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Xes in boxes

3 min read

Sometime back in February, maybe March, Squish observed that it was lighter in the mornings than it had been in awhile. Her point was clear: We can go for morning walks again, Daddy. We'd gone for walks all throughout the summer and fall of 2022, venturing out by 7am, but that practice had been stymied by the later and later arrival of sunlight.

We began walking again, enjoying a half hour or so out on the nearby trail before our respective days—her schoolday, my workday—began. We didn't miss a morning walk unless we had to, and if we did, we tried to make it up later in the day.

By May, I found I'd been doubling up on the daily walks, sometimes tripling up. I was really making a routine out of this, finding something in the walks that made me want to spend more time outdoors, taking care of my body. Somewhere in there I began to eat better, and then, to my surprise, I started to add some casual strength training to the mix.

In late May, Felicia, who attributes her pandemic sanity to a Peloton account and our home gym equipment, suggested I join Peloton, too. I'd been skeptical about Peloton before, but it was clearly working for her. She felt and looked great, and was maintaining some truly astonishing fitness streaks (at the time of this post, she's worked out daily for three straight years; she's done over 1300 strength workouts, over a thousand walks, eight hundred bike rides, six hundred runs—she's a machine!).

So I gave it a shot. I began using Peloton classes with the rowing machine we'd acquired during the pandemic, which sat mostly gathering dust. I shifted from my ad-hoc strength workouts to Peloton programs. I started tracking my daily walks using the app. I haven't been at it for as long as Felicia, but I'm building up some consistency of my own. Sixty-seven walks. Twenty-eight rows. Nineteen strength workouts. I'm no Felicia, but I'm showing up. Of the forty-two days I've been at it, I haven't missed one.

And that's important, because for the last couple of days, none of my workouts have felt satisfying, or even very good. I don't know why. I can feel my mind drifting away from what I'm doing, fixating on something that's been making me anxious. Every step of my walks have felt heavier. The strength sessions have felt emptier.

This, in the past, is what has derailed every single attempt I've made to take better care of my body. One bad day, and I make an exception for myself. I excuse myself, and just enjoy a day of indulgence. I've been doing well, I deserve eleven Oreos. And that's it. The streak ends, and a new, less pleasant streak begins. One day I wake up and it's February or March again, and Squish is suggesting we start walking again.

Austin Kleon once wrote about Jerry Seinfeld's writing process:

The comedian Jerry Seinfeld has a wall calendar method that helps him stick to his daily joke writing. You start by breaking your work into daily chunks. Each day, when you’re finished with your work, make a big fat X in the day’s box. Every day, instead of worrying about your total progress, your goal is to just fill a box.

“After a few days you’ll have a chain,” Seinfeld says. “Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.”

So this time, less-than-enthusiastic feelings be damned, I'm pushing through. I know not every day will be a great day. In fact, most days won't be. On those days I just have one job to do. Put an X in the box.

X in the box.

X in the box.

X in the box.



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