One Small Change
Lessons from a Man Who Hasn’t Missed a Workout in 16 Years
Jim Langley is on a streak. He has ridden his bike for at least one hour on 5,927 consecutive days. That’s nearly 17 years. What makes this feat even more amazing is that he has a 40-hour-per-week job, two daughters (one still at home), a wife of 30 years, a couple of dogs, and plenty of other hobbies and responsibilities. In other words, he’s functional on and off the bike. In fact, when I called him the other day to chat, he couldn’t immediately tell me his streak stats. He had to do the math. Daily cycling isn’t something he began or continues for Guinness fame, but rather because he loves it.
“I don’t ride every day because of this streak,” says Langley, who lives in Santa Cruz, California. “I ride because it gives me something to look forward to, which automatically puts me in a good mood. And afterwards it’s something I can put in my pocket and feel good about. Regardless of how frustrating the rest of the day may have been, I always accomplish something.”
Besides these psychological effects, Langley enjoys notable physical benefits. At 56, he’s a lean 5-foot-11, 160 pounds. He can out-pedal riders a third his age. And he has no significant health problems. He has the overall appearance, enthusiasm and energy of a kid.
Of course, there is an element of obsessiveness to it. Although he doesn’t track the streak day-by-day, he is certainly aware of it. “I wake up every morning and plan how to get my ride in,” he explains, “so there’s a certain fixed anxiety that goes along with it.”
This was showcased on a trip to Maui with his wife. He had booked an early-morning flight so—you guessed it—he would arrive in plenty of time to ride. But because of delays, they didn’t touch down until 10 p.m.
“It was pitch black and pouring rain,” Langley recounts, “but I had to get my ride in. So I bought a couple of flashlights at a convenience store, duct-taped them to my bike, and headed out. I tried to convince my wife to drive the rental car behind me with the lights on, but she told me I was on my own and went to the hotel. It was pretty dangerous, but I got my hour in.”
So what has he learned in nearly two decades of streaking that can help you and I become more consistent in our workouts? Consider:
1. If you don't have a training partner and can’t afford a personal trainer, start a streak. Part of the reason coaches and exercise buddies are so effective is that they push us and hold us accountable. Once a streak develops it generates similar momentum.
2. It takes days, not months, for a streak to take hold. Langley contends it only takes about a week of consistent daily exercise before it becomes routine and a positive source of ongoing inspiration. That’s it.
3. No matter how busy you think you are, you do have the time. Langley used to watch lots of TV sports until he considered what good he was deriving from it. So he cut back and prioritized cycling without feeling any added time pressure. Now he compares riding to brushing his teeth; it’s just another daily habit.
4. Maintaining an exercise streak makes you more disciplined and efficient in life. Having to block out at least an hour every day for exercise forces Langley to plan and prioritize the rest of his activities. He says this has made him a more productive and disciplined person.
5. Streaking helps you realize your potential in a given sport. If you’ve ever wondered how good you can be at something, this is the way to find out. After years of daily fitness riding, Langley joined a racing team again and is very competitive.
6. You have to finesse it with your significant other. Despite that episode in Maui, Langley says his streak has enhanced his marriage. Not only does it encourage communication (“You can’t just disappear”), but it also goaded his wife into becoming a more regular exerciser. Nonetheless, Langley admits there are times when you have to be selfish, but he says you can always finesse it. “When there are conflicts I’ll say I’m going out for my ride rather than just a ride,” he explains. “That lets her know this is important to me.”
So how long does he hope to keep the streak alive? “Lately I’ve been thinking I’ll try to get to 20 years,” he says. “If I can reach that, I would have ridden every day from age 40 to 60, which would be pretty amazing. After that, who knows? Maybe I’ll just say the hell with it, get fat, and watch television.”
How's your streak going? Let us know! For more information about Jim Langley, his streak and his sport, visit www.jimlangley.net.
About The Author
Joe Kita – Joe Kita is a noted writer, editor, motivational speaker and teacher. He authors the blog "One Small Change" for CorePerformance.com.