20,000 Steps a Day: My Exhausting 30-Day Step Challenge

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Screenshot of the Sweatcoin app saying "20,000 total steps"

20,000 Steps a Day: My 30-Day Challenge

 

Disclaimer: My step challenge ended up lasting 31 days, the full month of July.

Since I started Tenacious Travel, I have spent crazy amounts of time sitting and staring at a computer screen. Yes, I enjoy working on my website, but damn, I need to get off my ass more often. I’m running a travel blog after all.

I’ve become a bit… round. My belly is expanding, and my energy levels are sinking. I’m like a loyal husband that’s putting on sympathy weight for his child-bearing wife (but nobody is pregnant).

So, I’ve decided to test out 20,000 steps a day as my weight loss and mental health refreshing strategy. Will it work? I hope so.

For my challenge, I’ll lace up my brand new Tesla running shoes (yes, Tesla makes running shoes for some reason) and I’ll count my steps with the Mi Fit Band and that my generous girlfriend gave to me. Her motives are unknown, but I suspect she wants to keep tabs on my step stats from China.

FAQs

A hiker walking down a trail during a fitness challenge

Was this a good idea? What have I gotten myself into?

 

Before I start the challenge, let’s dive a little more into the numbers side of this thing. Let’s answer a few quick questions before I start walking.

How many steps a day does the average adult take?

According to VeryWellFit, studies in the US conducted in 2010 and 2016 concluded that the average American adult takes between 5,000 and 7,000 steps a day, or between 2.5 and 3.5 miles (4 and 5.5 km).

What is the recommended number of steps per day for the average adult?

While there is no universal recommended ‘magic number’ of steps, 10,000 steps a day is widely viewed as the standard amount to aim for when trying to maintain an active lifestyle and reduce health risks, although studies have raised questions about that magic number.

How far is 20,000 steps in miles/km?

For a person with an average walking stride length between 2.2 feet and 2.5 feet, it adds up to roughly 10 miles (16 km).

Running and jogging produce longer stride lengths, which vary significantly between people. Male Olympic distance runners log about 23 miles (37 km) per 20k steps!

How many calories are burned while walking 20,000 steps a day?

On average, a 180-pound adult burns 100 calories per mile walked, meaning that walking 10 miles (16 km) a day will burn around 1,000 calories.

What kind of weight loss can one expect from taking 20,000 steps per day?

Everyone is different, so that’s a tough question to answer. I lost five pounds during my 30-day step challenge, and there’s a Canadian guy who dropped 130 pounds (59 kg) while taking 20k steps for a year. Weight loss is all about calories, so use a calorie calculator to monitor your intake during your step challenge if your goal is to shed pounds. 

Here’s what I gather from all that info:

This is going to be quite the daily challenge to take on for a month straight without a break. If I end up reaching my goals, I’ll spend around three hours walking every day, and I’ll take nearly four times the steps as an average American.

I guess I’m going to attack this non-father-dad-bod I’m developing.

So, follow along with me. It’ll be fun. I’m bound to push this challenge down to the very last hour of the very last day. That’s just how it’s going to end up. I know myself.

Here goes nothing.

My Step Challenge Journal

The fine print: My objective is to average 20,000 steps per day for the entire month of July. Sometimes I won’t hit my daily goal, but that’s okay. I’ll just have to walk a little more the next day.

Starting weight: 177.2 pounds | 80.4 kg Starting Body Mass Index: 24.7 (on the verge of ‘overweight’)

No More Procrastinating

July 2nd, 12:20 a.m.

Blue Tesla running shoes on a wood deck

My ridiculously affordable (and comfortable) Tesla running shoes

 

So, I had been planning all week to push this challenge back to August. My reasoning: this blog isn’t public yet, and this challenge will likely get lost behind others once I finally launch this website of mine.

That would be a cop-out, plain and simple. Why should I care if nobody’s watching? If I make excuses for myself not to follow through on my goals, I’m setting a dangerous precedent.

So, I decided to go for it. What do I have to lose?

That said, I got off to a bit of a slow start. 10:45 p.m. rolled around, and I had still only reached 11,000 steps. Damnit, I couldn’t dig myself into a hole on my very first day. I put on my fancy new running shoes and started moving.

My first big race against time was a mixture of jogging, wheezing, pitch-black sidewalks, staggering with my hands on my hips, coughing up god knows what, and generally feeling really out of shape.

11:50 struck, and I was still short of my goal. I sprinted as fast as I could but fell short by 53 steps – or 19 more seconds of running. I am sore and achy, but full of hope. This challenge is never going to be a walk in the park.

Digging Myself Into an Early Hole

July 5th, 1:46 a.m.

Fine, I’ll admit it: I didn’t give it my best effort yesterday.

I finished 10,000 steps short of my goal. Oops. It might have something to do with me staying out crazy late and drinking beer with an old friend the night before. Who knows? There’s no way to measure these things.

