Setting Yourself Up to Succeed

By Kelli Swensen, Dietetics Student, Sargent College

“You have to have a dream so you can get up in the morning” – Billy Wilder

Monday morning I went to get the latest update from Danka Charland on how far she’s walked (for more background be sure to check out our previous post on Danka’s walking!). My expectation for the interview was that she would give me a brief update of how many miles she’s gone and how everything was going; these expectations were blown out of the water. Not only did I come out of the meeting impressed by just how many miles she has been able to pack into almost three years, but also left with a fire of motivation rekindled in me (and a delicious oatmeal recipe).

To briefly recap, almost three years ago Danka bought a pedometer and, thanks to a recommendation from a friend, decided she would walk the amount of steps that it would take to walk from Boston to San Francisco. Keeping the pedometer on all day, Danka has reached and far exceeded her first goal. She has now theoretically walked enough steps to walk from San Francisco to Alaska to Moscow. Her ultimate goal is to reach her home village in Poland, which she expects she will do by February 3rd (about 6 months ahead of schedule!).

With two handwritten pages, an excel spreadsheet, and a journal of numbers, Danka was more than prepared for our meeting. A lover of numbers, she credits the recording of her progress as the key to motivation. She explained that within a couple weeks of starting her walking she grew to love seeing the number of steps and miles in the log. She described this love as “the bite,” saying that once you get the “bite” for an activity you will stay on track because you’ll crave seeing your progress. While she has calculated how many steps she needs to walk each week in order to meet her ultimate goal of 11,093 miles, she makes challenges based on numbers to keep herself motivated. For example, last year Valentines Day was her 700th day of her walking plan. Because she liked the idea of 7000 miles on the 700th day, she cranked up her mileage to make sure she reached those 7000 miles on Feb 14th. More recently, one of Danka’s friends at Sargent was traveling to Moscow, so Danka increased her daily mileage so that she was “in” Moscow at the same time as her friend. Having a theoretical destination rather than just a designated number of miles has been another major motivating factor for Danka.

So what exactly are Danka’s numbers? Here’s a quick look at her statistics:

  • Number of days: 985
  • Number of total steps: 21,623,394
  • Number of miles walked: 10,464.6
  • Average miles/day: 10.62
  • Number of miles left to walk: 628.4
  • Number of days remaining to walk: 69.82

One question Danka commonly gets is how her walking is impacted by the weather during the winter. To answer, Danka has created a spreadsheet showing the total number of miles walked per month and average miles walked per day for each month for the past three years. While it is common belief that most people walk or run outside less during the cold months, Danka’s numbers show almost the opposite. In 2010, she was walking about 7 miles/per day during the spring and summer months. This increased to about 12 miles per day during December and continued to be around 10 miles/day for the rest of the winter. The winter during 2012 was a different story, due to her being on vacation and sustaining a leg injury in February; yet even with a painful injury, she still managed to average almost 7.5 miles/day! Another date that stands out is May of 2011. During that month Danka had to fly back to Poland for a family emergency. While she was not able to get as many miles in each day, she says that having her walking goal and her log helped keep her spirits up and aided in returning to normalcy when she got home; in her words, having a goal “helps you survive through the challenging times.”

One idea that really stuck with me is Danka’s idea of applying budgeting to exercise. She explained that she has a weekly goal to meet, and while she tries to walk a certain number of miles each day, there are days when walking a certain amount is just not possible. Rather than giving up or feeling like a failure, she either walks extra miles a day or two ahead of time (if the busy day is expected) or simply makes up those miles over the following days. The key to meeting your goal, according to Danka, is setting yourself up for success. This means setting a measurable goal, allowing for that goal to be revised a bit if needed, and being consistent in achieving that goal. It takes approximately three weeks for something to become a habit, so Danka encourages people to pick something that they’ve wanted to do, start small, and remain consistent.

Danka left me with a great quote, worthy of being taped to a mirror or a desk: “You have to have a dream so you can get up in the morning” – Billy Wilder. Hearing Danka’s story has motivated me to find a goal to work towards, and I’m positive she has and will continue to inspire others to do the same.




Danka Charland posted on December 10, 2012 at 9:21 am

1000 days today!!!–Dec 10, 2012
I got off to an exciting morning start-with breakfast–2 breakfasts, to be exact, as, by the time I reached BU_SMG, I was hungry again!!
I walked 5.70 miles this morning (yes, it was pouring so i had the Quincy Market all to myself:-))).
I walked exactly 10,647.50 miles and only need to
“collect’ 445. 50 miles to reach my destination!! Getting closer to my FINISH LINE!!!
Thank you all for cheering me on my journey!!

