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It's easy to set a New Year's resolution. It's hard to follow through. The dark, cold days of January conspire against those goals, and it's just tough to find that inspiration to keep going on your own.
That's where the Inspire Columbus Winter Challenge comes in. The Columbus Running Company and Mizuno offer a simple challenge - run or walk at least a mile outdoors every day in January. To keep that New Year motivation going, you chart your miles, receive weekly updates, and you can win prizes along the way.
Last January, Erin and Neil Cameron took that winter challenge. And they crushed it, logging at least one outdoor mile every single day, even when those icicles were growing from their eyelashes.
That winter challenge led into the rest of the year, where both Erin and Neil continued their mileage streak, walking or running outdoors every day in 2019 so far. During that time, they've kept those fitness goals going - and Erin knocked an hour off of her marathon PR.
It all began with a simple challenge. Here's their story, in Erin's own words:
CRC: When you started the Winter Challenge last January, what was the goal? Did you ever think you'd be streaking a mile a day for a full year?
Erin Cameron: When we started the Winter Challenge last January, my goal was the challenge. I was coming off 4 months of a knee injury and minimal running, so I thought this was an easy way to ease myself back into running. There was a finite goal (the last day of January), and I figured I could do it for 31 days. Plus I’m a sucker for challenges and prizes so I was completely in.
Once the month was over, I felt like I wasn’t done yet. In fact, it was something that I looked forward to every day. And with February being a short month, Neil and I just decided to continue it through February. By the time March rolled around, I think we pretty much decided to continue the streak throughout the year. What started as a fun challenge to jumpstart the new year turned into one of my top fitness priorities.
CRC: There must have been some days when it was just hard to get out the door. What's been the toughest day? How do you get through those moments?
EC: There were 3 days in particular that stood out to me as being particularly hard. Interestingly enough, none of them were during the polar vortex. The first hard day was the first day. Coming off a late night of celebrations combined with the lack of consistent exercise, I did not want to go out on January 1st. But the last thing I wanted to do was strike out on the very first day of the challenge. So we went out for our first of many mile walks/runs. The second hardest was the day after my marathon. I had been dreading that day for months of training, but when the day came, as much as I was sore and didn’t want to do it, I did it and felt better for it. My legs felt far less stiff this marathon than the last, and I believe that it had something to do in part with continuing this challenge. The third was last week, after our first snow of the year. It got cold out of nowhere, and I didn’t have time to adjust to the winter weather in January.
CRC: What kind of change have you seen within yourselves from sticking to such a tough goal?
EC: I don’t know if I see specific changes within myself, but the challenge has opened up other fitness challenge goals to me. I make sure I walk up 10 flights of stairs a day and I just hit 180 days of consecutively hitting my goal of 10,000 steps a day.
2019 was supposed to be the year we took off from races and just ran for the enjoyment. But as the year progressed, my running got better, and I firmly believe it had something to do with continuing the challenge. So when the 40th Columbus Marathon training began, I couldn’t help myself. I was able to do every training run this year, with minimal soreness and I stayed injury-free. I PR’d the marathon by 1 hour 2 min, and had a fairly easy recovery, and I do credit the challenge for keeping me moving in those times I would otherwise be stagnant.
Erin ringing the PR gong at the Columbus Marathon
CRC: What advice would you offer to others considering a streak or even just committing to their own fitness goals over a year?
EC: You must create a personal challenge that is attainable. Set yourself up for success, not failure.
My advice would be to start small. For me, it was walking up 10 flights of stairs a day. I figured if I did nothing else the rest of the day, I could do that. Another thing that helped me complete my goal was to give it a finite ending (like the month long challenge). I would never have completed the challenge if it was open-ended, but I figured I could commit 20 minutes a day maximum for a month. If a month is too long, start with a week. Figure out what works for you.
Most importantly, when it comes to exercise and activity, do something you love (or at least like). It’s so much easier to stick to your goal if you like what you are doing. Besides, life is too short to torture yourself with activities you dislike.
I would also like to add that this challenge was awesome for us because it gave us a chance for some quality time. Neil works so many long hours, and some days, it’s the only time we have together. We both make sure to chisel out 20 minutes a day to spend with each other, catching up on our day and enjoying the beauty that is Dublin on our walks and runs.
Congrats on the incredible year, Erin and Neil! Keep that streak going.