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Anti Running Streak: Why I Can’t—or Shouldn’t—Streak

anti running streak
Dimity's pandemic calendar--or Dimity's family pandemic calendar, actually. So much space; so little pressure.

[Read Tish's counterpoint: Pro Running Streak: Day 260 (and Counting!) of Daily Movement]

Before I start, let me be clear: I am not anti running streak—or any streak— for you. If you’ve run for 1,000 days straight, I tip my sweaty hat to you. If you’re a Whole 30 devotee, have at it. If you’ve set up a DIY flossing challenge, awesome. I hope your teeth thank you.

I am against embarking on streaks for me because, having inhabited this tall body and swirling mind for nearly half a century, I know the benefits of a streak will be outweighed by the (self-imposed) pressure I’ll feel to perform. Sooner than later, the mile-a-day or 100-ounces-of-water or another self-imposed task will end up in my mental file as another project left unfinished, another slice of disappointment.

The stack of books I checkout regularly from the library makes it look like I’m full-time English lit student (I’m not). The simple needlepoint I want to finish for my daughter’s high school graduation is, I kid you not, 16 years old. I'd give myself 50/50 odds of finishing it in the next 3 months.

anti running streak
The nearly ancient needlepoint—and instructions Dimity has to pull out every time to remind herself how to do it.

In other words, my plates, already plenty full and precariously spinning, don’t need another streaky entrée to weigh them down.

Plus, I often include “adventure” when I get all Brene Brown and name my personal values. Even if I’m not winging to Patagonia anytime soon for a glacier trek, a streak feels a bit too confining.

The only recent streaks I accidentally started—and stopped—and started—and stopped—are meditation ones. I use Insight Timer, a free app, and at the end of each session, it tells you how many days of you’ve meditated in a row. (I am not sure if you can turn this feature off; if so, maybe I should.)

I would rack up two or three days, and have grand imaginings about getting to 13 or 45 or 82 days—and then fantasize about how much easier meditation would be on day 13 or 45 or 82. (I am naturally an object in motion, and meditation is one of the hardest things I’ve attempted.)

Back in real life, after I'd miss a day or eight, the little circle would gradually fill in the number one again. As it did so, instead of celebrating that I showed up to concentrate on inhales and exhales, I’d immediately mentally fast forward. Now you need two, then three, Dimity; how are you going to do that? How are you going to keep it up?

I sabotaged the important act of showing up by berating myself for not being streak-y enough. I've got enough mindfulness to know that isn’t super effective.

A similar thought pattern happened with swimming; after a master’s coach told me you needed to be in the pool three days a week to, “be worth it”, my once-weekly chlorinated sessions felt feeble.

My immediate reaction: Why do something if improvement wasn’t imminent?

Take a deep inhale and exhale, then process my more thoughtful perspective: Oh, because the act of swimming itself is delicious: sensory deprivation, combined with the water’s full support of my long limbs and my rhythmic breathing, soothes me in a way very few things do.

I admire a full journal with no breaks. I truly do. But when I look at my own calendar and see one swim, a single meditation session, and a random hike with a friend, I realize I'm giving myself both space to simply enjoy an activity and grace to know it's enough, no strings attached.

And that, I imagine, feels as fulfilling as a streak may.

[Read Tish's counterpoint: Pro Running Streak: Day 260 (and Counting!) of Daily Movement]

Are you anti running streak?
Do streaks in general feel too demanding to you?

10 responses to “Anti Running Streak: Why I Can’t—or Shouldn’t—Streak

  1. Oh, Dimity. I find that we are so very often in the same headspace and am grateful to find that I am not, in fact, alone in my thinking. Let’s talk about this nugget of wisdom, “I sabotaged the important act of showing up by berating myself for not being streak-y enough. I’ve got enough mindfulness to know that isn’t super effective.” The self-abuse I’ve suffered for not being enough I release into the world. Thank you for the permission to do so.

  2. Yup. Ditto. Me, too. Uh-huh. Exactly.

    p.s. I /may/ have started crocheting a baby blanket when I was pregnant with my first daughter – it is not done. Like you, I pull it out every-so-often and do a bit. Usually I spend more time relearning how to do the stitches, than actually working on the blanket.
    p.p.s. Said daughter is now 27…

  3. I have never been someone who can hold an exercise streak past 6/7 days. In searching for 2021 run goals, something new and different I settled on a streak. I am doing Winter Warrior, with the goal to run outside, 3 or more miles a day in the month of January (miles volume works out very similar to my non streak times). What gets me most is the lack of variety in running a streak. How does one push hard/go long with out equally balancing with rest? It seems all my streak runs are settling into this gray zone. I picked out a few Strava segments to see if I could become a local legend or hold the fastest time, Maybe there is something to gain from this, but not for longer than 31 days.

  4. You are my people Dimity! Kudos to those who are motivated by streaking. As I have sat in reflection over this past year I have learned that movement is my lifestyle but days of rest are equally important to my nearly half century body. And I savor those rest days as much as the run with a friend, iFit treadmill workout with Staci Clark or snoeshoeing adventure with my hubby and new Covid pup.

  5. Dimity, are you in my head? This is me. Thank you for giving yourself (and therefore me) permission to be a bit less disappointed about what DIDN’T happen and to celebrate whenever something DOES happen. It’s the difference between a “to do” and a “ta da.” So appreciate you!

  6. Dimity, I love your reflection and ideas on the “streak”! I never thought about this… I fail at every streak I try… running, Whole 30 (except I did do the no alcohol for 30 days….just not all the food restrictions!)….but I am just thinking about it… I have a streak and that is my Pocket Calendars. I have written daily in a pocket calendar since 2001! That is 20 years of daily jotting down what happened that day. It is mostly tracking exercise, sometimes food, my “cycle”. I jot what fits in that tiny square. I use symbols and colors to help track. I never thought about that, but that is my STREAK!

  7. Fully “Streak” committed. Currently on day 765 of a run streak. It is my moving meditation and the one moment of the day that I know is all mine. Not every day is rainbow sprinkles but I always feel better after my run. The actual sitting meditation streak feels impossible to me. It is the one thing that I can say has truly gotten me through the last 10 months.

  8. I love your insight on this. Especially this line at the end: “I realize I’m giving myself both space to simply enjoy an activity and grace to know it’s enough, no strings attached.”
    I have done running streaks for thanksgiving to Christmas or Memorial Day to 4th of July; but this year in fact, I stopped 8 or so days into the Christmas one because my body was saying no. I had to give myself grace for “quitting” but as a fellow AMR said just make it a moving streak. Currently moving and streaking through January with running and walking everyday outside to be a “Winter Warrior” (not hard for this Wisconsinite in a Connecticut winter”and trying a yoga 30 day challenge which I would consider streaking too. So I guess I tend to be a streaker at times but your insight to not streaking is helpful for someone like me when I am looking to tell myself I don’t have to streak and I can miss a day. Thank you!

  9. I love your honesty and reflection. It has been difficult to admit and accept that age is not just a number, and brings limitations that have be recognized. Our bodies need movement but the pressures of a streak turn into the same self induced pressures and take the joy out of what we choose to do! Thank you for sharing!

  10. I have an insight timer meditation streak! I started right after our Hilton Head retreat. The pandemic started shortly thereafter and I kept going. It’s only 5 minutes of breathing a day. I’m at day 316. I keep wondering when I should quit. 5 minutes seems like not a big deal. But now I feel like I have to do it and get a little anxious about my morning until it’s done, which makes me know I need to find an end date. I’m settling on perhaps when I get the vaccine. Thank you for this timely post! ❤️

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