“Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today,” I read from Jordan Peterson’s book The 12 Rules for Life. Every morning I strive to read a little bit to absorb some positivity into my thoughts before entering the grind of daily life. But this quote really stood out to me. On the morning of November 21, 2018 it made me stop in my tracks. I just started thinking. I stopped reading and took a sip of coffee. Mind wondering, I walked into the bathroom to take a shower. When I undressed and investigated the mirror I was disgusted. My hair was disheveled. My beard was too long. I was pale. Analyzing myself as my eyes read my body like a book, I noticed my lack of muscle definition. Especially in my chest. Man titties. “Jesus Christ,” I thought to myself. Shaking my head, I proceeded into the shower.
In the shower I thought about the Jordan Peterson quote again. It made me reminisce on the time I had read Darren Hardy’s book The Compound Effect. In The Compound Effect Darren goes into detail on the miracle of compounding and how it can be applied to one’s everyday life. How little changes can add up to big differences over long periods of time. I also thought about Andy Andrew’s book The Traveler’s Gift. One of the seven principles of success is to be a person of action. Suddenly there was a convergence of thought and I found all three principles from those very different men and books intertwined to form a singular idea. An idea with a force that hit me like a lightning bolt. A true eureka moment.
I got out the shower. I dried myself off. I put on some boxer briefs. I got down on the ground, stretched out my legs, kept my back straight, and completed one single pushup. I then turned over onto my back, bent my knees, and completed one single crunch. I then opened my note app on my iPhone. I wrote “11/21 1 Pushup, 1 Crunch.” And that was it.
The next day was Thanksgiving. That morning I got down on the ground and I completed two pushups and two crunches. The day after that was three and three. This kept on. Fast forward to present day I completed the following work out this morning (total reps): 200 Pushups, 200 Crunches, 200 Bicycle Kicks, 150 Squats, 150 Seconds of Planks, 100 Mountain Climbers, 50 Feet Elevated Decline Pushups, and 50 Lunges. Over the past 1000 days of exercising, I have overcome tremendous adversity including working out when I was sick, after I severely sprained my ankle playing basketball, was hospitalized in Denver on a business trip, and several other minor strains from here or there. When I sprained my ankle, I couldn’t do squats, so I skipped them and did my pushups and crunches. When I was hospitalized in Denver, after being up all night excreting every ounce of fluid nutrient out of my body and sucking down three IV bags worth of saline, I managed to get down on the ground and complete a single pushup. I could’ve given up, but I know I had something special going and I wanted to keep the streak alive. I’ve exercised in California, Louisiana, Texas, Nevada, Hawaii, and Colorado. I’ve changed jobs, witnessed the birth of my second child, and lived through a global pandemic. One thing remained consistent during all this time. Every day, I got down on the ground and I did my pushups. Here is what I learned during this time:
- Sleep is the most important thing to live a healthy lifestyle. There were mornings when I was hungover. There were mornings when I was low energy. But the worst mornings were those that I had little or broken sleep. Having two children aged three and under ensured there were plenty of nights for me to test this hypothesis. On days where I was up for most of the night, the motivation and energy level required to get down and exert physical exercise was extremely daunting. Every night I strive to go to bed at 9:30pm, so that I get enough rest for my 5:00am alarm clock. I was able to overcome these adversities, but I also learned this valuable lesson along the way. It’s a lesson shared with Tom Brady who wrote at length about sleep in his book “The TB12 Method.”
- Hydration and Alcohol Limitation is absolutely vital. The second hardest mornings to overcome were days in which I woke up hungover. In my second year of exercising, I began tracking which days I drank alcohol without changing my behavior. I was shocked to discover that in January 2019 I had drank 21/31 days or 67.8%. No wonder I felt like crap all the time. So, I began reducing days I was drinking by at least one day per month. I also began making it a habit to drink more water throughout the day including one AdvoCare Rehydrate per day. There are a ton of hydration products out there, but this is one that I like. This year rather than tracking number of days I consumed alcohol I am now tracking how many alcoholic beverages I’m consuming. No more than 1 drink at a time and no more than 4 drinks per month. There haven’t been many mornings where I’ve felt dehydrated anymore. This has allowed me to continue my exercise streak while still enjoying an occasional glass of wine.
- Calisthenics is great for slimming down and/or maintaining your body composition. I am not a body builder, nor am I anticipating me joining the Olympia anytime soon. But I have maintained my body weight in a hyper consistent range of 155-165 pounds. For most of the 1000 days I was between 160-165 like clockwork until recently when I began calorie tracking and now have gone a month in between 155-160. When I first started, I was overweight at 174 lbs., and you could see it in my chest, neck, face, and stomach. Now my face and neck are slim, and my chest has strong composition. No more man-titties for this guy.
- The more energy you exert the more energy you have. This one is a bit of a paradox. Although I joke about my energy level from time to time due to being a dad and chasing after my kids, I have found that I have more energy because of me exercising. Starting each day by working out and feeling a sense of accomplishment boosts self-esteem and gets each day started on the right foot. The boost of looking in the mirror and not seeing flabby dad-bod guy is motivating as well. By investing time and effort in taking care of my body I am receiving the dividends by not feeling gross and sickly like I did back when I was not exercising and was feeling depressed. The return on investment is strong. “The price of discipline is always less than the pain of regret.”