I was starting to panic when 11:00 p.m. came about, and I had taken less than 5,000 steps. So, I did what any other exhausted, dehydrated, and hungover person would do: I got off the couch and ran across town on the 4th of July. Fireworks crackled overhead as my dog panicked and I moved slightly slower than usual.

Did I mention that taking 20,000 steps a day is not easy?

I’ve dug myself a bit of a hole early on, but I’m excited to see how I dig myself out. There will be more days that I fall well short of goals, but there will also be 30,000 step days. They’re coming, I promise.

Getting Steps in at 14,000 Feet

July 8th, 1:03 p.m.

I took some quality steps yesterday, and almost all of them happened before 9:00 a.m. On the night of the 6th, I drove up to Kite Lake Trailhead (outside of Alma, Colorado) parked my camper van, and slept.

I awoke at 3:30 in the morning, ate a cold piece of pizza, fed my dog, and gathered my gear. I groggily poured myself out of my van and was met with a quiet moonlight. My friends, Matt and Antonio, were waiting for me by the trailhead. We yawned and stretched together and began our hike.

Silhouettes of hikers against a pale sunset atop Mount Lincoln

Summiting Mount Lincoln at sunrise

 

Now, these were hard-earned steps that we were taking. We huffed and puffed to the top of three different mountains over 14,000 feet in elevation: Mt. Bross, Mt. Lincoln, and Mt. Cameron. My friends completed a fourth, Mt. Democrat, but I ducked out because Bubba’s paws were starting to get tender.

The first week is in the books!

I’m slightly behind pace but have more big hikes planned later in this month. My step challenge has already shown positive results. I feel lighter on my feet and full of energy at all times. Bubba and I are exploring the world together and enjoying every moment.

Enduring the Brutal Heat of Summer

July 9th, 2:53 p.m.

A 7-day weather forecast for Colorado displaying highs of over 100 degrees

The relentless Colorado sun doesn’t care if I have step goals

 

I picked the wrong week to start sleeping in.

After slacking off yesterday and putting off today’s steps until 2:00 p.m., I was forced to take a run in Colorado’s triple-digit Summer heat. I still have 13,969 steps to reach my daily goal. Today has been a bit of a learning experience.

Did I mention my house has no air conditioning?

TIP: Start Your Steps Early!

If you’re trying to hit a personal step goal, try to complete at least half of your steps before noon, especially in the summer. Procrastinating will force you to exert yourself during the hottest part of the day or rush yourself late into the night. I’ve made a bad habit of doing both.

Now, excuse me while I stand near my wide-open refrigerator.

Half Inspiration, Half Desperation

July 10th, 12:30 a.m.

I just finished power-walking, jogging, and sprinting around town for 15,000 steps in the final two hours of the day. That’s how my night went.

I feel great, though.

My new motto: ‘Half Inspiration, Half Desperation’

Trimming Up: My Midway Update

July 16th, 12:00 p.m.

Ah, the halfway point. It’s been an absolute grind. The steps don’t care if you’re tired, burnt out, hungover, have shit to do, or 100 degrees (38° Celsius) outside.

The steps are always waiting, screaming to be taken.

The last few days, my legs have felt heavy and taxed, especially when I’m running. My body has hit a wall. In spite of this, I have made some very noticeable progress.

Here are some of the physical differences that I have seen:

Midway weight: 172.6 pounds | 78.3 kg Midway BMI: 24.1

I’m slimming up, and it feels good. I’ve shed almost five pounds so far. My legs, although often fatigued, feel stronger and more stable. My energy levels are up, and my stamina is climbing. The blisters on my feet have turned to callouses, and I feel like I’m getting back towards ‘trail shape’ again.

Mentally, I feel sharper and more focused. I can organize my normally jumbled and erratic thoughts when I’m walking or running. Many future ideas for this website have come to me while I was racking up my steps.

A dog looks curiously at a frog being held up to his face

Keri introduces Bubba to a frog while we get our steps in late at night

 

Bubba is thoroughly satisfied and exhausted regularly, something I never thought possible from a yellow lab. Instead of anxiously following me around the house waiting to be exercised, he is continually recharging for our next set of steps.

It’s safe to say that this challenge was a great idea. Here’s to the second half, where I must now average 21,437 steps a day.

A Furious Finish Ahead

July 25th, 1:20 p.m.

So, I have some good news, and I have some bad news.

Let’s start with the good news: my girlfriend recently got back in town from China. She’s visiting for three weeks, and we’ve been having a great time! We even went to Las Vegas and ate at our favorite restaurant in the world.

Now, for the bad: Since, Las Vegas, I’ve put my steps on the back-burner. They haven’t been a priority, and my averages have dipped severely. I’ve dropped down to an average of 17,894, which doesn’t sound bad (but really is bad this late in the game).

