During this time of the year, it can be more difficult than ever to fit in some exercise and try to eat healthy – most of the time. I know it is for me!

I also know that, about now, I’m craving what most of us really want from the holidays – not a particular gift that represents ‘caring’, but true connections with those we care about.

A few years ago, while on the phone with a dear friend who lives nine hours away, we came up with a plan to stay connected through the long Montana (me) and Wyoming (her) winters.

Usually, we meet in the summer, halfway in between, to catch up for a few days of walking, talking, eating, and just overall noodling on life’s twists and turns. But we had missed that summer.

What if, we decided, we ‘walked’ towards each other – virtually – keeping in touch along the way to report our progress on the journey.

We committed to walking some every day – no matter what – and then sending a text or email reporting where we ended up for the day along our familiar route as we ‘meet halfway’.

Shared Goals, Motivation, and Laughter

Wow! It was really motivating. Neither of us wanted to report that we hadn’t gotten any closer to the meeting point, so we found ways to fit walking into our days.

She works in a library so, if she couldn’t get outside for a walk, she would make laps inside the building to make it to her planned destination along the way. If I didn’t get out for a long walk, I found ways to increase the distance walked during chores.

For example, when feeding my horses, I would walk to the far end of the pasture before coming back to the corral to throw hay. The horses were a little confused by my odd behavior but would line up along the corral and watch me during my whole walk! I like to think they were cheering me on.

Our plan led to a lot of laughs and quick phone calls to report our progress – “I’m going to have to spend the night on the side of the road because I didn’t make it to Billings today.”

Ultimately, our plan asked for a commitment and accountability to each other. For whatever reason, it’s much easier to break promises to yourself – I’m going to walk every day – than it is to break a promise to a friend.

For me, having this mutual goal triggered a sense of responsibility and fairness that I would do my share of the walk to meet halfway.

Attainable Goals

When starting out, we debated if the walk would be mile for mile, but at almost 600 miles the prospect seemed daunting.

I know from behavior change research that it’s important to have success seem easily attainable. So, we decided to log the number of minutes walked and would have ‘arrived’ when we each walked a total of 4½ hours – the same amount of time it takes to drive.

The details of where we walked, how far, or whether we counted miles versus minutes walked wasn’t as important as the commitment and accountability – and the fun factor.

Since we each knew the route, we would describe where we ‘stopped’ for a cup of tea or browsed in the antique store we had visited together a time or two. For us, it was both a new adventure and a walk down memory lane!

The connection we were looking for was the biggest payoff, and the bonus was accountability to walk everyday – no matter what!

Connecting Across the Miles

Think about a loved one you wish you could see this holiday season and consider virtually walking, biking, swimming, etc. towards each other this year.

Make sure your goal feels attainable – i.e., if they’re across the country, then log how long it would take to fly to meet each other halfway. If you’re not familiar with the route, consider doing a little research on-line and sharing where you stopped and what you saw.

It could also be an opportunity to virtually visit somewhere you both have always wanted to go. The options are endless!

The important part is committing to a plan that gives you the extra motivation we all need to take action on a daily basis. Wishing each one of you a happy holiday season filled with joy and genuine connections with family and friends!

If you were to try this exercise, where would you ‘go’ and how would you get there? Do you have a loved one who would commit to do this with you? Do you think making this commitment will help you meet your goal of daily physical activity? Please share your thoughts on this idea. I’d love to hear about your adventures!

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