So, how are those New Year’s resolutions working out for you?
If you’re like most people, exercising more and weighing less topped your list of goals for 2012.
Here’s good news: achieving a healthier lifestyle is a lot easier than you think. You don’t need to be a world-class athlete to work your way into better shape. You don’t need to be Mark Covert or Harvey Simon.
You don’t even need to be me.
Saturday morning’s two mile run marked a milestone: my running streak has reached four years. I have run at least two miles every single day since Dec. 31, 2007.
Viewpoints of this feat run the gamut. I’m either truly dedicated, or an idiot. The separation’s a very fine line indeed. Still, I’m out there every day, in rain, snow, wind — wind is the worst! — whether it’s hot or frigid.
Sickness? Yes, that, too. I’ve battled a stomach virus all night, dragged myself out to the road in the morning, and a mile later, felt virtually cured. In fact, every malady subsides after a good run.
I no longer suffer from cluster headaches. I feel much better overall, eat better, and have a better mindset. Regardless of what each day brings, when I start it with a run, I’ve already done something positive, done something for myself.
Now, my morning run has become part of my regular routine, like brushing my teeth. And my body yells at my brain each morning, “Hey! Take me out for a spin! I need it!”
I set annual mileage goals before each new year, and break that down into weekly goals and daily goals. It’s what works for me.
It’s also what works for Covert.
Compared to Covert, a four-year running streak is just getting warmed up. According to the United States Running Streak Association, Inc., seven others began running streaks on Jan. 1, 2008. They’re tied for 208th place on the list.
Covert tops it. He began his streak on July 23, 1968. That’s right. He’s run at least one mile under his own power, continuously, every calendar day —that’s the USRSA standard — for over 43 years.
It helps that Covert, 61, is a track and cross country coach. He’s also a fine runner. He finished seventh in the 1972 U.S. Olympic Marathon trials while becoming the first person to wear Nike Moon shoes with waffle soles in competition.
But Covert kept his streak alive through his wedding, the death of his parents, the birth of four children, hemorrhoid surgery, a tropical storm on a cruise ship and a broken foot.
That was 20 years ago. “The foot was so swollen they couldn’t even put a cast on it,” Covert told Chris Taylor of Runners World. “So, the next day, I wrapped it in an Ace bandage, put on a makeshift boot, and hobbled through. I wasn’t going to miss my run.”
Then he admits, “Something compulsive is going on here. I can’t ever see myself waking up and saying, ‘I don’t feel like doing this anymore.’”
Neither can Dr. Harvey Simon, 69, who ranks 32nd on the USRSA streak list with a 33-year streak that began on Oct. 31, 1978. When his streak reached 30 years, his daughter, Stephanie, wrote about it in The Wall Street Journal.
“During blizzards, he wraps his feet in plastic bags, pulls galoshes over his sneakers, and screws in cleats for traction. Then he waits for a snowplow to pass his front door, so he can follow the freshly cleared path.
“He’s run with broken toes and the flu and a nasty infected heel and near crippling back spasms. He goes out before dawn in every kind of weather. He’s become such a fixture in the neighborhood that a couple of times when a freak thunderstorm has rolled in, strangers have driven out to find him. They didn’t know his name. They just knew he’d be out there, plodding away, and figured he might appreciate a ride home.
“My father practices internal medicine in Boston and teaches at Harvard Medical School. Rationally, he knows that running 10 miles a day, every day, for three decades is not great for his ever-more-creaky body. He’d never advise his patients to do it. In fact, he’s written several health and fitness books stressing the virtue of moderation in exercise.”
The theme of Simon’s book, “The No Sweat Exercise Plan,” is that you can get all the health benefits of exercise without ever putting on a pair of sneakers. Or running shoes.
Research indicates that most health benefits kick in with an increase of 1000 burned calories each week. That’s 145 calories per day. How easy is that? A 10-minute walk can burn 50. Doing housework for 20 minutes? 100. Taking four flights of stairs? 100 more. Just parking a little farther away from your destination makes a difference. You can make your own calculations at www.caloriecontrol.org/exercalc.html.
“I regret preaching the doctrine of aerobics as I did for so many years,” Simon told The Wall Street Journal. “We need a new way to think about exercise.”
See, it’s not that difficult. You can keep that resolution! It doesn’t require a running streak to do so.