The 3 1/2 Year (and Counting) Streak

Is it possible to accidentally have a 3-1/2-year streak of daily outdoor exercise? Well, it’s complicated…follow along as Jeff Rezeli recounts firsthand how his wife has consistently made it outside every single day for what’s soon to be four years amidst challenging conditions that involved a whole lot more than just inclement weather.

Debra hiking on the NC Mountains to Sea Trail (MST)

It started innocently enough for my wife, Debra. Remember those dark days of early 2020 when the world was full of confusion and everything started shutting down? With some voids to fill and to keep a little sanity, Debra started getting outside. A walk, a run, a hike, a bike ride, a paddle – something. Every day. After a few months, there was a realization that this daily effort had momentum. “The Streak” was born.

First came some basic rules. Thirty minutes was ok for a high energy activity like running or swimming. Everything else should be an hour or more. For a while it wasn’t hard at all. So many things had been taken away, finding time to get outside was easy and a welcome respite. But it got harder. Weather in North Carolina is fickle at best, and sometimes borders on treacherous. Remnants of hurricanes, flooding, high wind, extreme heat, and even occasional cold and sleet offer ample opportunities to look out the window and say, “not today”. And injuries cropped up, which required some creativity. Paddling for a week straight became a way to recover from overuse injuries, rolling an ankle on a trail run, or a mountain bike fall. Persistence became the name of the game, and persistence prevailed.

Bike riding at Fire Mountain in Cherokee, NC
Hiking with friends

Then there was a diagnosis for thyroid cancer. Surely the streak would end here? If you know Debra, you know the answer already. Surely not. A 3-mile pre-dawn walk on the day of the surgery to remove her thyroid? Check. In the recovery room the next day, Debra asked if it would be ok to walk around the hospital grounds and got the green light, so off we go, with Debra in her hospital gown and IV ports dangling out of her forearms, for a very slow, deliberate, and healing walk. “The Streak” lives on.

While I have often said the streak had taken on a life of its own, the reality is it took – and continues to take – discipline, motivation, and planning to give priority to the outdoors. We talk often about the days you are just not feeling it and how difficult it can be to stay motivated. Without fail Debra has found that if you can push past those thoughts and convince yourself to just get out there, you never regret going and always feel rewarded for the effort. That kind of drive comes from within, but sometimes it helps to have an external source of motivation as well. Our travels during this time have taken us on trails all across North Carolina, from Murphy to Manteo, as they say, and the promise of a new adventure, in a new place, offers an endless source of compelling reasons to deviate from the routine.

Paddling on the river

The amazing, unintended consequence of this endeavor is the number of people we have seen inspired to start streaks of their own. Seeing that impact on others to get outside has become a strong motivator to keep going. In a sense, the goal has evolved beyond getting outside every day for herself, into being part of something bigger by helping build a community that appreciates the outdoors and all the benefits that it brings, both physical and mental. In a world that keeps us connected too much of the time, do not underestimate the value of an hour on a trail experiencing nature. You might just find yourself on a streak of your own.
About the author: Jeff Rezeli is an architect, adventurer, and artist. You can follow him on Instagram at @sketchyguync. Debra and Jeff are completers of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail and their journey was documented in a short film for VisitNC titled “So Far.”

Debra and Jeff Rezeli