200 workouts in 200 days: how my life has changed

Today was my 200th straight day working out. For some this will seem a trivial accomplishment but it is a big deal for me!

It is the result of very strict discipline I have imposed on myself. Last year I started realizing that every day I would wake up and make a decision whether to work out that day or not. When I was particularly tired or feeling lazy, I would skip the workout. There’s always an excuse handy.

I noticed, however, that I felt markedly better on days when I did work out. Not only is physical exercise good, working out was correlated with other positive habits. On days I went to the gym, I wouldn’t eat until post-workout. This inadvertent intermittent fasting made me feel lighter, more alert. Since early last year, I had also added 5 minute of meditation to every day I worked out. The meditation had helped me get away from my day-to-day and also helped me solve a range of bite-sized problems. I was simply more productive when I worked out.

So one day I decided I would just start working out every day. It would remove the daily decision and force me to be more disciplined with my mornings. The length of the workout matters less, but the intensity matters a lot. Sprints if cardio, heavy reps if anaerobic such that exhaustion is hit in a short period of time. The most common workouts are 15 minute sprints on the bike (after which I generally can’t walk) or a 40 minute bench and bicep session (my usual Sunday workout). There’s been a Barry’s session (in Dubai), several runs in various parks around the world, and a regular diet of pullups and pushups. Whether I’m flying or attending an early morning meeting, whether I’m at my home gym or some random gym in Riyadh, I need to work out beforehand. Holidays are not days off. Days when I take redeyes (many) are particular painful, but the workouts actually turn those days into highly productive ones.

One day led to the next. I crossed 25, then 50, then 100. Now it’s at 200. I don’t know life without a daily workout. My numbers haven’t moved dramatically. My final 4-rep set for the bench has gone up from 160-165 pounds to 175 pounds – nice but not dramatic improvement. But my objective hasn’t been to bulk up; it’s been to sustain. These workouts have helped me mentally, emotionally, physically through all kinds of challenges. My daily workout – me vs myself, which is how I’ve always preferred it – gives me a backbone of resilience, of resolve that no one can take away for longer than 24 hours.

I haven’t kept up with daily meditation, but I do get it in 3-4 times a week. The intermittent fasting has been maintained. I feel more energetic, more confident than I ever have. Despite the crazy flight and work schedules, I’ve managed to remain very healthy across the 200 days.

As humans, we were meant to have some intense physical exercise every day. We were meant to eat less than we do. We were meant to have time to reflect. Adding these in as a daily habit can recenter us. In my case, it has made me much more productive, more powerful. In a world where we have less incentive to stay disciplined (we all want to be free), it doesn’t hurt to add some. I intend to keep my streak going – give it a try!