December 2, 2006, marks the day I joined The President’s Challenge, a free physical activities site administered by the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition. Although posting my daily progress there, I only happened upon the fact that my hours of physical exertion accumulated on June 7, 2016–ten years–tallied over 10,000.
Spent in a myriad assortment of physical participation, do my 10,000 hours qualify me as an expert in Malcom Gladwell’s Outliers eye? The feeling of knowledge about physical activity to me still seems more like wandering the first floor of a four-floor FAO Schwartz Toy Store like that in Chicago. Of course one can’t do that any longer because somewhere in my 10,000 hours the brand closed its last outlet. But that’s the idea: stay focused on physical activity. Daily.
My expertise appears under-nourished when making a finish line, but hanging around physically active experts on trails or other events, while participating in them myself, teaches many lessons. As a result I have learned much that I blend into my own interests.
Here are ten key experiences learned from those 10,000 hours of physical exertion.
1. Enroll in The President’s Challenge [PC] a unique free site that allows you to receive credit for 121 forms of physical exertion; surely you will find several that fit your interests. Measurement comes by choosing the time and level of intensity for the particular form of activity you completed on the My Challenge activity tracker. Select from this long list changing to reflect current trends. Choices extend from white water rafting to gardening, walking to track and field, wallyball [no, not played in Walley World] to billiards. Naturally, the more challenging accumulate more points. My three major favorite categories of activity range from running, snowshoeing to lifting/hauling. Others I have in the “favorite group,” meaning they are in a drop-down form for fast updating, include walking and weight lifting.
It is a guarantee you will find many activities right for your interests. Then each time you take part in any physical activity, easily post them at the site and get your points tally updated automatically. Now you are on the way for benchmark awards from bronze to platinum medals.
2. Plan on NOT enjoying your physical exertion every time you hit the trail, go for a walk, dance, work at a job requiring lifting or on home repairs, to name just a few of the choices in the The Presidential Challenge. On that one day something starts wrong when discovering an emergency at the office, staying up too late the night earlier, suffering sweltering heat and humidity on the trails or any myriad of things occurring in daily life, do your physical exertion anyway. Over an extended period, these days fade. Get back on track after a good night’s sleep. Continue active like tossing a Frisbee, launching your hang glider, or perhaps finding friends for a game of killer croquet.
3. At the beginning of my sojourn, it never occurred to me that I would meet, just by participating in sporting events, some of the most amazing people on the globe. Here’s one example: The United States Snowshoe Association (USSSA) held its 2006 national championship in Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont. I earned the right to take part in the championship races by completing one of the local qualifying races [no qualifier required now]. I also tallied PC points for each race and snowshoeing practice on Minnesota mountains along with other training, too.
Having an early dinner the night before the race at the host resort, knowing no one, a friendly guy comes by while I’m contemplating the menu; he’s obviously racing. We talk, he joins me, we have a great time. Then I’m floored with his achievements once I get him to share them. The modest teacher [now retired] yet world competitor, Brent Weigner, came from Wyoming to race the championships. By that time he had already raced snowshoes in the bitter Arctic cold along with many other super-human feats though his modesty belied his ability and drive. Recently, on February, 2017, Weigner received an award based on his completion of a marathon in 100 countries.
If you take part in activities, involve yourself in the happenings surrounding that interest. The people you meet may astound you. Those encounters occur because you made the effort, a key tenet of success.
4. Opportunities come with getting involved in your favorite pursuits. About ten years ago I sent Ryan Alford, the founder of Snowshoe Magazine, an article I wrote on broadcasting the sport of snowshoeing, one of the first such articles I had written. He accepted it, and in doing so suggested I should submit more. Now I am a prolific provider of content in the sport. My curiosity uncovers many aspects about snowshoeing that seem intriguing at least to me. Thanks for Alford, and now Paul Wowk, the new owner of the publication, for that opportunity.
Each activity you choose for your own physical exertion will offer prospects, probably many, that you may choose to pursue.