Danka Charland posted on December 16, 2012 at 1:38 am

I Walked 10.07 mi on Sat.Total miles walked:10,719.30.
ONLY 373.70 mi to my destination. Heading now for city of Kaunas (Kovno), Lithuania. I am certain Lena knows every corner of this city!

Danka Charland posted on December 21, 2012 at 1:09 am

Dec 20, 2012:
1010th day of Danka’s walk:
10,785 miles walked (rain & shine)
308 miles remaining to Finish Line

Danka Charland posted on January 2, 2013 at 2:39 pm

January 2, 2013:

I am already walking in Poland!
Only 150 more miles to reach my DESTINATION!

Doug posted on January 2, 2013 at 3:24 pm

Awesome! I think you are the perfect candidate to actually walk across Poland someday, south to north or vice versa. Keep up your foot frenzy!

Danka Charland posted on January 3, 2013 at 1:01 pm

I am already mapping out my plan to walk down south to visit my sister in the city of Grudziadz and then my friends, so of PL, in Krakow!

Danka Charland posted on January 18, 2013 at 6:07 pm

Here is Danka’s latest update:

She crossed her Finish Line on Jan 17 at 10 pm.
11,093 miles walked in 1037 days
Danka walked 10.70 miles per day during these 1037 days!

Danka Charland posted on January 31, 2013 at 10:49 am

Danka’s Jan 30th update:
1050 days walked.
Danka is in Poland. Currently walking to Warsaw.

Danka Charland posted on February 8, 2013 at 4:43 pm

Dashing through the snow on Friday.

Danka Charland posted on February 10, 2013 at 3:00 pm

Reaching Warsaw in Poland today. 1061st day of my walk.

Danka Charland posted on March 13, 2013 at 11:48 pm

Only 4 more walking days left to celebrate my 3 year walking anniversary: March 17, 2013. I began my pedometer walk on March 17, 2010. My walking adventure that I have built into my regular working, weekend, and leisure days, has been so much fun! Thank you all for your amazing support.

Danka Charland posted on March 18, 2013 at 12:08 am

March 17, 2013
Danka’s 3rd Year Walking Anniversary
Total walked:
1096 days
246 million, 223 thousand and 66 steps
11,822.467 miles
18,915.94 kilometers
10.78 miles/per day
17.25 kilometers per day

If I assumed that 2000 steps = 1 mile, then:
I would have walked 488.718 miles more than I have walked thus far.
There are 2068 steps in my mile.

Danka Charland posted on September 22, 2013 at 11:53 pm

Danka’s update on September 22, 2013:
I have walked 13,647.636 miles and maintained a daily average of 10.63 miles per day. I walked: 28402650 steps. Walking is very enjoyable, relaxing, and that pedometer certainly motivates me to get up early on the working day as I look forward to logging my miles into the spreadsheet every day. I walk during the weekends as well.
WALKING IS A LOT OF FUN, especially during this beautiful Autumn season.

Danka Charland posted on October 6, 2013 at 12:46 am

Sunday, October 6, 2013
Today is 1300th day of my pedometer walk.
walking is a lot of fun and most of all, it is HEALTH for the Heart.
Have heart for your heart!

Danka Charland posted on October 13, 2013 at 11:21 am

Enjoying the 1307th day of my walk!!

Danka Charland posted on October 16, 2013 at 5:32 pm

I just learned today that Charles Dickens was an avid walker. More than that as he used to walk a “marathon” each day. 20 miles per day is definitely up there!!!

danka charland posted on January 28, 2014 at 1:18 pm

Today i s the 1414th day of my walk.
I am looking forward to my 4th year walking anniversary!
Do you like walking?

Danka Charland posted on March 24, 2014 at 8:54 am

On Monday, March 17th, I hit a 4 yr walking milestone.
1462 days walked. I have maintained an average of 10.53 miles per day for all days walked.

Danka Charland posted on April 24, 2014 at 9:24 am

I calculated this morning that I need to walk 21.21 miles today to score a precise 10.50 miles per day for my 1500 days of my walk.
My current average is 10.49 miles per day for 1499 days walked.
I will just have to do a lot of walking!!! Last year, on Feb 28th, I somehow managed to fit 26.68 miles during my working and a night class day.
I need some cheering to keep me going!

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