Today I woke up and decided to do 1,000 hard-style kettlebell swings in an hour. 1,000 days ago, on February 14th, 2008, I woke up and decided to run a mile. What a difference 1,000 days makes.

There are many reasons that we can decide to change something in our lives. We can make ourselves do something, or circumstances can force our hand. In the world of psychology these are called “intrinsic” and “extrinsic” motivations, respectively. For true change to happen I will argue that both must be in place as well as positive and negative reinforcement (the carrot and the stick). But I only know this after studying it in psychology text books and working through it with my clients on a daily basis. A question I get from them is, “why did you do it? Why did you go from sedentary jack-ass to fitness nerd?” And I can honestly tell you, I don’t know. There was no clear message in my head. I just woke up on Valentine’s Day and decided to run.

I didn’t make it a block. Seriously, I started at 5th Street and had to stop before 4th. What’s scary is that I wasn’t even at my worst. Walking around San Francisco for a year had at least resulted in a 20lb drop from my peak at 205. But in 8 years I had gone from 3 mile warmups (in under 20:00) followed by 20,000-40,000 meters of rowing, to unable to maintain a 10:00/mile pace for even 400 yards. I was so embarrassed I couldn’t tell my wife. But I was also so embarrassed that I woke up on the 15th and decided to try it again.

Looking back, I probably did it for her. It couldn’t have been an accident that it was Valentine’s Day. Being sedentary has side effects no one talks about at the time. I was depressed. I had been seriously depressed for over a year and was throughly unpleasant to live with. My job was absolutely terrible. I had very few friends because the only people I knew also worked for the same shitty company that made them unpleasant to be with as well. So every night I would be there when she got home, sitting on the couch, eating a pizza, and wasting whatever potential I had to be a better husband on malaise and excuses. And I think on that Valentine’s Day, I just wanted to be better. I just wanted to push past the malaise and get 1 mile closer to the person I told myself I could be. I settled for 400 yards because it was at least in the right direction.

Steve Grubbs destroys the competition!I couldn’t do it by myself though. I broke down and asked a coworker for the number of his personal trainer, Steve Grubbs. On March 15th, I met Steve for the first time and he told me to warm up with an easy mile on the treadmill. At that point I had yet to even finish a mile, but I obliged and when he returned to get started I was glowing from having completed my first goal from over a month ago, but too scared to tell him because I didn’t want him to know how bad I was. He figured it out when I vomited a few minutes later. But he gave me a few orange slices and we finished the session. I saw him twice a week and I still train with him so he can make me do all the things I can’t make myself do.

But today I woke up and decided to do 1,000 swings. I had put this date on my calender a while ago and knew that I wanted to do something to commemorate it, but I didn’t want to make it a goal that I’d have to train for months in advance. I just wanted to do something spontaneous, like running that first block on Valentine’s Day. Swings should have been obvious. I’ve never done more than 25 in a row before, but I’ve been fortunate enough to learn from some pretty amazing people in the past 1,000 days. One of those people is Mark Reifkind, Master RKC. Rif was kind enough to tell me everything I was doing wrong 3 months before the RKC in February and offer me some encouraging words and an actual kettlebell program (on the back of a napkin, I think). Three months later he saw me at the RKC and was genuinely surprised I had passed (I did what you told me to do every day, Rif, of course I passed!) It was through Rif’s blog that I learned about his wife Tracy’s amazing work in high-volume swings, in particular “the Roundabout.” I’ll save you the details, but it’s an ingenious way to chain together an insane number of reps while delaying the onset of grip fatigue. So this morning I decided to try it. 100 continuous swings every five minutes, for 50 minutes.

I used a 1:1 rest:work ratio and started with the 16kg, moving up in weight every 200 swings. My last 200 were with a 32kg bell that I call, “The Bitch.” I finished at 50:00 on the dot.

That’s the difference 1,000 days make. Yes, I’ve lost 60lbs of body fat and put on 20lbs of muscle. I’ve run marathons and aced the USMC PFT and CFT. I passed my RKC. But those all took months of work and preparation. They are incredibly fulfilling, but quite frankly, expected. Today was not about success, it was about spontaneous success.

1,000 days ago when I pushed myself, I failed. Today, I didn’t.