During my last week, I will have to average 26,912 steps a day, which I have only surpassed once this month. I anticipate lots of late-night sprinting and early morning jogs. My sleep will suffer, but I will reach my goal. Maybe.

This Step Challenge is Brutal

July 29th, 12:08 p.m.

My calves are shot, and my legs are jelly. Pain is shooting up my IT band. My dog thinks I’m crazy. We’re exhausted.

I reached 30,000 steps for the first time this month (just as I promised I would). A few days ago I’d felt utterly pessimistic. I thought I had dug myself into a hole too deep, but yesterday’s total gives me new hope.

An exhausted yellow lab on a pillow

Today Bubba got excited and took twice the steps I did. Now he is tired.

 

I feel like a different person than when I started this challenge, but I guess that’s the point. In years past, I’ve gone months without ever running. Now, my days feel incomplete without it. The late nights exercising alone in the darkness are soothing and therapeutic, and I’m beginning to see how people get addicted.

Three days left — time to finish strong.

Never. Stop. Walking.

July 30th, 2:43 p.m.

This morning I paced back and forth around the light rail station as I awaited my train. I followed that up with more aggressive marching around Union Station as I stacked up steps waiting for my bus. I looked like a madman with a million things racing through his head, furiously storming around and trying to make sense of it all.

And who’s to say that I’m not?

I have 51.5 kilometers (32 miles) left these final two days to reach my goal. Sometimes I’m just going to have to act like a lunatic along the way.

A man facing the camera standing on top of Mount Lincoln in Colorado

Mission Accomplished

 

IT’S OVER.

August 1st, 12:23 a.m.

That’s it. Thank God it’s over.

My exhausting step challenge is done.

This last week my existence was consumed with reaching my goal. If I wasn’t working, I was walking. If I wasn’t walking, I was running — steps, steps, steps — all day long.

The grind is over, what a relief. My legs are spent, and I’m exhausted. I’m going to bed. Bring on a new challenge.

Daily Step Log

July 1st: 19,947
July 2nd: 21,158
July 3rd: 17,357
July 4th: 9,915
July 5th: 29,263
July, 6th: 12,885
July 7th: 23,348
July 8th: 5,311

July 9th: 25,850
July 10th: 20,662
July 11th: 20,750
July 12th: 15,751
July 13th: 16,769
July 14th: 20,665
July 15th: 18,952
July 16th: 23,225

July 17th: 21,232
July 18th: 11,574
July 19th: 20,596
July 20th: 10,054
July 21st: 8,639
July 22nd: 23,506
July 23rd: 14,037
July 24th: 20,168

July 25th: 27,148
July 26th: 23,103
July 27th: 19,580
July 28th: 35,793
July 29th: 18,675
July 30th: 37,093
July 31st: 27,627
Average: 20,021

Noel: Before and After

Without question, I took more steps this month than I ever have in my life. This challenge forced me to break out of my sedentary routine and get out in the world. I now feel lighter on my feet and healthier. My mind slows down, and my creativity blossoms while I’m on my feet. I didn’t lose five pounds, trimmed up noticeably, and created better habits for myself.

My future goal will be 12,000 steps a day. 20,000 steps a day is a bit much for now. I want to be active, but I don’t want my life to revolve around steps. Balance: that’s what I’m looking for.

Noel Before the Challenge

Noel After the Challenge

A roundish figure, sluggish, constantly staring at the computer Active, energetic, and physically fit
Ran sparingly and inconsistently for short bursts A daily runner with the best stamina in his life
Bored, unfulfilled, and under-exercised dog (Bubba) Bubba constantly experiencing the best day of his life
Had a hard time focusing, jumbled and disorganized thoughts Clear mind, natural and flowing creativity, focused
Unsure about achieving the goal, lingering self-doubt Confident, motivated, and goal-oriented

Noel’s Step Stats

Total Steps Taken/Average Per Day 620,637/20,021
Kilometers/Miles Traveled 480.89/298.81
Most/Least Steps Taken in a Day 37,093 (July 29th)/5,311 (July 8th)
Time Challenge was Completed 11:17 p.m. on July 31st
Weight Loss 5 pounds | 2.3 kg
Calories Burned 19,880
Total MiFit Battery Recharges Two

Try Your Own Step Challenge

A man hiking towards a mountain range during a 10,000 step challenge

When will you begin your own step challenge?

 

I recommend the 20,000 steps a day challenge to anyone who wants to become more active. Steps are effortlessly countable, easy to achieve, and take you places you may never have gone otherwise.

You will notice changes both mental and physical and will find yourself out in the world, thinking clearly and moving freely.

Some days the challenge will feel more like a chore. You may doubt yourself and struggle at times, but you will come out on the other end, a stronger and more determined person.

Even if you look like a lunatic as you pace around the occasional bus station.

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