extra bowl of ice cream. Yes to the french fries. The pizza at least has a vegetable or two on it. A pot of coffee to get through it all. A racing mind and heart when the lights go off (too late of course). Snooze for a few minutes of sleep that feels precious but puts off the soul work.
Just like the good parts of momentum, compound interest, and child-raising, the results aren’t really noticed day by day. Gradual, subtle changes that build upon the habits from the day (and days and weeks) before start to stack upon each other in helpful or unhelpful ways.
In early November, I was on our patio building a fire on take out the trash bins night.
Our neighbor was taking his out too. A good friend, and a good dude, we’ve talked on many nights like that night over the past six years.
He was in shorts, running shoes, and a long sleeve thin hoodie.
“Damn bro, you look good,” I said. “How much weight have you dropped?”
At that time, his answer was 12.
He was 2/3 of the way or so through 75HARD, and we’d talked about it a bit before.
If I can be super honest, I was super judgy about the whole thing.
Not him specifically, I was proud of him and his commitment was clearly working.
But I have an aversion to authority 🙂
I like to blaze my own trails, chart my own course, and set my own rules.
That’s great and all, but it comes with a side of subtle stubbornness when I think I have to fall in line or fit a mold.
The conversation near the fire that night, and frankly, the way his skin looked healthier and clearer, stuck with me.
On Thanksgiving morning, a few of us ran the Turkey Trot 5k. Our son, our youngest daughter, our niece who was in town, and me. We had done the Girls on the Run 5k a couple weeks before, so our two youngest caught the race bug.
Silas isn’t Tyreek Hill by any means, but he was determined to beat his time from a couple weeks prior.
So we made a plan. He and I would go out strong. And our niece would hang back and run Henley’s pace and stay with her.
We left the Liberty Community Center and before the 0.5 mile mark, I could barely see Silas.
My mid-run text to Brooke, my sister, and my brother in law (their daughter was the one running with us) said: “MK and H doing great and staying together. But I’m out here getting my ass whipped by my 12 y/o son.”
I eventually tracked him down about 1.5 miles, and my ego and adrenaline allowed me to finish with him.
But I was hurting.
I then proceeded to crush everything imaginable in my path Thanksgiving Day, and as I went to bed that night, I told Brooke it was time.
I had already read all about 75HARD, and was warming to the idea of accepting someone else’s ideas of what might be beneficial.
So Friday morning, the day after Thanksgiving, I started.
Built a Google Sheet checklist for Days 1-75: 11.25.22 – 2.7.23.
And got started.
This isn’t the blog post for you to learn the specifics of the journey, but in a simple nutshell the daily commitments are this:
- Two, 45-minute Workouts Each Day (and one of them has to be outside no matter the conditions)
- Read 10 Pages of a Physical Book
- Drink a Gallon of Water
- Follow a Clear, Helpful Nutrition Plan
- Take a Daily Progress Picture
On paper, not a huge thing.
In practice, HARD AF, at least at times.
Instead of going through the specifics of how I approached each of the five core practices, I’m going to share the 10 biggest lessons I learned (or in some cases – relearned):
- We Make Time for What We Value Most – my biggest hang up going into it was “I don’t have the time.” I got to call bullshit on my own limiting beliefs. We all have plenty of time. And how we spend it shows what we value most. The honest reflection is that, at least for me, it’s easy to say we’re busy while simultaneously wasting time at work being distracted and unfocused, and then numbing ourselves with phones and screens and streaming services.
- Movement is Medicine – days with lots of sitting, typing away on a computer, and walking to and from the car, bathroom, or refrigerator also happened to be days where I’d feel the most anxious, scarce, and afraid. When the body moves, emotions pass through, ideas emerge, and perspective changes.
