The term “streaking” may sound scandalous, perhaps evoking memories of classmates sprinting naked across a field. But in a fitness sense, it refers to something much less racy: repetition.
A fitness streak is simply a commitment to repeating a daily exercise habit for a set period of time. Challenges of this sort come in many forms: a daily yoga practice, a daily run or bike ride, a daily 100-rep squat or pushup session. Some streaks are less specific — a challenge to move in some way, shape, or form for, say, 30 minutes each day.
More often than not, streaks are temporary commitments to pushing beyond one’s baseline, and they typically last for 30, 60, or 90 days. Depending on needs and starting point, the streaker might face the challenge weekly rather than daily.
Streaking isn’t complicated. The rules are flexible and adaptable, with lots of room to play and explore your personal relationship to movement. It’s a chance to improve strength, power, endurance, and other fitness markers; to practice new skills or immerse yourself in a favorite activity; and, maybe most impactful of all, to build the simple big-picture habit of moving every day.
“Big changes take a long time and lots of work. A monthlong fitness challenge is really just a single step on what is hopefully a lifelong path.”
But, as often happens when we embark on new active endeavors, the promise of sudden, radical transformation can overshadow streaking’s subtler benefits. Having unrealistic expectations of what a short-lived streak challenge can deliver, and pushing your body to the point of burnout, exhaustion, or even injury, are common pitfalls that keep many exercisers from bridging their streak experience to their everyday lives.
“Exercise is a powerful vehicle for change, but it’s not magic,” says Jolie Kobrinsky, an unconventional-training veteran and owner of Elektren studio in Seaside, Calif. “Big changes take a long time and lots of work. A monthlong fitness challenge is really just a single step on what is hopefully a lifelong path.”
If you’re currently considering a fitness streak — or perhaps approaching the end of a challenge — remember: Your newfound movement habits don’t have to end when your streak does. Our experts share their best tips for maintaining the momentum for the long haul.
Shift Your Focus
It’s natural when taking on a fitness challenge to set your sights on the positive outcome you hope to achieve. This might take the form of a performance or aesthetic goal — but it’s important to remember that many substantial changes develop over the long run. The goal of fitness streaking isn’t to lose 30 pounds in one month, double your VO2 max, or achieve some other unlikely, unsustainable (and potentially unhealthy) outcome.
While you don’t need to abandon these loftier goals, it can be helpful to revise your focus and look at the bigger picture: “The goal of fitness streaking is to establish healthy behaviors as a part of your daily routine,” says personal trainer Lindsay Ogden, CPT, creator of Life Time’s digital habit-building program, Fit + Focused. “Whether it’s movement, workouts, or nutrition, the focus is building consistent, healthy habits.” With habits dialed in, “fitness becomes a lot easier,” she adds.
“The goal of fitness streaking is to establish healthy behaviors as a part of your daily routine.”
By prioritizing habit-building, you can view your other goals from a place of data collection and curiosity. For instance, let’s say your streak challenge is to perform 75 kettlebell swings every day for 30 days. You might ask yourself, How will I feel, physically and mentally, by pursuing this challenge each day? How will my fitness change over these 30 days?
You can focus on honing your swing technique daily while gradually improving your strength and conditioning. You can practice carving out time in your busy day to move your body — time that you might ultimately choose to devote to different exercise modalities.
(For a firsthand account of staying motivated and curious through a running streak, visit “Let’s Go Streaking“.)
Give Yourself Some Grace
It’s tempting to see your success in a fitness challenge in strictly black-and-white terms. Let’s say you’ve been avoiding exercise for three years and decide to complete a daily-movement challenge. Reviewing your log after 60 days, you find that on 15 days, you went to the gym. On 30 days, you completed a 10-minute walk. And on the other 15 days, you were too busy to exercise at all.
Your first instinct might be to view this as a failure — after all, you committed to 60 workouts and missed a quarter of them. But the 45 days that you did exercise constitute a huge win. After a long layoff, you followed through on your commitment the vast majority of the time, completing 45 workouts that you probably wouldn’t have done otherwise. You improved your cardiovascular health and metabolism. You built muscle. You got stronger.
“Some people miss a day and it completely sidelines them. But that’s like getting a flat tire, pulling over, and flattening the other three.”
Perhaps most important, you practiced a new habit that can last well beyond the brief time frame of the challenge — if you don’t derail your progress with the erroneous belief that you failed.
“Some people miss a day and it completely sidelines them. But that’s like getting a flat tire, pulling over, and flattening the other three,” says Ogden. “You don’t have to follow the plan 100 percent. You just need to get there some of the time. You’re mastering the art of showing up.”