5. Community involvement through volunteering comes easily with physical exertion. All one need do is offer. Any sport with competition or a good cause requires volunteers to handle some part of that activity like helping at an aid station in a run, flagging the route or just filling a slot at the registration desk. The activity’s social media may need help; perhaps that will work for you. For one example, I volunteer to help the Save Our Monarchs Foundation with articles on the population plight of that beautiful butterfly since I enjoy spotting them on my days on trail.
6. The physical activities you choose naturally lead to better health but also more knowledge. Reading, whether publications or books about your sports, naturally happens. The library becomes a wonderful source of materials one can use to improve our activities or how we approach them. New sports, methods, tools and particularly clothing have changed in the last ten years in a running and snowshoeing life.
Many needs discovered while on the trail found solutions while reading. Either copy a page, or for magazines I subscribe where I just rip out a page, become great reminders to check something out. Not every time, but often I find something that can help me. Use the library’s resources, too. I’m fortunate to have the marvelous Hennepin County Library [HCL covers the Minneapolis metro] as close as my computer. If I find a book I want to reference or explore, I usually find a copy through HCL delivered directly to my local library for ease of pick-up.7. On a look back of these 10,000 hours, an unintended highlight became the travel associated with getting to a race or meeting regarding my favored athletics. A memorable example remains a road trip that athlete and USSSA medalist Kris Borchardt, Wisconsin, and I made to Syracuse, New York, for the 2010 USSSA National Championships. We had met earlier in the season at the Perkinstown, WI, snowshoe qualifier. From that day evolved this trip. Since I live west of Borchardt by a few hours, we met at a large but very nice truck stop on I-94 on an early afternoon Thursday in February. Driving all night, we arrived at Skyline Lodge, Highland County Park, site of the races mid-morning Friday with plenty of time for a course preview and practice. The championship races Saturday revealed a tough course with a killer of a climb to make the finish line. We hit the road back before daylight Sunday for full day’s drive. Many wonderful memories linger from that trip.
8. One of many benefits of physical activity–improved health–may not be the reason you step on the court at a tennis match, tack to the start of a sailing regatta, or raise a stone in a Curling Bonspiel, but staying healthy comes by exercising that body of yours.
The Mayo Clinic lists 7 benefits of regular physical activity: weight control, disease prevention, mood improvement, energy boost, sleep promotion, love-life, and fun happens. Although there are few guarantees in life, physical activity improves odds of a happy and long-span along with the ability to handle those nasty and often unfortunate challenges that just seem to pop-up.
You will naturally gravitate to healthier eating. I incorporated a modified vegan diet, which indicated a dramatic shift for a lifelong meat-eater. A mostly permanent lower body weight now accompanies me as I climb those dastardly hills and mountains making up most ultra trail races.
9. One key to staying active what with all those tasks that need completing in the office, plant or business: schedule yourself to take part in competitions. My experience reveals if I have a specific competition on the calendar, getting up and at ’em becomes infinitely easier.
Once I decide to race an event, the first step remains to enter it as soon as possible. I often send my registration on the first day it opens. Then I’m fully committed. My computer reminds me daily of events I have coming up months later. It seems as if those bells and whistles coming at me from the computer, counting down the days to the start, serve as a boost to insure my training.
10. Physical activity in one area naturally enough helps one discover new sports in whole new arenas. One example, most snowshoers start from a history of running.
A rowing machine may lead to climbing in a racing shell with a coxswain shouting commands as your team makes way down a river. Bicycling on roads could stir an interest in fat tire bikes where you cover dirt and snow-bound trails. The possible combos extend well beyond these, so use your own imagination, be open to new ideas.
Explore fresh things. Wander through a REI location, Gander Mountain, Bass Pro Shops, Walmart, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Champs Sports, Target, Kohl’s, Cabela’s or a local sports store. Strolls through the aisles any time you’re in such stores lead to possible new ideas for activities or enhancements in the areas you get physical exertion.
The President’s Challenge launched me on the straight and narrow road leading to 10,000 hours of physical exertion. Many athletes keep their own journals or use different venues for their daily exercise. The trick of daily accountability pays dividends; use whatever system works for you. If you don’t have one, then adopt one, maybe The Presidents Challenge. Then watch as these ten observations impact your life in a positive way on the way to your own 10,000 hours . . . or more. Only time will tell.