How to Walk 100,000 Steps in One Day

At 66 years old, I challenged myself to reach a big fitness goal. That meant creating the right mindset as well as increasing my physical endurance.

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Arthur and I on #optoutfriday. All photos courtesy of the author.

Step-Aware to Intrigued by a Goal

I wasn’t obsessed with my daily step count. Yes, I had a Fitbit. Yes, I had the step reader on my iPhone. But I wasn’t obsessed with it like my younger brother was. If he didn’t get his 10,000 steps in a day, after dinner he would walk around his neighborhood in Maine until he did.

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Dick Van Dyke, 93, in Mary Poppins Returns

Where I Started From

I’m not an athlete by any means. I get my steps in every day, more than 5,000 and fewer than 10,000. I like a shot of vodka after dinner. I wish it was red wine, which is healthier, but it is not.

  • Intentional dreaming
  • 80% plant-based diet
  • Staying physically active (I live on a farm)
  • Getting eight hours of sleep a day
  • Having a sense of purpose
  • Being mindful of the company I keep

Intentional Dreaming

“When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are.” —Leigh Harline and Ned Washington

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Walt Disney supervising the storyboards for the “Wish Upon a Star” sequence from the movie Pinocchio

“If you can dream it, you can do it.” —Walt Disney

When I heard that Mister Walt Disney was sick, I made a little backyard movie for him to give him a chuckle. I was 11 and without guile. That silly movie somehow touched him. His secretary, Peggy, called me. He wrote me a sweet letter encouraging me to make more movies and to come to his new college. He died of lung cancer three weeks later.

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The Praxis of Intentional Dreaming

There’s a lot of consciousness around each of us. Through intentional dreaming, you do three things:

  1. You align your subconscious with your unconscious into one synchronized force of being: the whole person.
  2. By dreaming your reality, you affect it.

“There is nothing like a dream to create the future.” —Victor Hugo

Intentional dreaming is simple:

  1. Put the distractions away. Turn off the iPad, the TV — anything with blue light or noise.
  2. Imagine your dream. Don’t just “think” about it with your mind. Feel it emotionally. Experience it with your senses. And don’t get all serious. Stay playful with it. There is peace in play. Let the fancy you now have become bigger than your hands, your body, your bed, your home, your town, your city.
  3. Go to sleep.

My Four-Phase Training Program

It’s great to dream, and that carries force. But in your waking life, you have to give your dreams legs. Don’t get too “airy-fairy” on yourself.

  1. Avoiding a protracted, painful recovery
  2. The unknowingness of such a long walk
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  1. 40,000 steps
  2. 70,000 steps
  3. 100,000 steps

Training Toward the Goal

Milestone 1: 20,000 Steps

There was a nice dam and reservoir area not far from home, so I used that as my first track in mid-August, taking my corgi, Arthur, with me.

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Arthur at the reservoir for the 20,000-step practice
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Milestone 2: 40,000 Steps

I set my milestone of 40,000 steps for mid-September. To prepare for that second hurdle, I made a point to walk 10,000 steps every day. So by the time that Saturday in September arrived, I believed I was ready.

  1. A state park with some major hills and mountains. I would bring Arthur, as there would be plenty for him to see: foxes, deer, geese, and squirrels.
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Gu
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Taking my time by checking myself out
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Don’t get cocky, and stay focused on the challenge

Milestone 3: 70,000 Steps

I set my next milestone of 70,000 miles for the first week of November. I traveled most of October, and it was not practical or timely to take such a major walk on a busy schedule. I did manage to get in 10,000 steps a day while I traveled. There are paths and roads whether in London or Singapore. That is the beauty of steps.

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My 100,000-Step Day

For Thanksgiving dinner, I ate light. I ate no pie. And there was pie—blueberry pie. It would not have been a good idea to binge on all the food. I excused myself from the table at 4 p.m. so I could get up in eight hours to start my day.