With health-and-wellness habits, she adds, that’s most of the battle.
Missed a day? Forgive yourself and move on. Burned out on a challenge? The fitness streak is a tool to help you improve, but if it triggers feelings of guilt or inadequacy, toss it and find a different approach.
Realize It’s One Step on a Long Journey
Even before your streak ends, consider what you’ll do next. Ideally, you’ll want to choose something that builds on or complements what you’ve accomplished. For instance, if you improved your cardiovascular endurance over 30 days, maybe your next goal is to complete a 5K — or perhaps to move into a strength-training phase to keep progressing on your activity of choice.
“Getting sufficient sleep, hydration, protein — those are things you should try to maintain daily.”
The only streaks you should stick with indefinitely, Ogden contends, involve recovery. “Getting sufficient sleep, hydration, protein — those are things you should try to maintain daily,” she says.
With intense exercise challenges, however, you’ll get the best results if you wrap it up when the time frame ends and move on to something else. “There’s a seasonality to movement,” Ogden says. “Your body needs different things at different times.”
So, as you emerge from your fitness streak, temper your discipline and sweat with a healthy dollop of self-compassion. You’ll have more fun — and likely stay fired up and ready for more.
6 Tips for a Successful Fitness Streak
Got a health-boosting habit you’re hoping to nurture? Here’s how to start — and complete — a fitness streak of your own.
1. Choose Wisely
Diving in? Don’t just choose any activity. The simplicity and clarity of “Do X for X days” can be a major draw to the fitness streak, but it can also have a downside: What if your bum shoulder acts up three days into your pushup challenge? What if a family emergency or work stress throws you off your game?
So, choose a streak that’s attainable and realistic for you. Got a trick knee? Skip running challenges. Too busy to breathe? Making time for 10,000 steps might be impossible.
Don’t set the bar too low — there’s no point in doing 20 squats a day if you’re already capable of doing 50 — but don’t aim too high if you know you’re unlikely to follow through.
2. Beginners Beware
Beginners should be cautious of challenges that require you to perform the same exercise daily. Strong, fit people might be able to handle 30-pushup or 100-squat challenges, but most fitness pros consider this approach excessive for novices.
“The reward diminishes quickly,” says elite trainer and physical therapist John Rusin, DPT, CSCS, of the one-exercise-a-day approach. “Fatigue and soreness set in. Your mechanics change, leaving you less likely to elicit a training effect safely.”
A better strategy for newbies: alternate workouts each day (say, 30 squats on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays and 30 pushups on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays), or simply commit to completing a set number of workouts per week — regardless of the type of workouts.
3. Track Your Progress
A 2015 meta-study of nearly 20,000 people found that frequently monitoring your progress toward a goal — as you do in a streak — improves the likelihood that you’ll achieve it. And 2020 research found that sharing goals with a coach or simply someone you respect improves your commitment and ability to achieve those goals.
4. Embrace the Game
Once you’ve picked a challenge, have as much fun with it as you can. “Humans love games,” says Jolie Kobrinsky, an unconventional training veteran and owner of Elektren studio in Seaside, Calif. “If I told you to work out every day, you might do it or you might not. But if I tell a group of people that whoever logs the most workouts in the next month gets a prize, it becomes a game — and people respond to that.”
The social pressure and friendly competition increase buy-in, adds personal trainer Lindsay Ogden, CPT, creator of Life Time’s digital habit-building program, Fit + Focused. “Even for people who usually stay consistent, fitness challenges are a way to level up and get more wins.”
For the best experience with your streak, then, embrace that social component: engage with fellow participants. Give them a nod at the gym or a shout-out on a text thread.
Acknowledge others’ success. Reach out to anyone who seems to be flagging and give them a nudge — and ask for one when you need it. Research suggests that pursuing fitness, through exercise and nutrition, as part of a group is self-reinforcing: The more you connect and interact with people pursuing similar goals, the greater the likelihood that you will achieve them.
5. Beyond Exercise
You don’t have to choose a movement-specific challenge to upgrade your fitness. If exercise isn’t what’s holding you back, consider a challenge that addresses sleep, stress management, or excessive screen time. Get an app that tracks these metrics (heart-rate variability, trackable on numerous apps, is a good indicator of stress) and see if you can improve them for 30 days. For the chronically stressed, overworked, or overtrained, that could be the best choice of all — and a game-changer for their health and fitness.
6. Seek Out Support
Any questions or concerns? Going into a streak with the support of a coach or a seasoned group can help you focus on a challenge that’s appropriate for you and avoid any pitfalls along the way.
This article originally appeared as “When the Streak Is Over” in the June 2022 issue of Experience Life.