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The author on Trail 401 in Crested Butte, CO. Photo: Marcel Slootheer.

When was the last time you did an activity every single day, for 365 days straight? I mean something besides eating, sleeping, the usual. An activity that required effort, that you thought would be worthwhile. Sure, we say we’re going to do these sorts of challenges at least once per year but if I’m being honest, few things in my life are worth committing so much time and energy to that I feel the compulsion, the drive, to do them every single day for 365 days straight. For most things, 3-5 days per week is good enough.

As I took stock of my life back in 2016, I realized that I needed to change a few key things about how I was living. Even though I have always been physically and emotionally dependent upon my time spent outside in nature, life has a tendency to get in the way of doing the things that I know are healthy for my soul. This seems doubly true since my job entails sitting behind a computer pushing pixels across a screen for 40+ hours per week, and since my office is convenient enough that all I need to do is roll sluggishly out of bed, flip the switch on the coffee maker, push my glasses onto my disheveled face, tap the space bar, and go.

I’ve become convinced that real life isn’t lived between four walls. Real life doesn’t consist of moving pixels around a screen and arguing with strangers on the internet. In a time when human beings are spending more and more of our lives staring at glowing rectangles, when we’re on the brink of virtual reality consuming us all, I think it’s time for a radical revolt against the march of digital “progress.” I think it’s time for a return to our roots, a return to nature, a return to how we were born to live, how we evolved to thrive.

So I made a decision that I would go outside and be active, every single day, for 365 days straight. I called it “Outside 365.” For more on why I think this specific goal is important, be sure to read my manifesto.

Over a Beer, and Outside 365. Tamanawas Falls, Hood River, Oregon.

Try, fail, try ag… make that fail again

I decided to tackle the Outside 365 challenge back in 2016. So what’s happened since then?

Life.

Specifically, a second ACL surgery and a cascade of nagging injuries related to that surgery derailed my 365-day streak multiple times, and continue to plague me almost two years after surgery.

But failure was not an option.

Instead of saying, “oh, I missed a solid month of outdoor activity due to this inconvenient knee surgery, I guess I failed at my Outside 365 goal,” the only choice was to begin again at day 1.

And when a related injury derailed my efforts months later, what was my option then? To quit?

Never.

Take some time off, sure. After failure #2 (or 3 or 4, I have a hard time keeping track now), I knew I had to give my body some time to strengthen, to heal, and to overcome a few obstacles. So I waited. And I trained. And then one day, I looked at my Strava calendar and realized that I had been active for three weeks straight without even trying. In that moment, I knew that I had the momentum needed to charge back into my goal anew.

Finally, in late July 2018, I started an outside streak that has lasted over 365 days and hopefully will continue for years.

Eliminate your excuses

In order to finally achieve this goal, I had to implement a number of key tactics and strategies to overcome my biggest obstacles and find a way to persevere in the face of difficulty. The exact strategies required may be different for you, as everyone’s life situation is utterly unique.

if there’s one key ingredient to perseverance in the face of pain and adversity, it’s to eliminate your excuses. In fact, you can’t even entertain excuses in the first place.

Another key tactic for my own challenge was diversifying my outdoor pursuits and latching on to adventures when invited. Pictured here, my brother guides me down a 4-day canoe trip on the Wisconsin River.

Without fail, whenever I write an article about doing something that’s really fucking difficult, about seeking to transform your life situation into something radical and unconventional, and correspondingly amazing, someone writes a comment along the lines of, “well, everyone’s life situation is different. It’s not so easy because of A, B, C reasons.” Indeed, when I first told family members about this goal years ago, even in person some people told me that it was impossible (despite the thousands of athletes around the world that do the same exact thing, year in and year out).

No, getting outside and being active every day isn’t easy, but what the fuck is the point of taking the path of least resistance through life? I can see where that path leads, and I want no part of that blasé mediocrity. Instead, I think we should strive to do hard things voluntarily. When we push ourselves to do those hard things, we come out the other side of the challenge tougher and more resilient than we ever imagined.

Porcupine Rim, Moab, UT. Photo: Mike De La Rosa

I think you’ll find that when you eliminate your excuses, something interesting happens. When you stop entertaining the possibility of failure, you wake up in the morning and you just do. You head out the door to pedal your bicycle up a mountainside because that’s what you committed to doing.

When you’re confronted with a challenging day and you know accomplishing your goal will prove difficult, you’ll create a game plan to overcome that challenge. Some of the most difficult Outside Days during my challenge were long travel days, especially a three-flight combination from the USA to Indonesia. I had to employ some unconventional strategies to keep my goal from being derailed. I parked my car at a train station near the airport and walked to a hotel the night before. Then, the next morning at 3:30 am, I had no choice but to walk a mile to reach the train—thus accomplishing my Outside Day goal.

That’s just one story of many. There was the night I arrived in Norway, and walked a mile down a narrow country road, in a foreign country, in pitch-black darkness, in the pouring rain. Or the morning I hiked through a blizzard for a mile before getting in the car to drive to the airport. Or the day…

Unconventional. Not easy. Actually a serious pain in the ass. But the goal, of being outside and active? Accomplished.

Over time, these small victories pile up one upon the other. Early on, the decisions required to get outside and be active are a challenge. But after a few months, going outside every single day becomes a habit. Then eventually, these choices coalesce into creating a lifestyle in which you no longer even need to think about going outside, you no longer even need to think about being active.

It’s just what you do.

It’s just the way you live.

I made it, in the face of a ton of challenging circumstances and formidable obstacles. So I know you can do it, too.

Go. Do.

And don’t let anyone or anything stop you!

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# Comments

  • bthomas101

    I loved this article. No excuses! Commit to something, then do it! If you fail, pick yourself up and try again. I’m pushing 50 and I’m in better shape than I’ve been in for the last 25 years…. nothing seismic, just make a series of small commitments to myself and ELIMINATED EXCUSES!

    • Greg Heil

      Love this!!

  • rmap01

    Greg, first off CONGRATULATIONS! That’s a great – and continuing – accomplishment. In a culture that has become increasingly focused on instant gratification and has developed a strong sense of entitlement it is sooooo refreshing to hear someone speak about the importance of (long-term) goal setting, hard work and perseverance. The greatest sense of accomplishment comes from those achievements we have to work hardest for. I particularly admire your resilience given the physical challenges you face.

    I recall your annual articles outlining your goals for the year. I set about 7-8 fitness-related goals each year and monitor my progress through Garmin and Sportracks. The goals are set up as annual goals but you know where you stand ever step along the way. It serves as a great motivator and keeps me accountable.

    Like you, I am a firm believer that eliminating excuses is critical to achieving longer term goals. Although people always complain how they “don’t have the time” the reality I believe they look at it the wrong way. It’s not about carving out time within your existing bullsh!t schedule. It’s about telling yourself that this is something that is important enough to you that you NEED to do (like eating a meal, going to work, taking a shower, feeding the kids, walking the dog, etc etc) and then working your day around that. NO EXCUSES!

    • Greg Heil

      rmap01, we are totally on the same wavelength. I HATE the time excuse. We all feel time pressure, because we all have the same 24 hours in each day. The only question is, what are your priorities? What you truly value gets done.

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