The Gong Show Way to Make Yourself Better


Do a Gong – get your run in every day for 100 days and see how it changes you, mentally and physically!

Paging Chuck Barris… no, in all seriousness, this has nothing to do with the actual Gong Show (thank goodness – I really don’t want to go through the Unknown Comic and his cohorts again).  It has everything to do with setting goals that are going to promote better living and great habits, though, so let’s learn just exactly what we’re talking about with Gongs.

One of the things I’ve really been struggling with lately is consistency. Let’s face it – being an adult with kids in the modern world means lots of activities and time spent ferrying them around. Add to that a wife who’s a swim coach and doesn’t usually get home till between 8:30 and 9:00 during the season, two kids on the team, one in high school and active in theater, another kid who does 4-H, and the story is a familiar one to Americans in this millennium. We get mentally tired and don’t want to get stuff done when we get home from work because we’re exhausted and have a lot to do anyway.

The trick is time management and the creation of habits that actively use that time constructively.

A book that helped me in a ton of ways was the book The Urban Monk: Eastern Wisdom and Modern Hacks to Stop Time and Find Success, Happiness, and Peace by Pedram Shojai. In it, Shojai has a bunch of techniques from Taoist practice to help us calm our minds and bodies, find energy and improved fitness, to sleep better, and more. It’s a treasure trove of practical advice based on old but still-relevant philosophy.

One of the facets of these practices in the book is the idea of completing a Gong, which is simply a set period of time devoted to a particular task, a promise to stay on the path to reach a dedicated goal. Dr. Shojai recommends a 100-day activity to really cement the positive change into your life.  It takes 90 days to cement new habits into your routine and make them second nature.

Now I know, a lot of the literature says 21 days, and there’s some truth to that (I’ll mention that again below) but to make it really last a good three months or so is the way to go. Habits expert James Clear says anywhere from two to eight months, with a sweet spot of around 66 days.  So 100 days is a pretty safe bet to say that the habit will be locked in pretty well.

How can a #Gong improve your life? It's not what you think... #mudlifecrisis Click To Tweet

The question was… what sort of habit did I want to cement into my routine?  I’m pretty good about general movement and exercise. I love to hit the playground with the kids (though they’re getting older and don’t go as often as they used to…), or go to the local obstacle course training course like we have in Columbus, or just going for hikes and jumping, climbing, and generally do all the stuff that the park staffs would probably prefer that I didn’t do on their trails. But… the grind of general cardio is one that I just fall away from too easily.  Running has just never been an exercise that I have loved, even the one season that I was on the high school cross country team (possibly because of it).

And then I thought about my friend Maria, who (at the time of writing) is on her 466th day of doing at least a one mile run per day. That’s a simple enough, quick enough, and yet effective enough goal to take on. Mark Sisson talked about this distance a while back as just about perfect. It doesn’t take up too much time, and it’s quick enough that there’s really no weather situation that would make you NOT be able to do it (barring a flood, I suppose).  It’s perfect for a Gong!

So that’s the goal: yesterday I started on my 100-mile Gong. I’m using the RunKeeper iPhone app to keep track of my progress on this effort. I’m two days in, and I’m already feeling more energetic and ready to go. Granted, I wasn’t in awful shape to start, so an easy pace for me for a mile is about ten minutes. I run on a 1.3 mile loop around our neighborhood, and RunKeeper tells me when I hit a mile.  Then I stop and walk the rest of the way to wind down and loosen up the muscles. But that’s perfect – it fits into my morning routine, all I have to do is grab my running clothes off the doorknob to my closet and get dressed and go (after my Wim Hof breathing exercises).

But to make this goal even more attainable and motivational, I’m taking a tip from the 20-day Wim Hof Cold Shower Challenge I did a while back. (I may have mentioned it once or twice…).  Not only did I complete that one, but I’ve kept on doing it, to the point where I’ve gotten up to seven-minute cold showers after my regular quick warm shower. Just did one this morning after my run, actually. It became a positive habit.

One of the things to which I ascribe my success in that particular effort was the use of the check-off sheet for each day I completed.  For whatever reason, that visual reminder of how I was doing each day was a big boost to the ego and to my motivation. So we’ll be doing that for this Gong, too: I’ve got a poster board with check-offs for each run that I do, as well as the day I need to do it.

And notice that the 20-day challenge is in the same range as the 21-day habit formation guideline.  That number wasn’t picked by accident, I think.

Here’s another benefit to the check-off sheet, which I’m posting on the wall of our room: everyone in the family will get to see it (assuming they come into our bedroom, which generally happens). It’s just another great way to be the positive example to them ,through your actions and goal attainment. I was listening to the Spartan Up! podcast this morning with Joe Desena talking to venture capitalist and ultra runner Elizabeth Weil.

She was talking about how her mother was a runner and masters’ swimmer back in the 1980’s, before such stuff was really getting popular. Her mom would uncompromisingly be up every morning or swimming and the family would run together regularly. It’s led to Weil’s habit of making sure that she gets her running in each morning, no matter what. And starting small and slowly increasing distance has led to her starting with 5Ks, then moving on the half- and full marathons, and more. That goal-setting and uncompromising attitude has led Weil to be a successful entrepreneur and venture capitalist in Silicon Valley, helping to boost Twitter to its current level of popularity, and more.

So… the Gong is set and begun. 100 days of at least one mile (well, 98, now). I’m looking forward to this challenge – and I’ll be talking about it daily on Facebook and Twitter, so be sure to keep up with my progress. And if you decide to take on a Gong or other challenge… let me know and we can support each other!