- Simple Daily Habits > Big Bursts of Energy – I’m convinced that if you do anything helpful for 75 straight days, the results will be awesome. The magic of 75HARD isn’t necessarily in the stuff itself that you do, but the power of doing focused, consistent activities that become routine and habitual. Contrast that to my “gotta keep up with Silas” pace at the Turkey Trot, and it’s clear that the lifestyle and longevity of small, helpful decisions beats the flood of adrenaline approach over time.
- Create Conditions for Connection – I think my absolute favorite part, and the one most likely to stay around for the long haul, was the 4 or 5 days a week that Brooke joined me for our 45 minute walk outside. Date nights are good but infrequent. Bed time is exhausting. Mornings are too rushed. So prioritizing the time together to talk, put our phones away, and move forward shoulder to shoulder for 45 minutes a day was remarkably simple, but remarkable.
- Being Cold is a Mindset of Fear – Without the “you gotta get in a 45 minute outdoor workout in” practice of 75HARD, there would have been a at least two dozen days, I would have been inside where it’s warm. All the safety caveats aside, cold really is just a fearful mindset shouting that we may freeze to death. With the right gear, I grew to LOVE the cold walks. Except one part of one walk. It was -4 degrees and dark. I had icycles on my eyelashes from the wind, and I legit thought I might pass out because on one stretch it was taking my breath away. But besides that 4 minute stretch, reframing cold was a joy.
- When Choices are Predetermined, Willpower is Easy – I’m not by nature disciplined. My Enneagram 7 core weakness is gluttony. Put one Starburst in front of me, watch me eat the sleeve in seconds. Let me see one small rabbit off the core trail, and watch me wander into the woods. Start one episode of a great show, watch me talk everyone into “just one more” no matter the time on the clock. And you already know why I don’t drink. Willpower lasts for seconds. And you can resist just about anything for awhile. But once you take all those choices off the table, it really is insane how easy it is to create momentum.
- I Peed a Ton – I already drank a lot of water, but the commitment to a gallon makes you know exactly where you can sneak a bathroom break in to your day. And for real, it was every 45-60 minutes max. Deeper than that, it’s a proverbial flushing of lots though, at least it felt that way for me. The shedding of old stories. The letting go of self-protection, self-sabotage, and scarcity. The embrace of a renewed sense of spirt.
- Nature is Healing – I love God, so that’s what I attribute the outdoors to, but whatever your views are, it’s indisputable how remarkable Mother Nature is. The only cool-ish place I went during the 75 days was Orlando for 2.5 days where I found an amazing trail. The rest was brown, gray, dark, boring ass KC. And probably 60 of the 75 outdoor workout days were the exact same walking path on a paved sidewalk leaving our neighborhood. But the sunsets, the trees, the snow, the deer, the clouds, the birds, are all there every day. Waiting for us to pay attention, and be healed by their presence.
- Knowledge Can Be Transformational – there are endless amounts of helpful stories, books, podcasts, and resources for our journey. Reading 10 pages of good every night alone was awesome, but with the workout time and other momentum created, I was opened to more audiobooks and podcasts that filled my brain with encouragement, inspiration, and hope. Knowledge alone is the same as regurgitating facts for a test. But allowing it to become wisdom has the power to transform.
- Lifestyle is the Legacy – being on this side of the 75 days feels like the biggest opportunity is to transfer the momentum into a sustainable way of living. A framework of consistency, a system of healthy practices. We can all ride a wave when it’s high and powerful. But when the days are long, the tides are turbulent, and the current of the subconscious is strong, building a lifestyle of resilience and helpful practices seems the real invitation from this 75 day journey.
- Bonus – Friendship Carries Through Many Hard Parts of the Path – Having my friend and neighbor ahead of me on the path proved to be an anchor point for me. He’d send us little funny videos and reminders that it’s worth it. Without his encouragement, and calls from the points ahead, it would have been far easier to quit.
Next fall, when the whispers of the old stories come back, I’ll reread this. And be grateful that I walked, quite literally, through a new story this winter.
A photo journey through the 75 days below (minus the progress pics – but there was progress):