“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.” — Henry David Thoreau

In this amazing information age, I found data instrumental in forming my plan. But this was a plan I believed could work for me, based on my habits, experiences, and that voice from within. If you ever plan to take this challenge, use this information as touch points only, and then listen to your own inner voice that speaks to you from your own vast consciousness and experience.

“There is no road. The road is made by walking.” —Antonio Machado

The First Hours: Treadmill Indoors

I woke a little before midnight. I was on the treadmill when my iCalendar switched to the next day. I began. I had terrific energy at that hour, but I knew it was important to remain steady.

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1 a.m.
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5 a.m.

Getting to Halfway and Beyond

I woke up my four-legged fur buddy, and we were off to face the dawn. I chose an area near my neighborhood with flat terrain to get started. By 9 a.m., I had clocked in 50,000 steps. I was halfway to the finish line with three hours of morning left.

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10 a.m.

Digging into the Challenge

At my next stop at a public reservoir, Molli met me with a lighter jacket. With the bright sun, the temperature had climbed from freezing to the mid-40s. I was grateful for the change from my bulky parka. For a few hours, I could stay in the lighter gear. But when the sun began to drop, it would be time to change back again.

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Arthur and I on the bridge
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Arthur was going so fast that he helped push me forward
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4 p.m.

Final Steps

I knew I would make it to the finish line. It was within my grasp, and I had time to spare. My role model had taken 15 hours. At my slower pace, and with my hour and a half of major breaks, I calculated that I would clock in at 19.5 hours. I was right on target.

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7:30 p.m.
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Recovery and Steps Beyond

That night, I got a good night’s sleep. Interestingly, I had no recovery issues and no aches or pains the next day.


Creating Your Own Action Plan

Many people will say that if you put your mind to something, you can accomplish it.

  1. Practice intentional dreaming by visualizing and mentally experiencing your success and imagining yourself fully capable of your goal. Do this every night before you go to sleep.
  2. Set milestones for your goal, including the number of steps you will take and the day you will hit those milestones. I chose four milestones of 20,000, 40,000, 70,000, and finally 100,000 steps.
  3. Set your target for daily maintenance walking. I resolved to walk 10,000 steps every day as my maintenance in between my training milestones.
  4. Prepare to stay hydrated and energized on your walks. I carried bottles of water and energy gel in my pack starting with my 40,000-step day.
  5. On long walks, carry extra socks so you can change as soon as you become wet. Prepare changes of clothing so you can stay dry and comfortable.
  6. If you are walking new trails for your milestone days, plan your route carefully so you can avoid getting lost. Choose flat terrain for your milestone walks.
  7. Be mindful of those you are walking with — including your dog! — and their abilities and comfort.
  8. Don’t get cocky: take training days seriously. And keep your intentional dreaming practice going.
  9. Prep meals and plan for breaks on milestone days to give yourself a good reset.
  10. Consider the hours of daylight on milestone days and how you should plan them for your comfort and safety. Carry a headlamp if you might be out past dark.
  11. Get a loved one to be your “wrangler” and assist with your big day in any way that you like: bringing a pet for segments of your walk, meeting you at the finishing line, taking photos, or offering other support and check-ins.

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The Wright brothers’ glider

Better Humans

Better Humans is a collection of the world's most…

Thanks to Terrie Schweitzer

David Paul Kirkpatrick

Written by

Co-founder of MIT Center for Future Storytelling, President of Paramount Pictures, Production Chief of Walt Disney Studios, optimist, author and teacher.

Better Humans

Better Humans is a collection of the world's most trustworthy writing on human potential and self improvement by coaches, academics, and aggressive self-experimenters. Articles are based on deep personal experience, science, and research. No fluff, book reports, or listicles.

David Paul Kirkpatrick

Written by

Co-founder of MIT Center for Future Storytelling, President of Paramount Pictures, Production Chief of Walt Disney Studios, optimist, author and teacher.

Better Humans

Better Humans is a collection of the world's most trustworthy writing on human potential and self improvement by coaches, academics, and aggressive self-experimenters. Articles are based on deep personal experience, science, and research. No fluff, book reports, or listicles.

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