- Diet matters. This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised. One of my hobbies is gardening. I enjoy growing potatoes, tomatoes, squash, peppers, cucumbers, and even carrots. Tasting a carrot that was recently pulled out of the Earth tastes so much better than one from the grocery store. It’s not close. The nutrients are still at high levels, and you can taste how much sweeter the fresh carrot is. The same goes for all the fruits and vegetables I grow. There is something to be said about eating fresh and healthy produce and meat products as opposed to overly processed foods. There are scores of debating books on the topic of nutrition, so I won’t get into specifics, but I know how my body reacts to healthy nutritional meals versus heavily processed meals and it’s enough of a difference to list it as a lesson learned while exercising for 1000 days in a row.
- Use a checkmark tracker. I started out tracking my workouts on my phone using the note application. I moved to an excel document. After the workout had grown into higher repetitions and larger quantity of exercises, I found myself losing count, so I started using tally marks on napkins, loose sheets of paper, post it notes or whatever I could find. After realizing I really liked keeping track this way, I created my checkmark tracker. After each exercise I check off the corresponding box. When you receive a like on social media it releases dopamine into your brain, which helps improve your mood. Checking off the box on the checkmark tracker does the same thing. This helps improve my mood and helps me move from set to set and get my workout done efficiently.
- I’m stronger. In Fall 2019 I went to the gym with a friend of mine. This was the one and only time in the 1000 day stretch of exercising that I entered a gym. He wanted to get a lift in and wanted to talk about life, so I joined him. While completing bench press, I wanted to see how much I could lift. So, we started at 135 pounds, then I went up by 20. I was able to complete 155, then 175. We threw a couple of 5’s on each side and I was able to bench 185 one time. Typically, when I used to work out at the gym consistently, I would work out with 165. The most I’ve every benched in my life was 200. I was very pleased by the 185-mark considering I hadn’t been to a gym in over a year. Also, in a more recent instance my neighbor asked me to lift a generator on the back of his truck. I was able to use proper form and lift the generator up with him easily. I’ve also noticed strength needed to lift the kids up when playing with them, which to me is the most important result.
- Exercise and personal care are more important than I originally thought. This lesson had more to do with what was going on in the outside world while I was doing my workouts. Data reported by the CDC indicate people that are overweight, obese, or severely obese are more likely to get severely ill from COVID-19. The cdc.gov website states “The risk of severe COVID-19 illness increases sharply with elevated BMI.” By exercising every day, it lowered my body mass index and if I had gotten infected with COVID-19 it would be less likely to have been severe. I’m grateful that I haven’t caught COVID and was able to get vaccinated. At 5’6” it doesn’t take much weight gain for me to be considered obese by BMI calculation standards.
- Doing something difficult makes you feel alive. We live in a time of abundance, safety, and comfort. Despite what the 24-hour news channels is telling you. Despite what that social media influencer is telling you. History tells us otherwise. We have it better now than in any time in the history of humanity. Yet we argue and fight and behave as though things are so bad. As humans we need struggle. Our biological makeup dictates that we fight for survival. The instincts are hardwired into our brains. This is why people jump out of airplanes, push the limits of what people think is possible, etc. Accomplishing this feat has certainly boosted my confidence and made me feel alive. One pushup after the other. “When you feel pain, you know that you are still alive” -Bruce Lee.
- Having a strong partner is a life “cheat code”. I am not exaggerating when I say I couldn’t have accomplished this feat without the incredible support from my wife, Hilary. Countless mornings where she played defense and distracted the kids, so that I can get my workout in. While on vacation or travelling we would schedule our activities for the day around the morning, so that I had adequate time to get my workout in. On Sunday mornings we divide and conquer with her going to the farmers market with Benjamin and me staying home to get my workout in while looking after Anna. Her support is invaluable to me and I am forever grateful.
- My “Why” is powerful. When I first looked in the mirror on that Wednesday in November, I wasn’t just upset with myself for letting my body get as bad as it was. I was concerned. I knew that I needed to be there for my son as he grew up and navigated his way through life. To try and maximize the likelihood that I live long enough to give him a proper runway on his flight towards adulthood I knew I needed to live a healthier lifestyle. Sure, I wanted to look better and feel better, but the “why” was a lot more powerful than mere cosmetic or social recognition. I want to be a good father and husband and in order to perform at my highest level I need to take care of my body and my mind and strive to become the best version of myself that I can. And I want my family to see me do that. I want them to see me working out every day. I want to instill the work ethic that my father instilled in me. And I understand fully that no matter what I tell them, my actions will speak louder than my words ever will. On Day #554 my “why” grew even more powerful when my daughter Anna was born. I could’ve quit any day since I started. After being hospitalized in Denver. After the severe ankle sprain. I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to keep the streak going, but I know my why is powerful enough to make it keep going for as long as possible. I have a decided heart. I choose to focus on what I can control. If I can increase my longevity in this life to be there for my kids and wife for as long as possible, then I’m damn sure going to do it. Even if the task at hand is as small as getting down on the ground and completing one single pushup.
I hope this article has inspired you. For more articles written by Bradley Bertoniere please follow Be Successful Daily, LLC on Facebook, @besuccessful247 on Twitter, @besuccessfuldaily on Instagram and http://www.besuccessfuldaily.com.